2021 fall preview: Scouting the SouthWest Suburban Conference

Blue Division

Bolingbrook

2021 spring record: 4-2

Coach: John Ivlow (145-58 in 19 seasons)

Worth noting: The Raiders don’t lack for top end talent but still have some pieces and question marks to answer before the season begins. Running back Jacquan Howard and the tandem of wide receiver Kyan Berry-Johnson and I’Marion Stewart should create matchup problems for opposing defenses. The Raiders, however, will have to fill a void at quarterback and need to find some solutions on both the offensive and defensive lines to allow themselves to hit the ground running. A rigorous schedule that features Minooka and Simeon before entering what appears to be a deep SouthWest Suburban schedule will force Bolingbrook to build some depth if it wants to be in the mix for the league crown.

Homewood-Flossmoor

2021 spring record: 2-2

Coach: Terrell Alexander (0-0 at H-F, 45-35 in nine seasons)

Worth noting: There’s a notable change at the top for the Vikings as head coach Craig Buzea departed the program for a coaching opportunity in Indiana. In the 10 seasons Buzea led the H-F program, the Vikings advanced to the playoffs in each of those 10 years and were a Class 8A runner-up in 2014. Terrell Alexander takes over the reins of the program. Alexander was an assistant under Buzea, but before that stint he built a fairly solid program at Rich Central, departing from that program when Rich Township’s consolidation of its athletic programs left just one head coaching position in a situation where there were previously three. Alexander is tasked with a bit of a rebuild after a disappointing spring season, when the Vikings finished .500 and were unable to get the full six-game slate in.

Lincoln-Way East

2021 spring record: 6-0

Coach: Rob Zvonar (211-39 in 20 seasons)

Worth noting: The Griffins are entering into battle with one of the younger projected starting lineups that they have had in some time, but that doesn’t mean they should be discounted. One of only three programs in the state that haven’t lost a game since 2018 (along with Williamsville and Richmond-Burton), the Griffins are refusing to label themselves in a rebuilding mode. That being said, there will be a large number of new faces in the starting lineup, many of which come from the junior class. A breakout performer could be wide receiver Tre Johnson, who was sidelined in the spring with an ankle injury. Defensively, expect big things from linebacker Jake Scianna.

Lockport

2021 spring record: 4-2

Coach: George Czart (8-7 in two seasons at Lockport; 62-36 in 10 seasons)

Worth noting: Is the Lockport breakthrough primed to continue? On paper, it certainly looks to be so. The Porters, after improving to 4-5 in 2019, really looked to be progressing in the spring, putting together a 4-2 record with an impressive win over Bolingbrook. In that win, they showed what might be their hallmark this year with the return of powerful running back Ty Schultz from injury. Schultz could be paired with another productive runner in the backfield in Andrew LoPresti. Defensively, Lockport’s stable of returning defensive linemen led by Andrew Blackburn-Forst should be able to create problems in the trenches. The wild card is senior quarterback Hayden Timocsiek, who certainly looks the part of gunslinger, standing at 6-foot-7 with a strong arm.

Sandburg

2021 spring record: 1-5

Coach: Troy McCallister (0-0 at Sandburg; 94-28 in 11 seasons)

Worth noting: The Eagles haven’t been able to make much of a dent in the armor of the elite teams in the SWSC in recent seasons, having missed the playoffs in each of the past four full seasons. Even when they have qualified for the postseason, they haven’t recorded a postseason win since 2009. So the Eagles took a big swing when filling their head coaching vacancy, hiring Troy McCallister away from Chicago Public League power Phillips. McCallister has a pedigree of building a program from the ground up winning state titles in 2015 (Class 4A) and 2017 (Class 5A). It probably isn’t going to happen overnight for Sandburg, but it would be surprising if there wasn’t a step made in the right direction this season.

Red Division

Andrew

2021 spring record: 1-4

Coach: Adam Lewandowski (29-31 in seven seasons)

Worth noting: It was a rough spring for the T-Bolts, but it did allow several players to add some experience. That should net some positive results in the fall, particularly on the defensive side. Six starting defenders return, and although not as much returns on offense, the T-Bolts do have returning running back Mike Barberi and offensive lineman John Young to help ease the transition for the new incoming starters. Andrew has a tricky start to its schedule in the nonconference phase, and considering the rigors of its league, an effective start in those two games will be critical to the team’s playoff hopes.

Bradley-Bourbonnais

2021 spring record: 3-3

Coach: Mike Kohl (60-43 in 11 seasons)

Worth noting: The Boilermakers played quite a few underclassmen prominently in the spring, so they should be able to reap the benefits of that this fall. Caige Williams should be a little bit more experienced running the Boilermakers’ offense and will be a run/pass threat who defenses will have to deal with. Williams will have some weapons to deploy in receivers Caleb Barclay and Mark Robinson, while running back Nate Murphy could be a breakout performer. Defensively, AJ Mancilla will be an anchor at the linebacker position, and Detric Dee is another player who could make an impact.

Lincoln-Way Central

2021 spring record: 4-2

Coach: Jeremy Cordell (56-39 in 10 seasons)

Worth noting: The Knights would like to continue the momentum they gained from a strong spring season, but the first task likely will be rebuilding the offense with largely new faces. Only three starters return in wide receiver Jeremy Jackson and a pair of offensive linemen in Lucas Shanahan and Paul Claussen. There is a much more experienced base of players set to anchor the defense, including lineman Braden Barrett and defensive back Jake Mackowiak. The Knights also should have an edge in the special teams game, as they possess a solid kicker/punter in Jake Andjelic.

Lincoln-Way West

2021 spring record: 5-1

Coach: Luke Lokanc (5-1 in one season)

Worth noting: The Warriors were strong out of the box in the spring, being denied a clean slate only with a loss to powerhouse district rival Lincoln-Way East in the final week. The pieces appear to be in place for them to keep things going with six returning starters on both sides of the football. Lincoln-Way West has a quartet of impact players in the skill positions who could line up at multiple positions in Jason and Justin Harris, Eric Nowak and Nolan Lawson. Nowak also will contribute in the secondary, which features three more returning starters and should be the foundation on which the team builds on. Lincoln-Way West will find out who it is quickly as it opens the season with nonconference foes Hersey and Oswego East before locking horns with conference rival Bolingbrook in Week 3.

Stagg

2021 spring record: 0-6

Coach: Colt Nero (0-6 in one season)

Worth noting: Stagg has a wealth of varsity experience returning this season. The Chargers count 19 starters among those returning to the fold. That number, however, does come with a bit of an asterisk. Five of those returning starters are on both sides of the ball, and with a schedule full of opponents that won’t likely have any players performing double duty, fatigue will be a huge obstacle to overcome. Stagg has the makings of a massive offensive line, as four linemen return along with talented tight end Toriano Ford.

FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH

Damon Walters, S, Bolingbrook: The next in a line from the Walters family who likely will provide a huge impact for the Raiders on defense. Two brothers previously have ended up at Division I schools, and Damon Walters holds Division I offers of his own.

Jack Tremblay, WR, Lincoln-Way East: The Griffins will need some fresh faces to step up on offense. Tremblay has displayed flashes when given the opportunity of being one of those guys.

Eric Nowak, RB/WR/DB, Lincoln-Way West: Nowak rarely leaves the field for the Warriors, and that’s the way he prefers it. You never know where Nowak might be lining up from play to play for Lincoln-Way West, but opponents would be well served to keep tabs.

Ty Schultz, RB, Lockport: Schultz sat out the spring season with an injury. But it’s hard to ignore the monster numbers he posted as a sophomore when healthy. Now back at full steam, he could be primed for a huge season behind a solid Lockport offensive line.

Mike Barberi, RB, Andrew: The T-Bolts don’t have a ton of returning experience from the spring season, but one known commodity is Barberi, who runs with authority and should play a big part in the team’s offensive success.

SCHEDULES

Blue DivisionBolingbrookHomewood-FlossmoorLincoln-Way EastLockportSandburg
Week 1at Minooka; 7 p.m., Aug. 27vs. T.F. North; 7 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Crete-Monee; 7 p.m., Aug. 27at Joliet West; 6:30 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Prospect; 7 p.m., Aug. 27
Week 2vs. Simeon; 6 p.m., Sept. 3at Cahokia; 3 p.m., Sept. 4at Naperville Central; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 3at Metea Valley; 7 p.m., Sept. 3at Glenbrook South; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 3
Week 3vs. Lincoln-Way West; 6 p.m., Sept. 10vs. Lincoln-Way Central; 6 p.m., Sept. 10vs. Stagg; 7 p.m., Sept. 10vs. Bradley-Bourbonnais; 6:30 p.m., Sept. 10at Andrew; 7 p.m., Sept. 10
Week 4at Sandburg; 6 p.m., Sept. 17vs. Lockport; 6 p.m., Sept. 17at Andrew; 7 p.m., Sept. 17at Homewood-Flossmoor; 6 p.m., Sept. 17vs. Bolingbrook; 6 p.m., Sept. 17
Week 5vs. Lincoln-Way East; 6 p.m., Sept. 24at Bradley-Bourbonnais; TBA; Sept. 24at Bolingbrook; 6 p.m., Sept. 24at Sandburg; 6 p.m., Sept. 24vs. Lockport; 6 p.m., Sept. 24
Week 6at Homewood-Flossmoor; 6 p.m., Oct. 1vs. Bolingbrook; 6 p.m., Oct. 1vs. Sandburg; 7 p.m., Oct. 1vs. Lincoln-Way West; 6:30 p.m., Oct. 1at Lincoln-Way East; 7 p.m., Oct. 1
Week 7vs. Lockport; 6 p.m., Oct. 8at Lincoln-Way East; 7 p.m., Oct. 8vs. Homewood-Flossmoor; 7 p.m., Oct. 8at Bolingbrook; 6 p.m., Oct. 8at Stagg; 6 p.m., Oct. 8
Week 8at Lincoln-Way Central; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 15at Sandburg; 6 p.m., Oct. 15at Lockport; 6:30 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Lincoln-Way East; 6:30 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Homewood-Flossmoor; 6 p.m., Oct. 15
Week 9at Stagg; 6 p.m., Oct. 22vs. Lincoln-Way West; 7 p.m., Oct. 22vs. Bradley-Bourbonnais; 7 p.m., Oct. 22vs. Andrew; 6:30 p.m., Oct. 22vs. Lincoln-Way Central; 6 p.m., Oct. 22


Red DivisionAndrewBradley-BourbonnaisLincoln-Way CentralLincoln-Way WestStagg
Week 1vs. Kaneland; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Proviso East; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Buffalo Grove; 7 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Hersey; 7 p.m., Aug. 27at Zion-Benton; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 27
Week 2at Thornton; noon, Sept. 4vs. Chicago Tilden; 7 p.m., Sept. 3vs. Lake Park; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 3at Oswego East; 7 p.m., Sept. 3vs. Oak Lawn; 7 p.m., Sept. 3
Week 3vs. Sandburg; 7 p.m., Sept. 10at Lockport; 6:30 p.m., Sept. 10at Homewood-Flossmoor; 6 p.m., Sept. 10at Bolingbrook; 7 p.m., Sept. 10at Lincoln-Way East; 7 p.m., Sept. 10
Week 4vs. Lincoln-Way East; 7 p.m., Sept. 17vs. Lincoln-Way West; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 17at Stagg; 6 p.m., Sept. 17at Bradley-Bourbonnais; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 17vs. Lincoln-Way Central; 6 p.m., Sept. 17
Week 5at Lincoln-Way Central; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 24vs. Homewood-Flossmoor; TBA; Sept. 24vs. Andrew; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 24vs. Stagg; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 24at Lincoln-Way West; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 24
Week 6vs. Stagg; 7 p.m., Oct. 1at Lincoln-Way Central; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 1vs. Bradley-Bourbonnais; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 1at Lockport; 6:30 p.m., Oct. 1at Andrew; 7 p.m., Oct. 1
Week 7vs. Bradley-Bourbonnais; 7 p.m., Oct. 8at Andrew; 7 p.m., Oct. 8at Lincoln-Way West; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 8vs. Lincoln-Way Central; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 8vs. Sandburg; 6 p.m., Oct. 8
Week 8at Lincoln-Way West; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Stagg; 6 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Bolingbrook; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 15at Andrew; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 15at Bradley-Bourbonnais; 6 p.m., Oct. 15
Week 9at Lockport; 6:30 p.m., Oct. 22at Lincoln-Way East; 7 p.m., Oct. 22at Sandburg; 6 p.m., Oct. 22at Homewood-Flossmoor; 7 p.m., Oct. 22vs. Bolingbrook; 6 p.m., Oct. 22

FIVE CAN’T MISS MATCHUPS

Week 1: Hersey at Lincoln-Way West: This is an intriguing opening-week matchup as both programs fancy themselves as Class 7A contenders. A great measuring stick game right off the bat for both squads.

Week 1: Bolingbrook at Minooka: The Bolingbrook schedule is no joke. This Week 1 encounter demands that the Raiders be ready to go from the first whistle.

Week 3: Lincoln-Way West at Bolingbrook: The first-ever meeting between these two programs. Both might find this game to be a pivotal one in the grand scheme of their seasons.

Week 7: Homewood-Flossmoor at Lincoln-Way East: The Griffins have owned the rivalry in recent seasons, but there’s no denying that this game still has great significance to both sidelines.

Week 8: Lincoln-Way East at Lockport: How far has Lockport come? This game will likely provide a crystal clear answer of that.

STEVE SOUCIE’S PREDICTED FINISH

TeamRecord
Blue Division
Lincoln-Way East9-0
Lockport8-1
Homewood-Flossmoor6-3
Bolingbrook4-5
Sandburg2-7
Red Division
Lincoln-Way West7-2
Lincoln-Way Central5-4
Bradley-Bourbonnais4-5
Andrew3-6
Stagg1-8
Steve Soucie

Steve Soucie

Steve Soucie has been the Sports Editor at the Joliet Herald News since August of 2018. Prior to that, Soucie worked at the Kankakee Daily Journal and for Pro Football Weekly.