2021 fall preview: Scouting the DuPage Valley Conference

DeKALB

2021 spring record: 3-3

Coach: Derek Schneeman

Worth noting: In the late 90s and early 2000s, DeKalb struggled to win games. The Barbs endured numerous blowouts, mostly at the hands of the suburban schools, such as Neuqua Valley. These days, the Barbs are a completely different school, capable of competing and beating schools from Chicagoland. Not counting last season’s non-playoff, abridged season, the Barbs have made the playoffs seven straight season and are aiming to be in the upper tier in the DuPage Valley Conference this fall. First-year coach Derek Schneeman is aiming to lead the Barbs to the playoffs, paced by the return of Toriano Tate. The senior wide receiver scored 3 touchdowns, including a 99-yard kickoff return, in a 28-21 loss to Neuqua Valley in the spring.

METEA VALLEY

2021 spring record: 0-5

Coach: John Parpet

Worth noting: With elite wide receiver Jalen Johnson and quarterback Logan Frederick both back to headline the offense, the Mustangs are looking for a big season. Johnson, a Northern Illinois recruit, lived up to his immense potential with a breakout junior season. Frederick is back for his third year as the starter after becoming the program’s all-time leading passer last spring. Look out for wide receiver John Flynn to handle a bigger role, as one of the eight returning starters. The key for the Mustangs on the offensive end is finding time for Frederick to throw the ball to his multiple number of targets. Senior offensive lineman Jake Pauline is moving up the recruiting list following a solid spring and summer. Defensively, the Mustangs have six starters back, which bodes well for the program’s quest for a winning season.

NAPERVILLE CENTRAL

2021 spring record: 6-0

Coach: Mike Ulreich

Worth noting: Quarterback Owen Prucha headlines a big-play offense that might carry a bigger load this season following the graduation of several top defensive players, including heavy losses along the defensive line. Prucha, who passed for 15 touchdowns with just 1 interception in the spring, is garnering a lot of attention from colleges. The Redhawks won’t suffer from motivation problems nor a lack of talent, especially following an offseason of headlines. There’s a surplus of talent on offense, with running back Niko Gordon back in the fold to go with a solid offensive line led by Max Grumbles, Nathaniel Klingerman and Braden Rutledge. Gordon should receive plenty of carries following the graduation of Elijah Jordan and Jaden McGill. Gordon rushed for 462 yards in the spring. Senior wide receiver Reggie Fleurima, a Northwestern recruit, is one of the top players in the state for his class. With a strong build and good hands, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder is set for a big season following the graduation of some key offensive players from last season. The defense, led by linebacker Ethan Pytlak and safety Ryan Wojcik, is solid but might experience some growing pains.

NAPERVILLE NORTH

2021 spring record: 2-1

Coach: Sean Drendel

Worth noting: Junior quarterback Aidan Gray is a player to watch in the conference. The 6-2, 175-pounder is starting to attract interest from a number of colleges following a strong showing in the abridged spring season. Gray is on track to be a Division I quarterback, and he certainly has the tools to show off his arm. Senior wide receiver Zeke Williams, a Northern Illinois recruit, is a big-time threat, while his younger brother Luke Williams is an emerging talent. Senior offensive lineman Jack Wachtel is one of the top players in the conference. Scoring points shouldn’t be a problem for the Huskies, especially after an explosive spring. But the key to their season will be the improvement of the defense following the graduation of team MVP Adam Sturtz and defensive end Connor Corrigan.

NEUQUA VALLEY

2021 spring record: 4-0

Coach: Bill Ellinghaus

Worth noting: Look for the Wildcats to keep on building from last season’s undefeated season, especially since several underclassmen played key roles. Junior quarterback Mark Mennecke is a developing player capable of carrying the offense this season, while wide receiver Grant Larkin and running back Matt Williams are big-play threats. The Wildcats lost a lot of athleticism on defense, though linebacker Cole Dutkovich is ready to step up and become a key contributor. Senior Palmer Domschke, also a standout defensive back who had 28 tackles in the spring, is one of the top kickers in the country following a strong summer, especially at the Top 12 Camp in Dallas. Senior wide receiver Carter Sessa is another player with a high upside.

WAUBONSIE VALLEY

2021 spring record: 1-3

Coach: Tom Baumgartner

Worth noting: The good news for the Warriors following last season’s below .500 season is the vast number of starters, with 18 back. The Warriors were one of the youngest teams in the area last spring, but have 28 seniors on this fall’s roster. The Warriors have a large number of returnees back on offense, led by quarterback Nathan Pappas, running back Jabron Lee, wide receivers Tyler Heibing and Luke Pettaway, tight end Ethan Quaye and offensive linemen Sam Mika and Luke Buntin. The Warriors are loaded at running back, mainly due to the addition of Antonio Torres. Torres, a standout safety, is a two-way threat who transferred from Naperville Central. With Lee, Torres and junior Amir Spikener, the Warriors have a deep and talented backfield. On defense, Jose Barragan headlines the defensive line, while linebacker Owen Hara, defensive back Josh Sullivan and linebacker Jacob Razo are part of the secondary. After a spring of development, the defense is the area to watch for the Warriors. Baumgartner said his team’s strengths lie in senior leadership, a feisty defense, skill on offense and an emerging offensive line.

FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH

  • Jalen Johnson, WR, Metea Valley, sr. — All-area star with immense potential due to his size, and all-state speed.
  • Aidan Gray, QB, Naperville North, jr. — A do-it-all player with a growing rep capable of taking over a game.
  • Reggie Fleurima, WR, Naperville Central, sr. — A Northwestern recruit who will get ample opportunities to add to his legacy.
  • Owen Prucha, QB, Naperville Central, sr. — Ready to put up big numbers after coming off a stellar six-game showing in the spring.
  • Palmer Domschke, K/DB, Neuqua Valley, sr. — An elite kicker with plenty of interest from Power Five Conference, plus an unsung standout in the secondary.

SCHEDULES

DeKalbMetea ValleyNaperville CentralNaperville NorthNeuqua ValleyWaubonsie Valley
Week 1at Sycamore; 7 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Geneva; 7 p.m., Aug. 27at Hinsdale Central; 7p.m., Aug. 27at Benet; 7 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Oswego; 7 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Oswego East; 7 p.m., Aug. 27
Week 2vs. Plainfield South; 7 p.m., Sept. 3vs. Lockport; 7 p.m., Sept. 3vs. Lincoln-Way East; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 3vs. Glenbard North; 7 p.m., Sept. 3at Wheaton Warrenville South; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 3at St. Charles East; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 3
Week 3vs. Belleville West; 7 p.m., Sept. 10at Belleville East; 7 p.m., Sept. 10at Nov Catholic Central (Mich.); 7 p.m., Sept. 10at Woodhaven (Mich.); 7 p.m., Sept. 10at St. Mary’s (Mo.); 7 p.m., Sept. 10at Shaker Heights (Ohio); 7 p.m., Sept. 10
Week 4at Metea Valley; 7 p.m., Sept. 17vs. DeKalb; 7 p.m., Sept. 17at Waubonsie Valley; 7 p.m., Sept. 17vs. Neuqua Valley; 7 p.m., Sept. 17at Naperville North; 7 p.m., Sept. 17vs. Naperville Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 17
Week 5vs. Naperville North; 7 p.m., Sept. 24at Waubonsie Valley; 7 p.m., Sept. 24at Neuqua Valley; 7 p.m., Sept. 24at DeKalb; 7 p.m., Spet. 24vs. Naperville Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 24vs. Metea Valley; 7 p.m., Sept. 24
Week 6vs. Waubonsie Valley; 7 p.m., Oct. 1vs. Neuqua Valley; 7 p.m., Oct. 1vs. Naperville North; 7 p.m., Oct. 1at Naperville Central; 7 p.m., Oct. 1at Metea Valley; 7 p.m., Oct. 1at DeKallb; 7 p.m., Oct. 1
Week 7at Naperville Central; 7 p.m., Oct. 8at Naperville North; 7 p.m., Oct. 8vs. DeKalb; 7 p.m., Oct. 8vs. Metea Valley; 7 p.m., Oct. 8at Waubonsie Valley; 7 p.m., Oct. 8vs. Neuqua Valley; 7 p.m., Oct. 8
Week 8at Neuqua Valley; 7 p.m., Oct. 15at Naperville Central; 7 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Metea Valley; 7 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Waubonsie Valley; 7 p.m., Oct. 15vs. DeKalb; 7 p.m., Oct. 15at Naperville North; 7 p.m., Oct 15
Week 9TBDTBDTBDTBDTBDTBD

FIVE CAN’T MISS MATCHUPS

Week 1 — Naperville Central at Hinsdale Central: Both teams finished with a spotless 6-0 record last season, but lost numerous key players on both sides of the ball.

Week 2 — Lincoln-Way East at Naperville Central: The 2019 Class 8A state champions head to Naperville for an epic showdown between two storied programs.

Week 4 — Neuqua Valley at Naperville North: A key early-season clash between two tying jostling for the conference title.

Week 5 — Metea Valley at Waubonsie Valley: Two teams with plenty of talent but something to prove.

Week 6 — Naperville North at Naperville Central: Neighborhood battles always produces quality games and sold-out crowds.

STEVE SOUCIE’S PREDICTED FINISH

TeamRecord
Naperville Central7-2
Neuqua Valley6-3
Naperville North5-4
DeKalb5-4
Waubonsie Valley4-5
Metea Valley1-8