Analysis

2021 fall preview: Scouting the Metro Suburban Conference

Blue Division

Aurora Central Catholic

2021 spring record: 2-2

Coach: John Belskis

Worth noting: Veteran coach John Belskis took over the Aurora Central Catholic program at the end of the school year. He said it’s been a challenge to install a new system in a short amount of time. .... The Chargers will rely senior RB-LB Ty Hopp, who is considering offers from Army, Air Force and Minnesota State. They also return experience on the offensive line with OL-LB Jack Westrom, OL-DL Luis Valencia, OL-DL Chris Hames and OL-DL Zack Dineen. K/P Zach Dineen and WR/DB Patrick Hilby also return. ... “We have limited numbers in the program, which results in a lack depth at most positions,” Belskis said. “Our goal is to compete with and regain the respect of every opponent.”

Bishop McNamara

2021 spring record: 3-2

Coach: Rich Zinanni

Worth noting: Long-time head coach Rich Zinanni enters his 47th and final season leading the Fightin’ Irish program. Zinanni has led Bishop McNamara to five state championships. A sixth isn’t out of the question, particularly if the Irish land in Class 2A for postseason competition. ... The Irish return nine starters on offense and six on defense. ... Sophomore RB Tony Phillips brings incredible speed to the offense. He won Class 1A title this past spring in both the 100- and 200-meter dash. Phillips has offers from Florida Atlantic, Syracuse and Tennessee. ... Sophomore FB Jaydon Wright, who also has offers from Florida Atlantic and Syracuse, will open up holes for Phillips and is plenty capable of carrying the football himself. ... Senior LBs Mel Hay (41 tackles) Caden Marten (23 tackles, 3 interceptions), WR Colton Provost (9 catches, 389 yards, 5 TDs) and QB Brady Bertrand (600 yards passing, 6 TDs) also return.

IC Catholic Prep

2021 spring record: 3-1

Coach: Bill Krefft

Worth noting: The Knights won back-to-back Class 3A titles in 2016 and 2017, and then followed it up in 2018 with a Class 4A state championship. Coach Bill Krefft’s teams have gone 65-6 since the beginning of the 2015 season. ... IC Catholic will need to replace standout RB Kyle Franklin, who finished off a brilliant high school career with 591 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns in the spring season. Senior captains Brendan Bigane, Jadon Mims, Antonio Richardson and Connor McCoy will be called upon to provide leadership, but the Knights will employ a lot of juniors and sophomores, including sophomore QB Dennis Mandala. ... IC Catholic will be tested early with nonconference trips to Montini and Marian Catholic. The end of the schedule will also provide strong challenges with Bishop McNamara and Wheaton St. Francis awaiting the Knights in the final two weeks.

Ridgewood

2021 spring record: 0-5

Coach: Matt Walsh

Worth noting: Walsh said the Rebels will be extremely young with only four seniors and 13 juniors. Sophomores RB/LB Julian Lana, WR/LB Niall Kenny and QB/DB Majd Saleh will be counted on to produce at the varsity level. ... Walsh said he’s focused on the fundamentals and hopes to stay in games late to try and scratch out some wins.

Wheaton Academy

2021 spring record: 5-1

Coach: Jim Johanik

Worth noting: The Warriors enter their second season under head coach Jim Johanik after a successful spring season, including a four-game winning streak to finish the six-game schedule. ... Senior David Dorn is a two-year starter at quarterback and threw for 677 yards during the spring. Junior Belay Brummel, a transfer from IC Catholic, gives Wheaton Academy another potential playmaker at the QB position. ... The Warriors will have plenty of experience in the secondary with Dorn, senior Joseph Bracy, junior Donovan Meeters and sophomore Liam White. They also return half of the starters on the defensive line, but will be untested at the linebacker spots. ... The offensive line is anchored by seniors Peter Johanik (an All-State honorable mention, James Kapitaniuk and Jake Figurski. ... Blue Division matchups against Bishop McNamara (Week 4) and IC Catholic (Week 6) should provide a clearer picture of Wheaton Academy’s postseason potential.

Red Division

Aurora Christian

2021 spring record: 2-3

Coach: Dave Beebe

Worth noting: The Eagles will look to reach the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, minus the shortened spring season, which did not feature a postseason. ... Senior S Cam Colquitt and senior OL-DL Nathan Henry will serve as team captains. Aurora Christian also returns RB Cam Ajazi, WR-S Trey Beebe, K Jaxon Billips, OL-DL Maxx Garcia, WR-S Owen Hampton, OL-DL Grant Henderson and OL-DL Braden Hunter. Beebe expects QB Max Bray, WR Tyron Ferguson, QB Conner Kendall and WR-LB Than Lindoo to make an impact as newcomers.

Chicago Christian

2021 spring record: 5-1

Coach: Tom O’Connor

Worth noting: Tom O’Connor takes over from Nick Cook after the Knights went 5-1 during the spring season and captured the Metro Suburban Red Division title. Chicago Christian will sport a young roster with only 11 seniors. ... Senior Luke Jelderks rushed for 462 yards and caught 18 passes during the spring, and he will step in at quarterback. Jelderks also made an impact in the secondary and on special teams. .... Senior Matt Haan (6-3, 280), who has multiple college offers, will anchor both lines. RB/DB Luke Edgar, WR/DB Tony Barclay, WR/DB Nolan Krysheld and WR/DB Kaleb VanDrunen also return.

Elgin St. Edward

2021 spring record: 4-1

Coach: Mike Rolando

Worth noting: The Green Wave enjoyed a successful spring season, but they enter the fall with an unproven roster after graduating 14 seniors, including nine three-years starters. ... St. Edward graduated its top three rushers in Joe Sacco, Anthony Kirkwood and Clem McCullough, who each contributed defensively as well. Senior Max Kaufman will anchor both lines, while senior defensive end Ryan Sauceda and senior linebacker Cam Sauceda also return. ... Junior QB/DB Luciano Rolando received some varsity reps in the spring, and coach Mike Rolando said junior WR/DB Carson Busto has looked impressive during 7-on-7s this summer.

Riverside-Brookfield

2021 spring record: 1-4

Coach: Brendan Curtin

Worth noting: Curtin said the Bulldogs underwent a bit of youth movement in the spring with nine freshmen or sophomores playing at the varsity level. R-B returns nine starters on offense and five on defense. ... The Bulldogs have experience up front with four returning starters on the offensive line: juniors Philly Vazzana (6-0, 200) and Joe Midona (5-11, 235) along with sophomores Manny Garcia-Rivera (6-4, 310) and Jackson Ramos (6-0, 280). Stacking wins early will be critical with IC Catholic, Wheaton St. Francis and Bishop McNamara on tap for Weeks 7-9.

Wheaton St. Francis

2021 spring record: 6-0

Coach: Bob McMillen

Worth noting: The Spartans would have been among the favorites to win the Class 4A title if there was a postseason during the 2020-21 school year. With seven returning starters on offense and eight on defense, they will still be quite formidable. ... St. Francis will, however, have to replace dual-threat quarterback Tommy Rittenhouse, who is now at Illinois State. Sophomore Alessio Milivojevic will take over under center. ... Junior lineman TJ McMillen (6-4, 235) has more than a half dozen Division I offers, including TCU, Penn State, Arizona State, Texas Tech and Missouri. ... Senior WRs Ryan Calcagno, Adam Criter and Tyler Bishop all return, along with junior Dash Dorsey. ... Senior Sam Atkins and sophomore Dom Beres will anchor the linebacker corps.

FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH

  • TJ McMillen, offensive line/defensive line, Wheaton St. Francis: Also a terrific baseball player, McMillen plays along both lines for the Spartans and is drawing interest from Division I football programs from Arizona State to Syracuse.
  • Tony Phillips, running back, Bishop McNamara: Already a state champion as a freshman in the 100- and 200-meter dash, Phillips is one of the fastest players in the state and will see plenty of work in the Fightin’ Irish backfield.
  • Jaydon Wright, fullback, Bishop McNamara: When not opening up big holes for Phillips to run through, Wright is doing his own damage in the run game. He had 314 total yards on 36 carries and five receptions during the spring.
  • Ty Hopp, running back/linebacker, Aurora Central Catholic: The standout two-way senior holds multiple college offers and will be a focal point of the Chargers offense.
  • Cam Ajazi, running back, Aurora Christian: The senior tailback brings plus size and speed to the Aurora Christian backfield.

SCHEDULES

Blue DivisionAurora Central CatholicBishop McNamaraElmwood ParkIC CatholicRidgewoodWheaton Academy
Week 1at Plano; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 27at Marmion Academy; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Reed-Custer; 7 p.m., Aug. 27at Montini; 7:15 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Chicago Schurz; 7 p.m., Aug. 27at Brookfield East (Wisc.); 7 p.m., Aug. 27
Week 2vs. Richmond-Burton; 7 p.m., Sept. 3vs. Coal City; 7 p.m., Sept. 3at Walther Christian; 1 p.m., Sept. 4at Marian Central; 7:15 p.m., Sept. 3at Chicago DePaul; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 3vs. Chicago Christ the King; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 3
Week 3vs. Wheaton Academy; 6 p.m., Sept. 10at Ridgewood; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 10vs. IC Catholic; 7 p.m., Sept. 10at Elmwood Park; 7 p.m., Sept. 10vs. Bishop McNamara; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 10at Aurora Central Catholic; 6 p.m., Sept. 10
Week 4vs. Elmwood Park; 7 p.m., Sept. 17at Wheaton Academy; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 17at Aurora Central Catholic; 7 p.m., Sept. 17vs. Ridgewood; 7:15 p.m., Sept. 17at IC Catholic; 7:15 p.m., Sept. 17vs. Bishop McNamara; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 17
Week 5at IC Catholic; 7:15 p.m., Sept. 24vs. Elmwood Park; 7 p.m., Sept. 24at Bishop McNamara; 7 p.m., Sept. 24vs. Aurora Central Catholic; 7:15 p.m., Sept. 24vs. Wheaton Academy; 7:15 p.m., Sept. 24at Ridgewood; 7:15 p.m., Sept. 24
Week 6at Bishop McNamara; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 1vs. Aurora Central Catholic; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 1vs. Ridgewood; 7 p.m., Oct. 1at Wheaton Academy; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 1at Elmwood Park; 7 p.m., Oct. 1vs. IC Catholic; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 1
Week 7vs. Chicago Christian; 7 p.m., Oct. 8vs. Wheaton St. Francis; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 8at Aurora Christian; 7 p.m., Oct. 8vs. Riverside-Brookfield; 7:15 p.m., Oct. 8vs. Westmont; 7:15 p.m., Oct. 8vs. Elgin St. Edward; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 8
Week 8at Ridgewood; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 15at IC Catholic; 7:15 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Wheaton Academy; 7 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Bishop McNamara; 7:15 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Aurora Central Catholic; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 15at Elmwood Park; 7 p.m., Oct. 15
Week 9at Westmont; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 22at Riverside-Brookfield; 7:15 p.m., Oct. 22at Elgin St. Edward; 7 p.m., Oct. 22at Wheaton St. Francis; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 22at Chicago Christian; 7:15 p.m., Oct. 22at Aurora Christian; 7 p.m., Oct. 22
Red DivisionAurora ChristianChicago ChristianElgin St. EdwardRiverside-BrookfieldWestmontWheaton St. Francis
Week 1vs. Chicago Noble/Johnson; 7 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Chicago Noble/Hansberry; 7:15 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Chicago Christ the King; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Morton; 7:15 p.m., Aug. 27at Walther Christian; 7 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Lake Forest; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 27
Week 2vs. Chicago Urban Prep/Bronzeville; 7 p.m., Sept. 3vs. Ottawa Marquette; 7:15 p.m., Sept. 3vs. Taylorville; 7 p.m., Sept. 4vs. Wauconda; 7:15 p.m., Sept. 3at Lisle; 7 p.m., Sept. 3vs. Chicago Juarez; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 3
Week 3at Westmont; 7 p.m., Sept. 10vs. Riverside-Brookfield; 7:15 p.m., Sept. 10vs. Wheaton St. Francis; 7 p.m., Sept. 10at Chicago Christian; 7:15 p.m., Sept. 10vs. Aurora Christian; 7 p.m., Sept. 10at Elgin St. Edward; 7 p.m., Sept. 10
Week 4vs. Riverside-Brookfield; 7 p.m., Sept. 17at Wheaton St. Francis; 7 p.m., Sept. 17at Westmont; 7:15 p.m., Sept. 17at Aurora Christian; 7 p.m., Sept. 17vs. Elgin St. Edward; 7:15 p.m., Sept. 17vs. Chicago Christian; 7 p.m., Sept. 17
Week 5at Chicago Christian; 7:15 p.m., Sept. 24vs. Aurora Christian; 7:15 p.m., Sept. 24at Riverside-Brookfield; 7:15 p.m., Sept. 24vs. Elgin St. Edward; 7:15 p.m., Sept. 24at Wheaton St. Francis; 7 p.m., Sept. 24vs. Westmont; 7 p.m., Sept. 24
Week 6vs. Wheaton St. Francis; 7 p.m., Oct. 1at Elgin St. Edward; 7 p.m., Oct. 1vs. Chicago Christian; 7 p.m., Oct. 1vs. Westmont; 7:15 p.m., Oct. 1at Riverside-Brookfield; 7:15 p.m., Oct. 1at Aurora Christian; 7 p.m., Oct. 1
Week 7vs. Elmwood Park; 7 p.m., Oct. 8at Aurora Central Catholic; 7 p.m., Oct. 8at Wheaton Academy; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 8at IC Catholic; 7:15 p.m., Oct. 8at Ridgewood; 7:15 p.m., Oct. 8at Bishop McNamara; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 8
Week 8at Elgin St. Edward; 7 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Westmont; 7:15 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Aurora Christian; 7 p.m., Oct. 15at Wheaton St. Francis; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 15at Chicago Christian; 7:15 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Riverside-Brookfield; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 15
Week 9vs. Wheaton Academy; 7 p.m., Oct. 22vs. Ridgewood; 7:15 p.m., Oct. 22vs. Elmwood Park; 7 p.m., Oct. 22vs. Bishop McNamara; 7:15 p.m., Oct. 22vs. Aurora Central Catholic; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 22vs. IC Catholic; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 22

FIVE CAN’T MISS MATCHUPS

Week 1 — IC Catholic at Montini: The Knights head out on the road for a nonconference matchup against a quality Montini program.

Week 2 — Coal City at Bishop McNamara: Coal City is known for its hard-nosed defense, but the Coalers are going to have their hands full against Tony Phillips, Jaydon Wright and co.

Week 4 — Bishop McNamara at Wheaton Academy: Wheaton Academy has high expectations after a 5-1 spring season, which included a 49-23 victory over Bishop McNamara in Week 1.

Week 7 — Wheaton St. Francis at Bishop McNamara: The on-paper favorites to win their respective divisions, two teams will state-title aspirations will square off in this crossover matchup.

Week 9 — IC Catholic at Wheaton St. Francis: After a long streak of dominance within the Metro Suburban by IC Catholic, St. Francis has come away with wins in its last two meetings with the Knights.

STEVE SOUCIE’S PREDICTED FINISH

TeamRecord
Blue Division
IC Catholic7-2
Bishop McNamara7-2
Aurora Central Catholic5-4
Ridgewood4-5
Wheaton Academy4-5
Elmwood Park1-8
Red Division
Wheaton St. Francis8-1
Aurora Christian7-2
Elgin St. Edward7-2
Chicago Christian5-4
Riverside-Brookfield3-6
Westmont1-8