Analysis | Friday Night Drive

2022 season preview: Scouting the SouthWest Suburban Conference

Blue Division

Bolingbrook

2021 record: 7-3, 2-2 Blue

Coach: John Ivlow

Worth noting: If the Raiders can find a way to put all the pieces together into a cohesive unit, they could be a special group. Provided Bolingbrook can find a way to plug some vacancies on the offensive line, its group of specialists are among the most talented in the state. QB Jayden Lawrence hasn’t taken a varsity snap yet, but there’s no question that his skill set is going to marry nicely with the Raiders exceptional set of Division I caliber wide receivers in I’Marion Stewart and Kyan Berry-Johnson, both juniors. There’s little concern for the running game either with the addition of Montini transfer Joshua Robinson. Robinson is considered one of the state’s top returning running backs. Defensively, there may be more issues to resolve. Odds are teams still are going to have great difficulty throwing against the Raiders with Northwestern recruit Damon Walters anchoring an impressive secondary, which was further bolstered by Nazareth transfer Kaleb Miller.

Homewood-Flossmoor

2021 record: 4-5, 0-4 Blue

Coach: Terrell Alexander

Worth noting: The Vikings took a step back from their usual place near the top of the league and had their 10-year string of state playoff appearances snapped, but there’s reason to believe it was only a blip on the radar rather than the new reality for Homewood-Flossmoor. The Vikings have the building blocks in place to return to the upper echelon of the league but need to jell together better than they did last season. Massive offensive linemen Christian Medlock and Luke Voorhees give the Vikings an excellent start on offense, while the defense has plenty of capable players. Tyson Beck should be a key on the defensive line, while Chris McKinney has the ability to be a terror at linebacker. Ryan Tate-Walker should pace the secondary. The true question is at the skill positions where a lot of experience left, but H-F, which typically has one of the state’s strongest track and field programs, is almost never lacking in explosive athletes.

Lincoln-Way East

2021 record: 9-3, 3-1 Blue

Coach: Rob Zvonar

Worth noting: For most programs, nine victories and an appearance in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs would be a more than satisfactory conclusion to a season. But Lincoln-Way East isn’t most programs. It could be argued it was a bit of a rebuilding year for the Griffins in 2021, but the core largely was made up of juniors who return as seniors and seem poised to lift the Griffins back to their perch among the state’s top teams. The defense was solid last year and should be in good shape to start the season. Anchored by linebackers Jake Scianna and DJ Ritter, the front seven likely will get a boost from quickly improving sophomore Caden O’Rourke on the defensive line. There might be a few more questions on the offense. Although highly productive runner Tre Johnson graduated, there is a litany of viable options to try to replace him, including James Kwiecinski and Peter Olaleye. The wildcard for the Griffins might very well be speedy senior Jayden Cook, who could find himself lining up at a myriad of positions.

Lockport

2021 record: 13-1, 3-1 Blue (Class 8A State Champions)

Coach: George Czart

Worth noting: Lockport rode the wave of a strong senior class all the way to a Class 8A state championship last season, and now will go about the task of defending its title with a roster that, for the most part, is pretty limited in experience at the varsity level. The Porters have only a handful of returning starters, with junior offensive lineman Christos Alexandros listed among the starting 11 on offense from last season’s title game. TE Hyatt Timosciek and FB/TE Mike Doneski played quite a bit, and Timosciek (6-6, 230 pounds), in particular, will be counted on to take a major step up, possibly on both sides of the football. Don’t sleep on RB Giovani Zargoza, he’s likely to be a impact player who finally is getting his chance to shine. Defensively, Lockport’s dominant front seven will be manned by entirely new faces, but the secondary has two prominent returners in Joey Manzo and Troy Mutz. Czart said many underclassmen benefitted from getting a lot of extra reps in Lockport’s extended postseason run and he fully expects his team to be in the mix.

Sandburg

2021 record: 5-5, 2-2 Blue

Coach: Troy McCallister

Worth noting: Sandburg made a bold move bringing in McCallister from Phillips, a powerhouse Chicago Public League program, with the expectation that he’d eventually be able to turn the tide for a program that had shown a steady decline since its last playoff appearance in 2015. Sandburg beat the timeline on a playoff appearance, making the field in 2021 and earning an additional feather in their cap by toppling league powerhouse Lincoln-Way East in a regular-season game. McCallister has no intention of simply accepting a playoff bid. Moving forward, he wants to do some damage once his team get there. To do that, he’ll likely look to an experienced offense, which includes four returning lineman, talented quarterback Christian Evans and two of his favorite targets in Walter Davis and Andrew Selle. Sandburg has only three defensive returners but also has a promising crop of newcomers.


Red Division

Andrew

2021 record: 4-5, 3-1 Red

Coach: Adam Lewandowski

Worth noting: Andrew just missed the playoffs last season, finishing one win short of the field, a couple of near misses from getting that fifth victory. Once again, It looks like every week will be a scrap for the T-Bolts, as the SWSC looks to be as deep as any conference in the state. Finding some offensive consistency will be key. Andrew piled up points in every one of its wins last season but struggled to score points at all in most losses. The Andrew offense was at its best when RB Mike Barberi was piling up carries and moving the chains. Barberi should have an experienced offensive line with Tommy Barrett and Michael McDonough returning. Only two players return on defense, making that unit the one that needs to quickly jell before opening kickoff.

Bradley-Bourbonnais

2021 record: 4-5, 2-2 Red

Coach: Mike Kohl

Worth noting: Last season was a bit uneven for the Boilermakers. They started 2-0 against overmatched opponents before enduring an up-and-down conference slate and then narrowly lost in a must-win game against Lincoln-Way East in Week 9. Bradley will be looking for a more consistent effort, particularly on the defense. Two-way performer Caleb Barclay should anchor the secondary along with returner Vernon Malone. Linebacker AJ Mancilla is a stronghold for that unit, but the Boilermakers will need some players to step up. Offensively, Ethan Kohl, the head coach’s son, likely will take the reins for the offense at quarterback. Mike Kohl played quarterback for the Boilermakers in the early ′90s. Ethan Kohl should have ample targets to choose from in Barclay and returner Neal May and should have his blindside protected on the line by Matt Allen, an Eastern Illinois recruit.

Lincoln-Way Central

2021 record: 2-7, 1-3 Red

Coach: Jeremy Cordell

Worth noting: Lincoln-Way Central is looking to bounce back and has 10 returning starters to build on. There’s not a lot of opportunity for Central’s newcomers to ease into its rigorous schedule, so more experienced players like DE Peyton Wilkerson will be leaned on early. Lineman Gio Oriente and Owen Perez will be key in helping the offense get up to speed as it has several players getting their first varsity experience. Prominent among those varsity newcomers is expected starting quarterback Michael Kuehl, who does have the luxury of experienced specialists in running back Nathan Ellis and wide receivers Austin Williams and Ethan Vrabec to help him get his bearings.

Lincoln-Way West

2021 record: 5-5, 4-0 Red

Coach: Luke Lokanc

Worth noting: Lincoln-Way West got a lot of production out of last season’s senior class, but the Warriors also did a nice job of blending in some underclassmen. Key among those returners is junior quarterback Cole Crafton, currently a Louisville baseball commit, who is really starting to tap into his potential as a signal caller. Crafton is one of five offensive starters that return, including a pair of offensive lineman in Al Poholik and Ben Gouty as well as two prominent targets in the passing game in wide receiver Colton Kachinsky and tight end Wesley Bierma. Defensively, only four starters return led by safety Kaleb Wilkey. Fortunately for the Warriors, there seems to be an influx of talent from the junior class that can fill many of their voids.

Stagg

2021 record: 0-9, 0-4 Red

Coach: Colt Nero

Worth noting: Stagg hasn’t found the win column since the 2019 opener, but optimism still is high for the Chargers after a highly productive summer and a number of improving players. Nine players return with starting experience. QB LeBarion Gilmore is back to guide the offense and also will play cornerback. He has garnered interest from South Dakota for his defensive skills. Stagg should be anchored defensively by its front line. Dylan Schwarz, Frank Ristucci and Ronald Glocker will be mainstays up front. All three will be entering their third season on varsity.

FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH

  • I’Marion Stewart, Bolingbrook, WR, jr.: It is going to be a pick-your-poison situation for teams trying to defend Bolingbrook, but odds are they will do whatever they can to make sure Stewart’s electric skills are kept in check as much as possible.
  • Jake Scianna, Lincoln-Way East, LB, sr.: The Griffins have a history that linebacker in the heart of their defense who piles up tackles with regularity. It’s Scianna’s turn, and he likely won’t disappoint.
  • Hyatt Timosciek, Lockport, TE/DL, jr.: Timosciek didn’t play a huge role in last season’s state championship run, but there’s little chance his opportunities won’t expand exponentially this year.
  • Peyton Wilkerson, Lincoln-Way Central, DL, sr.: Wilkerson likely will lead the Knights defense, one that hopes to be stingy enough to help Lincoln-Way Central get back into the thick of the conference race.
  • Chris McKinney, Homewood-Flossmoor, LB, sr.: McKinney is one of those defensive players that opposing offenses will have to know where he lines up. If they don’t track him, McKinney will wreck their plans.

SCHEDULES

Blue DivisionBolingbrookHomewood-FlossmoorLincoln-Way EastLockportSandburg
Week 1vs. Minooka; 6 p.m., Aug. 26@ Naperville North; 7 p.m., Aug. 26@ Crete-Monee; 6 p.m., Aug. 26vs. Joliet West; 6:30 p.m., Aug. 26@ Prospect; 7 p.m, Aug. 26
Week 2@ Simeon; 3 p.m., Sept. 3vs. Cahokia; 3 p.m., Sept. 3vs. Batavia; 7 p.m., Sept. 2vs. Metea Valley; 7 p.m, Sept. 2vs. Glenbrook South; 7 p.m, Sept. 2
Week 3@ Lincoln-Way West; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 9@ Lincoln-Way Central; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 9@ Stagg; 7 p.m., Sept. 9@ Bradley-Bourbonnais; 7 p.m., Sept. 9@ Andrew; 6 p.m., Sept. 9
Week 4vs. Sandburg, 6 p.m.; Sept. 16@ Lockport; 6:30 p.m., Sept. 16vs. Andrew, 7 p.m., Sept. 16vs. Homewood-Flossmoor; 6:30 p.m., Sept. 16@ Bolingbrook; 6 p.m., Sept. 16
Week 5@ Lincoln-Way East; 7 p.m., Sept. 23vs. Bradley-Bourbonnais; 7 p.m., Sept. 23vs. Bolingbrook, 7 p.m., Sept. 23vs. Sandburg; 7 p.m., Sept. 23@ Lockport; 7 p.m., Sept. 23
Week 6vs. Homewood-Flossmoor; 6 p.m., Sept. 30@ Bolingbrook; 6 p.m., Sept. 30@ Sandburg; 6 p.m., Sept. 30@ Lincoln-Way West; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 30vs. Lincoln-Way East; 6 p.m., Sept. 30
Week 7@ Lockport; 6:30 p.m., Oct. 7vs. Lincoln-Way East; 7 p.m., Oct. 7@ Homewood-Flossmoor; 7 p.m., Oct. 7vs. Bolingbrook; 6:30 p.m., Oct. 7vs. Stagg; 7 p.m., Oct. 7
Week 8vs. Lincoln-Way Central; 6 p.m., Oct. 14vs. Sandburg; 7 p.m., Oct. 14vs. Lockport; 7 p.m., Oct. 14@ Lincoln-Way East; 7 p.m., Oct. 14@ Homewood-Flossmoor; 7 p.m., Oct. 14
Week 9vs. Stagg; 6 p.m., Oct. 21@ Lincoln-Way West; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 21@ Bradley-Bourbonnais; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 21@ Andrew; 7 p.m., Oct. 21@ Lincoln-Way Central; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 21
Red DivisionAndrewBradley-BourbonnaisLincoln-Way CentralLincoln-Way WestStagg
Week 1@ Kaneland; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 26vs. CICS-Longwood; 6 p.m., Aug. 26@ St. Charles East; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 26@ Plainfield Central; 7 p.m., Aug. 26vs. Reavis, 6 p.m.; Aug. 26
Week 2vs. Oswego; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 2vs. Kenwood; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 2@ Lake Park; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 2vs. Oswego East; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 2@ Oak Lawn; 7 p.m.; Sept. 2
Week 3vs. Sandburg; 6 p.m., Sept. 9vs. Lockport; 7 p.m., Sept. 9vs. Homewood-Flossmoor; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 9vs. Bolingbrook; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 9vs. Lincoln-Way East; 7 p.m., Sept. 9
Week 4@ Lincoln-Way East; 7 p.m., Sept. 16@ Lincoln-Way West; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 16vs. Stagg; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 16vs. Bradley-Bourbonnais; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 16@ Lincoln-Way Central; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 16
Week 5vs. Lincoln-Way Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 23@ Homewood-Flossmoor; 7 p.m., Sept. 23@ Andrew; 7 p.m., Sept. 23@ Stagg; 6 p.m., Sept. 23vs. Lincoln-Way West; 6 p.m., Sept. 23
Week 6@ Stagg; 6 p.m., Sept. 30vs. Lincoln-Way Central; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 30@ Bradley-Bourbonnais; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 30vs. Lockport; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 30vs. Andrew; 6 p.m., Sept. 30
Week 7@ Bradley-Bourbonnais; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 7vs. Andrew; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 7vs. Lincoln-Way West; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 7@ Lincoln-Way West; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 7@ Sandburg; 7 p.m., Oct. 7
Week 8vs. Lincoln-Way West; 7 p.m., Oct. 14@ Stagg; 6 p.m., Oct. 14@ Bolingbrook; 6 p.m., Oct. 14@ Andrew; 7 p.m., Oct. 14vs. Bradley-Bourbonnais; 6 p.m., Oct. 14
Week 9vs. Lockport; 7 p.m., Oct. 21vs. Lincoln-Way East; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 21vs. Sandburg; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 21vs. Homewood-Flossmoor; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 21@ Bolingbrook; 6 p.m., Oct. 21

FIVE CAN’T MISS MATCHUPS

Week 1 – Minooka at Bolingbrook: Interesting kickoff to the season between two teams that are Class 8A playoff mainstays.

Week 2 – Batavia at Lincoln-Way East: Monster nonconference matchup between two heavyweights.

Week 7 – Bolingbrook at Lockport: A high-octane offense in Bolingbrook will lock horns with a Lockport team that hopes to thrive defensively as it did last season.

Week 8 – Lockport at Lincoln-Way East: The only obstacle Lockport couldn’t get past in winning the Class 8A State title was a regular season loss to Lincoln-Way East.

Week 9 – Homewood-Flossmoor at Lincoln-Way West: Last season, this was a matchup of 4-4 teams with the winning team headed to the playoffs. Both are hoping the outcome doesn’t decide their fate again.

STEVE SOUCIE’S PREDICTED FINISH

TeamRecord
Blue Division
Lincoln-Way East9-0
Lockport8-1
Bolingbrook7-2
Homewood-Flossmoor4-5
Sandburg4-5
Red Division
Lincoln-Way West6-3
Andrew4-5
Lincoln-Way Central3-6
Bradley-Bourbonnais2-7
Stagg0-9