Analysis | Friday Night Drive

2022 season preview: Scouting the CCL/ESCC Green division

St. Ritas Pat Farrell sacks Mark Forcucci of Wheaton North in the Class 7A state championship at NIU Huskie Stadium. Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021 in Dekalb.

Benet

2021 record: 4-5, 1-2 Green

Coach: Patrick New

Worth noting: Benet missed the playoffs for the second time since New took over as coach in 2010. The Redwings had two chances to pick up a fifth win with two games left in the season but lost to Joliet Catholic and Nazareth, respectively. The team will try to make its return with a deep postseason run; Benet last advanced past the first round in 2017 when it competed in the Class 7A semifinals. ... Senior TE Pierce Walsh will be a captain on and off the field. The Minnesota commit will spend time at tight end and play some snaps outside at wide receiver, lending his 6-foot-4, 212-pound frame as a large target. ... Seniors Anthony Picciolini and Jake Hoeppel are competing for the starting quarterback position. Picciolini started in eight games last season but New has enjoyed having a quarterback competition between two seniors. ... Senior linebackers Dave Cservenyak and John Weidenbach will be the core to the Redwings’ defense. ... Benet will play two teams from Indiana this season. The Redwings will start the season by hosting Noblesville on Aug. 26 and then will travel to South Bend to take on South Bend St. Joseph on Oct. 7.

Nazareth

2021 record: 7-5, 2-1 Green

Coach: Tim Racki

Worth noting: Nazareth competed in its sixth quarterfinal game since 2013 last season when it fell to eventual Class 5A state champion Fenwick. The Roadrunners have won three state titles and played in two more title games since 2013. The team is looking to build off of last season to take its next step and return to a championship game. ... The Roadrunners won five of their last six regular season games after losing their first three games last season. Racki had six freshmen play last season. ... Sophomore quarterback Logan Malachuk returns after playing in 10 games last year, throwing for 1,806 yards, 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions. ... Justin Taylor will be a senior leader on both sides of the ball. The Wisconsin commit finished second on the team with 794 receiving yards and seven touchdowns while also totaling 12 tackles as a defensive back. ... Senior DL William Beargie will be disruptive on the line with his 6-foot-5, 270-pound frame. He’s a Princeton commit. ... Sophomore lineman Gabe Kaminski impressed during his freshman season, earning scholarship offers from Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Tennessee. He’ll try to build off the an impressive freshman campaign.

Niles Notre Dame

2021 record: 3-6, 0-3 Green

Coach: Michael Hennessey

Worth noting: Notre Dame missed the postseason for the first time since the 2014 last season. The farthest the Dons advanced during that period was the Class 6A semifinals in 2018. The Dons won three of their last five regular season games before they won four straight to win the Prep Bowl against Kenwood Academy. ... Senior quarterbacks Enzo Ricciardi and St. Ignatius transfer Coleman McDonagh are competing for the starting job. Ricciardi started all of the Dons’ spring games in 2021 and played in 13 games last fall. ... Hennessey wants to get Frankie Ricciardi the ball as much as possible. The senior will start as a cornerback but also be featured heavily offensively as both a running back and wide receiver. Notre Dame’s offense will also feature 6-foot-3 senior wide receivers Howard Williamson and Kevin Durkin. ... Senior DL/LS Karl Schmalz will be a major contributor on the Notre Dame defense. The Brown University commit comes back with experience and will be disruptive with his 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame, leading a defense that will feature two-way senior lineman Nick Thome, senior defensive tackle Michael Bollin and senior linebacker Randy Russ.

St. Rita

2021 record: 11-3, 3-0 Green

Coach: Todd Kuska

Worth noting: St. Rita is looking to take the final step after losing in its second consecutive state-title game, falling to Wheaton North in the Class 7A title game last year. The Mustangs have made the playoffs 11 times since winning the 7A title in 2006, but St. Rita worked to build off its last two appearances this summer to finally get over the hump. ... Senior Michael Collins and junior Jett Hilding are competing to replace three-year starter Tommy Ulatowski, who graduated. Collins played some varsity snaps last season, but both quarterbacks will need to gain experience over the summer with a wide receivers group that has many new faces. ... Juniors Ethan Middleton and DJ Stewart will provide a formidable duo at the running back position. Middleton earned an offer from Penn State. ... The Mustangs’ defense will have strong defensive returners, including senior Pat Farrell, an Illinois commit, who will lead the defensive line while All-CCL/ESCC linebacker Matt Kingsbury and his brother Joseph Kingsbury take control in the middle. Senior Johnny Schmitt will lead a talented secondary. ... St. Rita will be tested right from the start when it begins its season with three CCL/ESCC Blue opponents, Mount Carmel, Brother Rice and Loyola, respectively.

FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH

  • Pat Farrell, St. Rita, DL, sr.: Farrell will create pressure for opposing quarterbacks after adding weight this summer.
  • Justin Taylor, Nazareth, DB/WR, sr.: Taylor should make a big impact on both side of the ball.
  • Pierce Walsh, Benet, TE, sr.: Walsh’s 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame should be tough to stop for many defenses.
  • Frankie Ricciardi, Notre Dame, CB/RB/WR, sr.: The playmaker will look to get the ball on both sides of the ball.
  • Gabe Kaminski, Nazareth, DL, so.: The young lineman impressed early and should get even more attention this fall.

SCHEDULES

BenetNazarethNiles Notre DameSt. Rita
Week 1vs. Noblesville, Ind.; 7 p.m., Aug. 26vs. Kankakee; 7:30 p.m, Aug. 26@ Willowbrook; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 26@ Mt. Carmel; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 26
Week 2vs. Moline; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 2vs. Lemont; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 2vs. St. Patrick; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 2vs. Brother Rice; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 2
Week 3vs. Brother Rice; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 9vs. Marist; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 9vs. Mt. Carmel; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 9vs. Loyola; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 9
Week 4vs. St. Rita; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 16vs. Niles Notre Dame; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 16@ Nazareth; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 16@ Benet; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 16
Week 5@ Marian Catholic; 7 p.m., Sept. 23@ Carmel; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 23@ St. Viator; 7 p.m., Sept. 23@ St. Patrick; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 23
Week 6@ Niles Notre Dame; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 30vs. St. Rita; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 30vs. Benet; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 30@ Nazareth; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 30
Week 7@ South Bend St. Joseph, Ind.; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 7vs. Leo; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 7vs. DePaul; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 7vs. Marian Central Catholic; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 7
Week 8@ Joliet Catholic; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 14@ Montini; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 14@ St. Laurence; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 14@ Providence; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 14
Week 9vs. Nazareth; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 21@ Benet; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 21@ St. Rita; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 21vs. Niles Notre Dame; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 21

FIVE CAN’T MISS MATCHUPS

Week 1 – St. Rita at Mount Carmel: Two South Side powerhouses start the season with a big-time crossover game.

Week 2 – St. Patrick at Notre Dame: The rivalry game gets new blood with new Shamrock coach Luke Mertens.

Week 3 – Marist at Nazareth: Another big-time crossover game.

Week 6 – St. Rita at Nazareth: The division could home down to this midseason matchup.

Week 8 – Benet at Joliet Catholic: Start of a tough two-game stretch to end the season for Benet.

STEVE SOUCIE’S PREDICTED FINISH

TeamRecord
St. Rita7-2
Nazareth5-4
Benet5-4
Niles Notre Dame3-6