Analysis | Friday Night Drive

2022 season preview: Scouting the Southwest Prairie Conference

East Division

Joliet Central

2021 record: 0-9

Coach: Thomas Hart

Worth noting: The Steelmen are seeking their first win under Hart, who is in his second season. Since the split of Joliet Township into two programs in 2010, Joliet Central has won 12 times. The Steelmen return six starters from last year’s team, including sophomore Harrison Majerus (6-4, 275). Other returners include senior Dawson Arndt (5-11, 220), senior Jaylin Melvin (5-11, 210), senior Marcus Hill (6-2, 160), sophomore Christian Smith (6-0, 170) and junior Guiness Goin (5-11, 175). Hill and Smith figure to be the main offensive weapons, while Goin and Jacob Karpiel will be the anchors on defense. “We had a great summer focused on building strength, football knowledge and love of competition daily,” Hart said. “We are hungry to show off the hard work put into the offseason and step onto the field in the 2022 season.”

Joliet West

2021 record: 3-6

Coach: Daniel Tito

Worth noting: Tito takes over as head coach after 12 seasons as an assistant. Quarterback Carl Bew is in his first season in the program after transferring from Joliet Central during the last school year. Joliet West returns six starters on offense and four on defense from last year’s team. “Our off-field goal is to provide a great experience to the players and prepare them for life after high school,” Tito said. “Our on-field goal and expectation is to win a conference championship and be eligible for the IHSA playoffs.”

Plainfield Central

2021 record: 8-2

Coach: Robert Keane

Worth noting: Plainfield Central made the playoffs last season and went unbeaten in the SPC East in Keane’s first season, the Wildcats’ first playoff appearance since 2012. Defense should be the strong suit for the Wildcats as they return six starters on that side of the ball, while only two offensive starters return. Leading the way defensively will be senior defensive lineman Daniel Hollis (6-3, 300) and senior linebacker Phillip Carlton (5-10, 185). Carlton is a three-year starter who led the team in tackles last season, and both were all-conference selections last year. Running back D.J. Pearson (5-11, 195), a three-year starter, and offensive lineman Jesse Perez (6-0, 250) return for the offense. “We have a tough nonconference schedule the first four weeks before heading into the tough SPC East, which will feature five other schools that return several starters,” Keane said.

Plainfield East

2021 record: 5-5

Coach: Brad Kunz

Worth noting: Kunz has led Plainfield East to the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. The Bengals return eight starters on both offense and defense. One of the standouts for East this season figures to be sophomore Quinn Morris (6-0, 180), who already has received college offers from Michigan and Minnesota. Offensive lineman Michael Jimmar (6-6, 300) has committed to Northern Illinois University. “We are young, starting a sophomore quarterback who started in the playoffs as a freshman, as well as a young core around him,” Kunz said. “We feel like we athletically match up with anyone we will face. We are hoping we can mature as a team and have a chance to make the playoffs for the fifth time in our school’s 14 year history and have a chance to get our first playoff win in school history.”

Plainfield South

2021 record: 3-6

Coach: Bill Bicker

Worth noting: Before missing out on the playoffs last season, Bicker led the Cougars to the playoffs the previous two years. Plainfield South returns six starters on offense and seven on defense. Bicker expects the Cougars to be competitive this season and have a chance to win in every game. Brian Stanton (5-10, 195) figures to be one of the top running backs in the area. Zach Gray (6-4, 235) will anchor the defense from his defensive end position.

Romeoville

2021 record: 1-8

Coach: Justin Trovato

Worth noting: Romeoville has not reached the playoffs since 2013. The Spartans return six starters on offense, including all five on the offensive line, and five starters on defense. The anchor of the offensive line will be third-year starting center Gavin Shahan, who has been receiving FCS and Division II interest. “We were very young last year and are returning lots of guys who have varsity experience, so we want to build on some of the success we had towards the end of last season,” Trovato said. “We need to be more consistent on both sides of the ball. Our goal is to be in the mix for an SPC East Conference championship at the end of the season.”

West Division

Minooka

2021 record: 6-5

Coach: Matt Harding

Worth noting: Minooka has made the Class 8A playoffs the past four seasons and is hoping for the first five-year playoff string in school history. The Indians return seven starters on offense and four on defense. Quarterback Gavin Dooley returns after starting eight games last season. Minooka returns three of its starting five offensive linemen from last season, including senior Ryan Susnar (6-2, 250) who is a three-year starter and has drawn several looks from FCS and Division II schools. “Our team expectations are to contend for an SPC West Conference title and make a run in the playoffs,” Harding said.

Oswego

2021 record: 6-4

Coach: Brian Cooney

Worth noting: Cooney has led Oswego to the playoffs in each of his nine seasons as head coach. The Panthers return five starters on offense and two on defense. One of the offensive returning starters is senior tight end Deakon Tonielli (6-6, 215), who has committed to University of Michigan. Senior quarterback Cruz Ibarra returns for his third varsity season after splitting reps with since-graduated Julian Toma the past two seasons. On defense, middle linebacker Braedon Hellinger (6-0, 200) is the key returnee, and he also will see time at fullback on offense. Junior defensive end Taiden Thomas was an all-conference selection as a sophomore. “Our motto for this season, chosen by the captains is, ‘It’s Personal,’” Cooney said. “The returning seniors were not impressed with how last year’s season went, and they feel that they have a chip on their shoulder for this upcoming season. Our goals and expectations this season are to go 1-0 every week, win conference, make the playoffs and advance each week during the playoffs.”

Oswego East

2021 record: 6-4

Coach: Tyson LeBlanc

Worth noting: The Wolves return six starters on offense and five on defense. Oswego East has made six straight playoff appearances. Coach Tyson LeBlanc said the main goals are to win the SPC West and advance in the playoffs. QB Tre Jones (6-2, 185) has committed to the United States Naval Academy. RB/LB Oshobi Odior made 77 tackles in six games last season at LB and has an offer from Western Illinois.

Plainfield North

2021 record: 8-3

Coach: Anthony Imbordino

Worth noting: Plainfield North returns five starters on offense and five on defense. The Tigers have made two straight playoff appearances under Imbordino. Offensive line will be a strength, as Tyler Tortovich (6-3, 290), Zach Michaels (6-3, 270) and Ethan Sam (6-5, 280) all return. Linebackers Gerald Floyd (6-2, 220) and Logan Rooney (6-2, 215) will anchor the defense. “Our goals this year to improve individually and as a team 1% every day,” Imbordino said. “Our expectations stay the same every season: continue to work to our standard and to reach our full potential.” Quarterback Demir Ashiru (6-2, 175) is a three-year starter and captain of the basketball team and an all-conference hurdler in track who has drawn college interest from Brown, Yale, Dartmouth, Butler and Drake. Floyd was the team leader in interceptions last season and the team’s second-leading tackler. He has college interest from Northern Illinois, Southeast Missouri and Western Illinois.

West Aurora

2021 record: 3-6

Coach: Nate Eimer

Worth noting: The Blackhawks return six starters on both offense and defense this season. West Aurora has missed the playoffs the past two seasons after making a four-year playoff run from 2015-18. “Every year we want to win the playoffs and compete for a conference title,” Eimer said. The Blackhawks are counting on the tandem of QB Gino Martino (6-1, 170) and WR Andrew Kolich (6-3, 205) to help them achieve those goals. Kolich has college offers from Concordia St. Paul, Upper Iowa, Butler, Valparaiso and UW-Platteville.

Yorkville

2021 record: 6-5

Coach: Dan McGuire

Worth noting: McGuire has guided the Foxes to three straight playoff appearances. Yorkville returns seven defensive starters and two offensive starters from last season. Among those returning are Colorado State commit linebacker/defensive end Andrew Laurich (6-4, 255), an all-conference selection, and Wyoming commit tight end/defensive end Jake Davies (6-6, 245), who earned all-state recognition last year. “This season, we hope to compete every night in what will be a very difficult schedule,” McGuire said. “Our conference is one of the best in the area with some very quality players and coaches. We hope to be physical, limit mistakes and do our best to win the turnover battle.”

FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brian Stanton, Plainfield South: A 5-10, 195-pound senior running back, Stanton is a three-year varsity starter and two-time all-conference selection. If not for the shortened COVID-19 season in 2020, he probably would be setting the all-time rushing record at South this year. He is fast, strong, has great football sense and is an all around great football player. North Dakota has shown strong interest, and he has been in touch with some MAC schools as well.

Tre Jones, Oswego East: A 6-2, 185-pound senior quarterback, Jones had 13 total touchdowns last season and is committed to Navy. This is his second year in the offense, and he is a very high-level athlete with great leadership skills.

Jake Davies, Yorkville: A 6-6, 245-pound tight end/defensive end, Davies is a returning all-state selection who had multiple Division I offers before recently committing to Wyoming.

Quinn Morris, Plainfield East: Morris, a 6-0, 180-pound sophomore receiver, burst onto the scene with 21 catches for 334 yards and three touchdowns last season as a freshman. He currently has college offers from Michigan and Minnesota.

Deakon Tonielli, Oswego: Tonielli, a 6-6, 215-pound senior tight end, gives the Panthers a huge target, and he already has committed to play for the University of Michigan.

SCHEDULES

East DivisionJoliet CentralJoliet WestPlainfield CentralPlainfield EastPlainfield SouthRomeoville
Week 1@ Argo; 7 p.m., Aug. 26@ Lockport; 6:30 p.m., Aug. 26vs. Lincoln-Way West; 7 p.m., Aug. 26vs. Plainfield North; 7 p.m., Aug. 26@ West Aurora; 7 p.m., Aug. 26@ Yorkville; 7 p.m., Aug. 26
Week 2vs. Bremen; 6:30 p.m., Sept. 2@ Minooka; 7 p.m., Sept. 2@ Yorkville; 7 p.m., Sept. 2@ Shepard; 7 p.m., Sept. 2vs. DeKalb; 7 p.m., Sept. 2vs. West Aurora; 7 p.m., Sept. 2
Week 3vs. Oswego; 6:30 p.m., Sept. 8vs. Plainfield North; 6:30 p.m., Sept. 8vs. West Aurora; 7 p.m., Sept. 9vs. Oswego East; 6 p.m., Sept. 8vs. Yorkville; 7 p.m., Sept. 8vs. Minooka; 7 p.m., Sept. 9
Week 4@ Oswego East; 6 p.m., Sept. 15@ West Aurora; 7 p.m., Sept. 15@ Minooka; 7 p.m., Sept. 16@ Yorkville; 7 p.m., Sept. 15@ Plainfield North; 7 p.m., Sept. 16@ Oswego; 7 p.m., Sept. 15
Week 5vs. Plainfield East; 6 p.m., Sept. 23vs. Plainfield Central; 6:30 p.m., Sept. 23@ Joliet West; 6:30 p.m., Sept. 23@ Joliet Central; 6:30 p.m., Sept. 23@ Romeoville; 7 p.m., Sept. 23vs. Plainfield South, 7 p.m., Sept. 23
Week 6@ Plainfield South; 7 p.m., Sept. 30vs. Romeoville; 6:30 p.m., Sept. 30@ Plainfield East; 7 p.m., Sept. 30vs. Plainfield Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 30vs. Joliet Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 30@ Joliet West; 6:30 p.m., Sept. 30
Week 7@ Romeoville; 7 p.m., Oct. 7vs. Plainfield East; 6:30 p.m., Oct. 7vs. Plainfield South; 1 p.m., Oct. 8@ Joliet West; 6:30 p.m., Oct. 7@ Plainfield Central; 1 p.m., Oct. 8vs. Joliet Central; 7 p.m., Oct. 7
Week 8vs. Joliet West; 11 a.m., Oct. 15@ Joliet Central; 11 a.m., Oct. 15@ Romeoville; 7 p.m., Oct. 14vs. Plainfield South; 7 p.m., Oct. 14@ Plainfield East; 7 p.m., Oct. 14vs. Plainfield Central; 7 p.m., Oct. 14
Week 9@ Plainfield Central; 6:30 p.m., Oct. 21@ Plainfield South; 6:30 p.m., Oct. 21vs. Joliet Central; 6:30 p.m., Oct. 21vs. Romeoville; 7 p.m., Oct. 21vs. Joliet West; 7 p.m., Oct. 21@ Plainfield East; 7 p.m., Oct. 21
West DivisionMinookaOswegoOswego EastPlainfield NorthWest AuroraYorkville
Week 1@ Bolingbrook; 6 p.m., Aug. 26vs. Neuqua Valley; 7 p.m., Aug. 26vs. Waubonsie Valley; 7 p.m, Aug. 26@ Plainfield East; 7 p.m., Aug. 26vs. Plainfield South; 7 p.m., Aug. 26vs. Romeoville; 7 p.m., Aug. 26
Week 2vs. Joliet West; 7 p.m., Sept. 2@ Andrew; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 2@ Lincoln-Way West; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 2vs. Naperville Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 2@ Romeoville; 7 p.m., Sept. 2vs. Plainfield Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 2
Week 3@ Romeoville; 7 p.m., Sept. 8@ Joliet Central; 6:30 p.m., Sept. 8@ Plainfield East; 6 p.m., Sept. 8@ Joliet West; 6:30 p.m., Sept. 8@ Plainfield Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 8@ Plainfield South; 7 p.m., Sept. 8
Week 4vs. Plainfield Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 15vs. Romeoville; 7 p.m., Sept. 15vs. Joliet Central; 6 p.m., Sept. 15vs. Plainfield South; 7 p.m., Sept. 15vs. Joliet West; 7 p.m., Sept. 15vs. Plainfield East; 7 p.m., Sept. 15
Week 5vs. Oswego; 7 p.m., Sept. 23@ Minooka; 7 p.m., Sept. 23vs. West Aurora; 7 p.m., Sept. 23@ Yorkville; TBD, Sept. 23@ Oswego East; 7 p.m., Sept. 23vs. Plainfield North; TBD, Sept. 23
Week 6vs. Oswego East; 7 p.m., Sept. 30@ Plainfield North; 7 p.m., Sept. 30@ Minooka; 7 p.m., Sept. 30vs. Oswego; 7 p.m., Sept. 30vs. Yorkville; 7 p.m., Sept. 30@ West Aurora; 7 p.m., Sept. 30
Week 7vs. Plainfield North; 7 p.m., Oct. 7vs. West Aurora; 7 p.m., Oct. 7vs. Yorkville; 7 p.m., Oct. 7@ Minooka; 7 p.m., Oct. 7@ Oswego; 7 p.m., Oct. 7@ Oswego East; 7 p.m., Oct. 7
Week 8@ Yorkville; 7 p.m., Oct. 14@ Oswego East; 7 p.m., Oct. 14vs. Oswego; 7 p.m., Oct. 14vs. West Aurora; 7 p.m., Oct. 14@ Plainfield North; 7 p.m., Oct. 14vs. Minooka; 7 p.m., Oct. 14
Week 9@ West Aurora; 7 p.m., Oct. 21vs. Yorkville; 7 p.m., Oct. 21@ Plainfield North; 7 p.m., Oct. 21vs. Oswego East; 7 p.m., Oct. 21vs. Minooka; 7 p.m., Oct. 21@ Oswego; 7 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 4 – Plainfield North at Plainfield South: The last week before the division games start. This one will take place on a Thursday between two district rivals.

Week 5 – Oswego at Minooka: A key game in the race for the SPC West title. Oswego owned the conference for a while, but Minooka feels its their turn now.

Week 6 – Plainfield Central at Plainfield East: The defending SPC East champs take on a district rival in what could be a pivotal game in the division race.

Week 7 – Yorkville at Oswego East: The first in a killer three-game stretch to end the season for the Foxes, who play Minooka in Week 8 and Oswego in Week 9.

STEVE SOUCIE’S PREDICTED FINISH

TeamRecord
East Division
Plainfield East6-3
Plainfield South5-4
Plainfield Central3-6
Joliet West2-7
Romeoville1-8
Joliet Central0-9
West Division
Yorkville8-1
Oswego7-2
Oswego East7-2
Plainfield North6-3
Minooka5-4
West Aurora3-6