Analysis | Friday Night Drive

2022 season preview: Scouting the Mid-Suburban League

Prospect's quarterback Frank Covey runs over the Hersey defense for a touchdown in boys football at Hersey on Friday.

MID-SUBURBAN EAST

Buffalo Grove

2021 record: 9-2, lost in 2nd round of 7A playoffs to Prospect

Coach: Jeff Vlk

Worth noting: The Bison are coming off a season where they were able to get every ounce of talent from their players. That resulted in their best season since 2017 when they also went 9-2. ... Graduation hit them hard, losing 37 seniors from a year ago. ... The Bison have just three starters returning. But that does not include several players who saw the field late in blowout wins that enabled them to get valuable varsity experience. ... The Bison will build around quarterback Michael Cervantes, who was an honorable mention all-area quarterback last year. Cervantes is a very good thrower and even more dangerous with the ball in hands, running a 4.60 40-yard dash and coming off a season where he rushed for over 1,100 yards. ... Speed is also a key for wide receiver/linebacker Anthony Palano, who has been clocked with a 4.7 40-yard. ... CJ Relias, who is the third starter returning, will anchor both sides of the line of scrimmage. Gavin Lee (senior, linebacker), John Saracco (offensive line) and Ryan Reid (offensive line) also figure to be key components. Junior quarterback Payton Diaz could also step in if Cervantes moves to running back.

Elk Grove

2021 record: 3-6

Coach: Miles Osei

Worth noting: The Grenadiers have not had a winning season since 2013. But there is reason for optimism this year thanks to several factors. ... Numbers are a huge part with 92 in the program this season, up from 55 a year ago. The Grens return 13 starters, including nine seniors from a team that was competitive all year. ... Osei also is reunited with his former head coach from Prospect in Brent Pearlman, which should be able to significantly lower the points scored against the Grens from 35 from a year ago. ... Mitch Jansczak returns at quarterback and should be very active in both running and throwing. ... Kachia Ugwu, Ramiro Valdivia, Christian Tuiaana and Toni Brautigam all return on the offensive line while Mo Burt, T.J. Johnson, Mikey Milovich and Jeremiah Pickett give the Grens some depth ... Jacob Elsner, who saw some time at running back last season, also returns along with Sebastian Halilovic, Lucas Rogers, Logan Tosterud and Dominic Belmonte. ... Sophomore Dylan Berkowitz could be a key newcomer on the defensive line.

Hersey

2021 record: 7-3, lost to Jacobs in first round of 7A playoffs to Jacobs

Coach: Tom Nelson

Worth noting: Nelson is all the way back home after being named the new head coach in the offseason. Nelson was a star at Hersey before playing at Illinois State and played five seasons in the NFL before being an assistant at Hersey since 2013. ... The Huskies will have a trio of running backs in Brett Kersemeier, Chuck Meister and Nasir McKenzie to count on. They will also have a group of mainly untested wide receivers in Carson Grove, Ryan Stearns, Evan Naumowicz and AJ Wachowski. ... The key to the offense could be tight end Logan Farrell, a sophomore who transferred from Palatine. Farrell has already received interest from numerous D-1 schools. ... The quarterback spot is still wide open with Carter Hansen and sophomore Colton Gumino battling for the starting spot. ... Linebackers Johnny Ryg and Jack Armstrong will lead the defense, which again is again under the direction of Mike Donatucci.

Prospect

2021 record: 10-3, lost to St. Rita in 7A state semifinals

Coach: Dan DeBoeuf

Worth noting: Prospect’s amazing run is even more incredible when considering the fact that it played its final two playoff games with an emergency fourth-string quarterback. That’s after starting quarterback Frank Covey went down with an injury. ... Covey, who is a Northwestern-commit, is moving to wide receiver this season, a spot he had great success as a sophomore. Brad Vierniesel, who was a wide receiver last season, will be making the move to quarterback. He will also have Jake Parisi and Sean Koniezka, who both started last season, to throw to. ... The Knights will have a monster offensive line for him to operate behind. Ola Sulaimon (6-3, 270), Chance Rolfe (6-2, 285), Drew Heiss (6-4, 270), Tommy Johl (6-3, 270) and Malachi Tolliver (6-3, 285) may be one of the biggest offensive lines in the state. ... The Knights defense struggled at times last season. They hope to turn things around this year. They will have five starters back in Jack Berman (DB), John Gavin (LB), Connor Mitchell (LB), Matt Schacke (DL/LB) and Ben Schenkenfelder (DL).

Rolling Meadows

2021 record: 5-5, lost in first round of 7A playoffs to St. Rita

Coach: Sam Baker

Worth noting: The Mustangs were able to keep the streak alive last year when they qualified for the playoffs for the 11th playoff season in a row. It was also 18th appearance in the last 19 playoff seasons. ... Meadows is looking to be back in the field of 256 again this season. They return eight starters from a team that lost three games by a total of six points. That group includes quarterback Evan Grace, who threw 24 touchdown passes last year. ... Ben Petermann and Stephen Schiele, who broke his leg last season in the second week of the season, should be Grace’s top targets along with Jimmy Cox, Anthony Sansonetti and tight end Peyton Wiles. ... Skip Rozanski, who saw lots of action last year in the backfield, also returns. He will be running behind Joey Maloney, who is a D-II prospect along with George Barnett, Jack Stollfus, Dom Fallico and Harvey Goodwin. Maloney and Fallico will lead a defense that will have nine new starters.

Wheeling

2021 record: 1-8

Coach: Peter Panagakas

Worth noting: Panagakas was a last-minute replacement as an interim head coach last season. Panagakas took a program on the brink of collapse, winning their first game of the season in one of the feel-good stories of 2021. ... The program continues on a high note now with 75 players out. That includes 17 seniors. ... Twelve starters return as the Wildcats look to take another step forward. ... The ‘Cats have their backfield returning in quarterback AJ Marchetti and running backs Simon Micula and Diego Giles. ... They also have an experienced offensive line in Ulysses Robles, Christin Glowa, Dominik Palka, Omar Brito, Marco Mercado and Rafael Flores. ... Wheeling will have many players working both sides of the ball, so staying away from injuries will be a key factor, especially in conference play. ... The Wildcats have won five games in a season just one time in the last 14 years. But the feeling there is that this group is capable of matching that total.

FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH

  • Frank Covey, Prospect, WR/QB, Sr. — Northwestern commit who can do it all.
  • Michael Cervantes, Buffalo Grove, QB, Sr. — Dual-threat quarterback and a very dangerous runner.
  • Evan Grace, Rolling Meadows, TE, QB — Threw for over 20 touchdowns last year.
  • Logan Farrell, Hersey, TE, So. — Despite being a sophomore, already garnering a ton of D-1 interest.
  • AJ Marchetti, Wheeling, QB, Sr. — Multisport athlete who is dangerous with the ball in his hands.

SCHEDULES

East DivisionBuffalo GroveElk GroveHerseyProspectRolling MeadowsWheeling
Week 1vs. Lyons; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 26vs. Maine West; 7:15 p.m., Aug. 26@ New Trier; 7 p.m., Aug. 26vs. Sandburg; 7 p.m, Aug. 26@ Glenbrook South; 7 p.m., Aug. 26@ Round Lake; 7 p.m., Aug. 26
Week 2vs. Palatine; 7 p.m., Sept. 2@ Hoffman Estates; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 2vs. Palatine; 7 p.m., Sept. 2vs. Barrington; 7 p.m., Sept. 2@ Schaumburg; 7 p.m., Sept. 2@ Conant; 7 p.m., Sept. 2
Week 3vs. Highland Park; 7 p.m., Sept. 9vs. Niles North; 7:30 p.m,, Sept. 9vs. Deerfield; 7 p.m., Sept. 9vs. Evanston; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 9vs. Vernon Hills; 7 p.m., Sept. 9vs. Maine East; 6 p.m., Sept. 9
Week 4@ Deerfield; 7 p.m., Sept. 15@ Niles West; 5:30 p.m., Sept. 15@ Highland Park; 6:30 p.m., Sept. 16@ Maine South; 7 p.m., Sept. 15@ Glenbrook North; 7 p.m., Sept. 16@ Maine West; 6:30 p.m., Sept. 16
Week 5@ Ek Grove; 7:30 p.m, Sept. 23vs. Buffalo Grove; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 23@ Prospect; 7 p.m., Sept. 23vs. Hersey; 7 p.m., Sept. 23vs. Wheeling; 7 p.m., Sept. 23@ Rolling Meadows; 7 p.m., Sept. 23
Week 6vs. Wheeling; 7 p.m., Sept. 30vs. Prospect; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 30vs. Rolling Meadows, 7 p.m., Sept. 30@ Elk Grove; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 30@ Hersey; 7 p.m., Sept. 30@ Buffalo Grove; 7 p.m., Sept. 30
Week 7@ Prospect; 7 p.m., Oct. 7@ Rolling Meadows; 7 p.m., Oct. 7@Wheeling; TBA, Oct. 7vs. Buffalo Grove; 7 p.m., Oct. 7vs. Ek Grove; 7 p.m., Oct. 7vs. Hersey; TBA, Oct. 7
Week 8vs. Rolling Meadows; 7 p.m., Oct. 14vs. Hersey; TBA, Oct. 14@ Elk Grove; TBA, Oct. 14@ Wheeling; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 14@ Buffalo Grove; 7 p.m., Oct. 14vs. Prospect; Oct. 14, 7:30 p.m.
Week 9@ Hersey; 7 p.m., Oct. 21@ Wheeling; 7 p.m., Oct. 21vs. Buffalo Grove; 7 p.m., Oct. 21@ Rolling Meadows; 7 p.m., Oct. 21vs. Prospect; 7 p.m., Oct. 21vs. Elk Grove; Oct. 21, 7 p.m.

FIVE CAN’T MISS MATCHUPS

Week 1: Hersey at New Trier

Week 2: Barrington at Prospect

Week 4: Prospect at Maine South

Week 6: Rolling Meadows at Hersey

Week 9: Prospect at Rolling Meadows


MID-SUBURBAN WEST

Barrington

2021 record: 5-5, lost to Warren in first round of 8A playoffs

Coach: Joe Sanchez

Worth noting: The Broncos have just one starter returning from last season in defensive back Andrew Grosch. But if history is any indication of future performance, Barrington will be just fine. ... Although he wasn’t he starter last year, Peyton Soske has experience at the quarterback position. Due to an injury, he started a game against Schaumburg last year and looked solid, throwing three touchdown passes. ... Soske will have a large group of receivers to target including seniors John Gurskis, Gibby Husby, Derrick Gehrisch, Josh Wright and Connor Fitzpatrick along with junior Alec Schmidts. Tight ends Max Bradford, Bryan Thoman and Connor Scott should have an impact. ... Running backs Dillon Fitzpatrick and Manny Hall will operate behind an offensive line of seniors Charlie Berry, Robert Dunleavy, Daniel Bregenzer and Evan Fowler along with junior Dylan Balsis. ... The defense, which was solid last year, allowing just over 18 points per game, will be almost entirely rebuilt. It will feature Grosch along with fellow seniors Max Mannello, Cole Di Domenico, Reid Kraus, Jon Fier and M.J. Ward. Juniors Joey Cheh, an Marderosian, Devan Van Ness, Ayden Salley and Ayden Salley will also contribute. ... The Broncos have qualified for the playoffs in the last eight playoff seasons. And in the COVID year, they were 6-0. ... Barrington is coming off a bookend season where they started and ended their season with losses to Warren. Barrington again opens its season with Warren.

Conant

2021 record: 4-5

Coach: Bryan Stortz

Worth noting: Conant just missed the playoffs last season after qualifying the previous two playoff years. And for the first time in three seasons, Conant will have a new quarterback operating its slot wing-T offense as Matthew Maize steps into that role. ... Dominick Mininni, who was also a key cog in the Cougar offense, will reprise his role as the main ball carrier. Cooper Hansen and Cooper Biedke should also be factors. ... The offensive line will be bigger than past seasons with Jash Patel (6-1, 220), Nicolas Mahnke, (6-2, 250), Jonathan Gorski (6-4, 220) and Ricardo Rodriguez (6-1, 180) along with tight end Michael Kennedy (6-0, 175) leading the way. ... Lennon Johnson and Antonio Ramsey will be at wide receiver to give the Cougars solid options when they go to the air. ... The Cougars allowed an average of 36 points per game last season, so shoring up the defense will be a major factor in their success this season. The Cougars will be counting on linebackers Kehinde Suarau, Biedke and Harley Stary along with defensive linemen Armando Hernandez, Patel, Gorski and Rodriguez to slow opponents.

Fremd

2021 record: 1-8

Coach: Lou Sponsel

Worth noting: The Vikings are looking to bounce back after a tough season last year. What is in their way is a schedule that features seven playoff teams from last year. ... The Vikings will return five players on both offense and defense. ... Caden Suchy is back at quarterback while Reese McBride will handle most of the carries at running back. Bobby Panzino, Jack Wienke, Brennan Saxe and Yahir Martinez will be the main targets as wide receivers with Saxe and Martinez back from last season. ... Casey Bending, who will be a key player for the Vikings on both sides of the ball, will anchor the offensive line. He will be joined by Karol Niemic, who also started last season along with Richie Essien, Tyler Menis and Anthony Reed. ... Sophomore linebacker Luke McIlhon and junior defensive back Jack Wienke, who both return from last season, will be key cogs on the defensive side. ... If the Vikings can get their young players to step up, they have an opportunity to make some noise.

Hoffman Estates

2021 record: 8-3, lost to Wheaton North in 2nd round of 7A playoffs

Coach: Tim Heyse

Worth noting: Hoffman Estates is coming off its first conference title since 1994. After sharing that title with Palatine, the high-flying Hawks are looking for their own meal. ... Aiden Cyr, who directed an offense that averaged over 37 points per game last season, is back at quarterback. ... The Hawks could go eight-deep at wide receiver and will have Stephon Sellers, Xavier Martinez and Anu Ajibulu as the starters. Julian Bonilla will be the tight end. ... Running back was an open spot. That was until junior Quincy Williams, who played at Hoffman before moving to Florida, came back home to his roots. ... All but one defensive starter saw some action last season. The Hawks secondary of Jayleon Johnson, Xavier Martinez, Brett Phillips, Nate Frank and Trendell Whiting is very talented and athletic. ... Depth won’t be an issue as the Hawks project just two players to go both ways. That should keep them fresh and ready for a deep run.

Palatine

2021 record: 7-4, lost to Neuqua Valley in second round of 8A playoffs

Coach: Corey Olson

Worth noting: The Pirates are looking to raise the flag again after sharing the conference title with Hoffman Estates last year. Palatine returns 11 starters from that team a year ago, including their four top performers at the skill positions. ... Grant Dersnah, who threw for over 1,700 yards last season, will be back at quarterback. ... Dominick Ball, who is a junior and in his third year in the backfield, is getting some serious D-1 interest. ... Thomas Coroneous stepped into a leadership role last season when key injuries at wide receiver. Coroneous caught over 55 passes last season for nearly 700 yards. ... Nate Branch, who is a 6-foot-2, 210-pound tight end, is also drawing some D-1 interest. ... The Pirates also boast one of the top sophomores in the state in Jaylen Williams. ... Linebacker Daevion Farrow, defensive linemen Tommy Houser and Filip Rolek along with defensive backs JD Wardle and Josh Reiswig will also be factors on defense along with Ryan Wagner and sophomore Trey Widlowski. ... The offensive line will be anchored by Adam Heikinin and Dylan Sarg. Both return from last season.

Schaumburg

2021 record: 2-7

Coach: Mark Stilling

Worth noting: Schaumburg has not been to the state playoffs since 2017. But the Saxons are looking to turn things around this year. ... The Saxons will have 12 returning starters this season. That includes the quartet of three-year starters in linebackers Gabriel Dominguez, Jacob Acevedo and John Sanfilippo and defensive back Jake Peterson. ... Defense should be a strength with defensive lineman Ilia Niku also returning. He will be joined on that front by Javeris Haney and Jimmy Zinchuk. ... The front line of the offense also looks strong with four players with experience in Brandon Madl, Hayden Mores, Jack Chiostri and Dillon Najjar along with Andreas Schwetter. All five are seniors. ... The skill players are athletic and quick. ... Wingbacks Omarion Jones, Anthony Digioia and Daniel Uczarczyk give them a strong run/catch option on the outside while Najari Williams will be at running back and Joey Macaluso at quarterback.

FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH

  • Aiden Cyr, Hoffman Estates, QB, Sr. — Is coming off a season where he threw for over 2,600 yards and 32 touchdowns.
  • Dominick Ball, Palatine, RB, Jr. — Rushed for nearly a 1,000 yards last season.
  • Jaylen Williams, DL, Palatine, So. — Already has five D1 offer including Minnesota and Missouri.
  • Stephon Sellers, WR/DB, Hoffman Estates, Jr. — Honorable mention last year as a sophomore and poised for a huge season.
  • Peyton Soske, QB, Barrington, Sr. — Runs and throws the ball well and has the size (6-3, 190) to attract some attention.

SCHEDULES

West DivisionBarringtonConantFremdHoffman EstatesPalatineSchaumburg
Week 1@ Warren; 7 p.m., Aug. 26vs. Lake Park; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 26@ Lake Zurich; 7 p.m., Aug. 26vs. Downers Grove North; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 26vs. St. Charles North; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 26@ York; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 26
Week 2@ Prospect; 7 p.m., Sept. 2vs. Wheeling; 7 p.m., Sept. 2@ Hersey; 7 p.m., Sept. 2vs. Elk Grove; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 2@ Buffalo Grove; 7 p.m., Sept. 2vs. Rolling Meadows; 7 p.m., Sept. 2
Week 3vs. Maine South; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 9vs. Glenbrook North; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 9vs. Glenbrook South; TBA, Sept. 9vs. Maine West; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 9vs. New Trier; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 9vs. Niles West; 7 p.m., Sept. 9
Week 4@ Evanston; 7 p.m., Sept. 15@ Vernon Hills; 7 p.m., Sept. 15@ New Trier; 7 p.m., Sept. 16@ Maine East; 7 p.m., Sept. 15@ Glenbrook North; 7 p.m., Sept. 15@ Niles North; 7 p.m., Sept. 16
Week 5vs. Schaumburg; 7 p.m., Sept. 23@ Hoffman Estates; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 23@ Palatine; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 23vs. Conant; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 23vs. Fremd; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 23@ Barrington; 7 p.m., Sept. 23
Week 6vs. Hoffman Estates; 1 p.m., Oct. 1vs. Palatine; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 30@ Schaumburg; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 30@ Barrington; 1 p.m., Oct. 1@ Conant; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 30vs. Fremd; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 30
Week 7@ Palatine; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 7@ Fremd; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 7vs. Conant; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 7vs. Schaumburg; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 7vs. Barrington; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 7@ Hoffman Estates; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 7
Week 8vs. Conant; 7 p.m., Oct. 14@ Barrington; 7 p.m., Oct. 14vs. Hoffman Estates; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 14@ Fremd; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 14@ Schaumburg; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 14vs. Palatine; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 14
Week 9@ Fremd; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 21vs. Schaumburg; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 21vs. Barrington; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 21@ Palatine; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 21vs. Hoffman Estates; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 21@ Conant, 7:30 p.m., Oct. 21

FIVE CAN’T MISS MATCHUPS

Week 1: Barrington at Warren

Week 1: St. Charles North at Palatine

Week 3: Maine South at Barrington

Week 6: Hoffman Estates at Barrington

Week 9: Hoffman Estates at Palatine

STEVE SOUCIE’S PREDICTED FINISH

TeamRecord
East
Prospect8-1
Hersey8-1
Buffalo Grove5-4
Rolling Meadows5-4
Elk Grove3-6
Wheeling1-8
West
Hoffman Estates8-1
Palatine8-1
Conant5-4
Barrington4-5
Schaumburg2-7
Fremd1-8