2022 record: 2-7
Coach: Luke Standiford
Worth noting: The Trojans and Standiford, who enters his sixth season as head coach, hope to better the pair of wins they earned last fall and will have senior quarterback Conner Telford back for his third season as the team’s signal caller. “He has come a long way over the past few years and will run the show for us on offense,” Standiford said of Telford. Senior fullback back Seth Robertson did not play his junior year because of an injury he suffered his sophomore year, but according to his head coach had a great offseason and will be a bruiser in the backfield. Guard Terry Wilkey (sr.) will be a guy Dwight will look to run behind, while junior OLB Dylan Crouch returns after leading the team in tackles. “We will return almost all of our starters on both sides of the ball,” Standiford said. “However, there are a few new kids who have earned a starting spot that we didn’t have last year. We’ll have two freshmen, Will Anderson and Graham Meister, play the tackle position for us on offense, and they have both proven that they can play at the next level through the scrimmages we took part in over the summer. Junior Drew Anderson is another newcomer that has made us better in the passing game as well as coverage. We’re finally at a point where the kids who were starting for us when they were freshmen and sophomores are now juniors and seniors.”
2022 record: 1-8
Coach: Terrance Terry
Worth noting: Terry takes over a Tigers program whose only victory last season was a 41-0 Week 2 win over Walther Christian while a member of the Metro Suburban Blue, however, he inherits a number of key returning players in seniors Johnny Baratta (LB/RB, all-conference), Michael Fritz (LB/WR, all-conference), Jose Garcia (DB/WR), Isaiah Gomez (RB), Nate Leder (DB), Angel Mata (OL/DL) and Nick Pedersen (OL/DL). The head coach is hoping for great things from sophomore newcomers Matthew Fritz (QB), Jairus Ponce (LB/WR), Danny Dohoney (DB/WR) and David Swanek (OL). “This team is experienced up front, and that should lead to a strong running game,” Terry said. “We are excited about the pieces we have on both sides along the line of scrimmage. We are also very experienced at linebacker on the defensive side of the ball. Our success on defense will come from how well they can lead and continue to develop. Our most obvious question mark is at the quarterback position, and while I believe we have made great strides there in camp, Fritz will be limited in terms of varsity experience.”
2022 record: 9-2
Coach: Tom Jobst
Worth noting: The Crusaders earned a 10th consecutive trip to the playoffs, falling in the Class 1A second round to Dakota, and will be shooting for No. 11. Head coach Tom Jobst, who enters his 14th season leading Marquette with a 100-36 win/loss record, lost a number of key players to graduation but hopes the returning starters and newcomers can fill those gaps. Jobst will be counting on seniors Stefen Swords (6-0, 230, C, third year on varsity), Charlie Mullen (E/OLB, nine receptions for 156 yds and two TDs, plus 50 tackles, three sacks, two INTs and recovered a fumble recovery), Henry McGrath (6-2, 180, DE), Pete McGrath 5-10, 190, LB), as well as juniors Sam Mitre (6-0, 225, G) and Payton Gutierrez (5-10, 170, DB). The veteran skipper also is hoping his first-year varsity players – Anthony Couch (so., 5-9, 150, QB), Keaton Davis Jr. (jr., 6-0, 190, E), Grant Dose (so., 5-8, 160, RB/LB) and Jaxsen Higgins (so., 5-9, 170, HB/DB) – can make an impact quickly. “This team’s strength is its good size, speed and strength,” Jobst said. “The players are close knit and work hard together. We just need to get some experience and grow continuously throughout the season.”
2022 record: 5-5
Coach: Vincent Fanelli
Worth noting: Fanelli helped guide the Rebels, playing in the Metro Suburban Conference Blue Division last fall, to their first playoff appearance since 2017 in his first season at the helm. Ridgewood returns a number of key starters to try to make it consecutive postseason trips that include seniors Julian Luna (LB/RB, all-conference), Nial Kenny (DB/WR), Majd Saleh (LB/WR), Jaden Rodriguez (QB), Luke Melendez (WR/DB/KR, all-conference, conference special teams player of the year), and junior Gil Mendoza (OL, all-conference). The head coach also hopes to see good things from newcomers in juniors Justin Panaguiton (DT) and Jaden Gillespie (OL), sophomores Marko Jonic (DB/WR), Nico Camillo (RB/LB), Frankie Camillo (DB/WR), Michael Cwieczkowski (DE/WR) and Alex Hrabchak (WR/S) and freshman Tommy Burkevic (DT). “We feel our team speed is going to be a key contributing factor this year,” Fanelli said.
2022 record: 10-1
Coach: Terry Maxwell
Worth noting: The Seneca football program put together a magical campaign last fall, completing the regular season without a loss, winning the Vermilion Valley Football Alliance North title, claiming its third playoff berth since 2002 and earning the most wins in a season for the program since 2000. The Fighting Irish celebrated their first trip to the postseason since 2019 with a 48-20 victory over Winnebago in a Class 3A opener but lost the next week to Byron. Maxwell, in his third season as head coach, returns many key players, including seniors Nathan Grant (QB/DB, 417 yards passing with 8 TDs and 943 yards rushing with 12 TDs), Asher Hamby (RB/S, 768 yards rushing with 11 TDs), Chris Peura (G, all-state), Josh Lucas (T), Kysen Klinker (TE), Lane Provance (DE), Matt Dillon (DT), Casey Clennon (MLB), as well as junior Paxton Giertz (CB, K). Maxwell says he believes seniors Alex Bogner-Kidwell, Nathen Neal, Sam Kleich, Nate Othon and Sam Churchill, junior Nick Grant and sophomore Landen Vencia are poised to make huge contributions. “Our offensive line is going to be pretty big, strong, and they move well this season,” Maxwell said. “Our run game is going to be a focus of our offense again and should be tough behind this group. Experience in general is a big strength this season as we return a lot of guys who will be two- or three-year varsity starters. Being in the second year of our 3-4 defense, I hope to see a lot of guys play with a lot of confidence and play fast, making our defense tough. I’m excited to see how our juniors and sophomores step up to fill in roles on this team. We’re going to be senior heavy, but we’ll still depend on our juniors and sophomores to provide key depth.”
2022 record: 7-3
Coach: Jim Eustice
Worth noting: The Bruins, members of the Three Rivers Conference’s Mississippi Division last season, have qualified for the postseason two straight seasons but dropped their Class 1A first-round playoff game to Forreston last year. It will be Eustice’s ninth year as head coach. The Bruins have a new quarterback in Aurora Christian transfer Max Bray, who threw for 3,747 yards and 40 touchdowns and ran for 716 yards and 11 TDs over the past two seasons. The Bruins return four starting offensive linemen in juniors Jake Migliorini and Garrett Connelly and seniors Gavin Hahn and Joe Bima. Senior Mateo Pullara, a transfer from Minooka, and junior Mason Moreno also will contribute in the trenches. Juniors Halden Huneburg and Grady Gillan will play running back, while seniors Hunter Savage, Seth Ferrari and Evan Entrican will be some top targets for Bray. Defensively, Gillan is the team’s top returning tackler after making 37 stops at linebacker last fall. Ferrari, Hueneburg, Entrican and Logan Pineda also will play linebacker. Hahn, Joe Bima and senior Sam Bima will play defensive line. Migliorini could play defensive line or linebacker. Bray and Savage will see time in the secondary.
2022 record: 0-9
Coach: Tim Eberhard
Worth noting: The Broncos struggled throughout an independent schedule last season, scoring only 53 points while allowing 421. Eberhard begins his fifth season on the Walther Christian sidelines with a handful of experience returning, including seniors Aiden Riggins (QB/LB/S), Manny Wren (WR/DB) and Jaden Smith (RB/DT/LB), juniors Javon Finley (RB/LB/DE) and Hunter Frankum Jr. (C/QB/TE/DE) and sophomore Kyris Kyles (RB/DB/S). Frankum led the team in passing yards last season, Riggins missed much of last season with an injury, and Finley was third in tackles, second in rushing yards and led the team in return yards. “The strength of this team would be the skill-position players since we have more of them than linemen,” Eberhard said. “We have a lot of question marks since most of our players will be in their first or second year of playing organized football. We are going to need to block and tackle better than last year if we are going to have any chance of being competitive in these games.”
2022 record: 2-4
Coach: Lee Maciejewski
Worth noting: Maciejewski takes over a Sentinels program that played an abbreviated schedule in the Metro Suburban Red a year ago because of a lack of players. The head coach hopes experienced players in Luke Fears, Ty Freeman, Taj Lewis, Yannis Tutuianu, Jer Thomas, Fedir Krechenko, Raphael Casterejon, Sean Patterson, Jaime Murphy and Vitali Stetski will lead the way, and newcomers Lawerence Walker, Brian Baker, Angel Gonzalez and Jacob Sleeper can fill in the gaps. “We will be playing several two-way players this year,” Maciejewski said. “These boys and others have put in a load of time that I am sure will be reflected in positive results on Friday nights.”
5 PLAYERS TO WATCH
- Nathan Grant, Seneca, QB/DB, sr.: Grant will lead the Fighting Irish’s deceptive power-T offense for the fourth consecutive season, while also being a shutdown defender in the secondary.
- Charlie Mullen, Marquette Academy, E/OLB, sr.: Although the Crusaders rely heavily on the wing-T running game, they have shown with solid pass catchers such as Mullen that they have that option, as well.
- Luke Melendez, Ridgewood, WR/DB/KR, sr.: An all-conference and conference special teams player of the year last season, Melendez showed the ability to affect a game in a handful of ways.
- Chris Peura, Seneca, OL/DL, sr.: An all-stater, Peura was a huge key in the power-T Fighting Irish gaining 10 yards a carry and almost 4,000 yards rushing for the season.
- Max Bray, St. Bede, QB, sr.: Bray was a two-year starter at Aurora Christian before transferring to St. Bede for his senior year. Over the past two seasons, he’s thrown for 3,747 yards and 40 touchdowns and ran for 716 yards and 11 TDs.
|Dwight co-op||Elmwood Park||Ottawa Marquette||Ridgewood|
|Week 1||@ Fieldcrest; 7 p.m., Aug. 25||@ Reed-Custer; 7 p.m., Aug. 25||@ Aurora Christian; 7 p.m., Aug. 25||vs. Schurz; 7 p.m., Aug. 25|
|Week 2||vs. Elgin St. Edward; 7 p.m., Sept. 1||vs. Christ the King; 7 p.m., Sept. 1||vs. Madison; 7 p.m., Sept. 1||vs. Clemente; 7 p.m., Sept. 1|
|Week 3||@ Ridgewood; 7 p.m., Sept. 8||vs. Ottawa Marquette; 7 p.m., Sept. 8||@ Elmwood Park; 7 p.m., Sept. 8||vs. Dwight co-op; 7 p.m., Sept. 8|
|Week 4||vs. Walther Christian; 7 p.m., Sept. 15||@ Seneca; 7 p.m., Sept. 15||vs. Westmont; 7 p.m., Sept. 15||@ St. Bede; 7 p.m., Sept. 15|
|Week 5||@ Elmwood Park; 7 p.m., Sept. 22||vs. Dwight co-op; 7 p.m., Sept. 22||@ Walther Christian; 1 p.m., Sept. 23||vs. Seneca; 7 p.m., Sept. 22|
|Week 6||vs. Westmont; 7 p.m., Sept. 29||@ St. Bede; 1 p.m., Sept. 30||vs. Ridgewood; 7 p.m., Sept. 29||@ Ottawa Marquette; 7 p.m., Sept. 29|
|Week 7||@ St. Bede; 7 p.m., Oct. 6||vs. Westmont; 7 p.m., Oct. 6||vs. Seneca; 7 p.m., Oct. 6||vs. Walther Christian; 7 p.m., Oct. 6|
|Week 8||vs. Seneca; 7 p.m., Oct. 13||vs. Ridgewood; 7 p.m., Oct. 13||vs. St. Bede; 7 p.m., Oct. 13||@ Elmwood Park; 7 p.m., Oct. 13|
|Week 9||vs. Ottawa Marquette; 7 p.m., Oct. 20||@ Walther Christian; 1 p.m., Oct. 21||@ Dwight co-op; 7 p.m., Oct. 20||@ Westmont; 7 p.m., Oct. 20|
|Seneca||St. Bede||Walther Christian||Westmont|
|Week 1||vs. Wilmington; 7 p.m., Aug. 25||vs. Tuscola; 7 p.m., Aug. 25||@ Christ the King; 7 p.m., Aug. 26||vs. Crane; 7 p.m., Aug. 25|
|Week 2||@ Lisle, 7 p.m., Sept. 1||vs. Mercer County; 1 p.m., Sept. 2||vs. Leo; 7 p.m., Sept. 1||vs. Prosser; 7 p.m., Sept. 1|
|Week 3||@ Westmont; 7 p.m., Sept. 8||@ Walther Christian; 1 p.m., Sept. 9||vs. St. Bede; 1 p.m., Sept. 9||vs. Seneca; 7 p.m., Sept. 8|
|Week 4||vs. Elmwood Park; 7 p.m., Sept. 15||vs. Ridgewood; 7 p.m., Sept. 15||@ Dwight co-op; 7 p.m., Sept. 15||@ Ottawa Marquette; 7 p.m., Sept. 15|
|Week 5||@ Ridgewood; 7 p.m., Sept. 22||@ Westmont, 7 p.m., Sept. 22||vs. Ottawa Marquette; 1 p.m., Sept. 23||vs. St. Bede, 7 p.m., Sept. 22|
|Week 6||vs. Walther Christian; 7 p.m., Sept. 29||vs. Elmwood Park; 1 p.m., Sept. 30||@ Seneca; 7 p.m., Sept. 29||@ Dwight co-op; 7 p.m., Sept. 29|
|Week 7||@ Ottawa Marquette; 7 p.m., Oct. 6||vs. Dwight co-op; 7 p.m., Oct. 6||@ Ridgewood; 7 p.m., Oct. 6||@ Elmwood Park; 7 p.m., Oct. 6|
|Week 8||@ Dwight co-op; 7 p.m., Oct. 13||@ Ottawa Marquette; 7 p.m., Oct. 13||vs. Westmont; 1 p.m., Oct. 14||@ Walther Christian; 1 p.m., Oct. 14|
|Week 9||vs. St. Bede; 7 p.m., Oct. 20||@ Seneca; 7 p.m., Oct. 20||vs. Elmwood Park; 1 p.m., Oct. 21||vs. Ridgewood; 7 p.m., Oct. 20|
FIVE CAN’T-MISS MATCHUPS
Week 1 – Wilmington at Seneca: A solid season opener between a pair of teams that each played a second-round playoff game last season and that like to run the ball and play solid defense.
Week 1 – Dwight at Fieldcrest: Both squads have struggled for wins the past few seasons, so a victory in this one will be a huge confidence builder to start the season.
Week 4 – Ridgewood at St. Bede: Depending on how the first three weeks play out for each side, this could be a win each may eventually need to qualify for the playoffs.
Week 7 – Seneca at Marquette: No matter the sport, there is nothing the Fighting Irish would rather do than beat the Crusaders, and there is nothing the Crusaders would rather do than beat the Fighting Irish. It will be their first football meeting since 2019.
Week 8 – St. Bede at Marquette: Another huge rivalry game despite the teams not meeting on the gridiron since both were in the in the old Big Rivers Conference in 2011.
STEVE SOUCIE’S PREDICTED FINISH