Scouting the Northern Lake County Conference: 2023 IHSA football season preview

Wauconda's Connor Vanselow (25) stiff arms Lakes' Prodive Matumona-Nzama to gain extra yards during Friday’s football game in Wauconda. Vanselow scored multiple touchdowns in game.


2022 record: 6-4

Coach: Brian Glashagel

Worth noting: The perennial conference and playoff-contending Sequoits are just fine when it comes to returning talent with senior running back and tough inside runner Nick Day returning with more than 1,800 yards and 21 TDs, while junior running back Martin Cohen had 300 rushing and 700 receiving yards last year with 11 total TDs. Senior defensive back Ryan Swanson had 58 tackles in 2022, while seniors JT Gobeyn (OL-DL) and Carter Webb (K) also are back. Both Day and Cohen were all-NLCC selections last year, with Day winning the honor for a second time. “Offensively, our strengths will be the duo of Nick Day and Martin Cohen returning as a Thunder and Lightning combo, and our overall team speed,” Glashagel said. “We have the right amount of players with experience returning with some new players moving into positions. Our overall team speed is one of the best we’ve had in some time.” Glashagel said Day and Cohen (2 returned kicks for touchdowns, plays CB as well) can go down as the best tandem of RBs the school has ever had. “Throw in a supporting cast of Wyatt Ertl (RB), Aiden VanAlstine (RB), Teddi Wetu (WR), Tyler Ingman (TE), Jake Pankau (WR) and savvy senior quarterback James Sheehan,” he said. “We’re excited.” Team speed will also be a great asset on defense, Glashagel said with captain and senior Chris Cook (LB), along with classmates Ryan Hanrahan (DL), Clayton Horton (DL) and Ryan Swanson (DB) leading the way for a defense, “that has been improving tremendously over the summer,” the coach said. Key newcomers include Sheehan, Cook and Horton, along with juniors Wetu and Roddy Rathman (OLB). Glashagel also is excited about Webb’s prospects with the kicking game. “He’s one of the best kickers in the area,” he said. “He may have a shot to be playing big-time post-high school.” Glashagel said the expectation always is to win the conference title, but cautions Wauconda and Grant look to have a lot of returning talent from a year ago.


2022 record: 3-6

Coach: Tim Norwood

Worth noting: As Antioch’s Glashagel explained, the Bulldogs have a lot of returning talent. On offense, back are linemen Mason Lancaster (Sr.), Austin Smith (Sr.) and Jack Hembrey (Jr.) with wide receivers Pryde Mendoza (Sr.), Cam Houghton (Jr.) and Braeden Carlson (Sr.) also back. Mendoza ran for 595 yards and 3 scores and had 231 receiving yards. Houghton caught 16 passes for 182 yards and 2 TDs, while Carlson had 73 receiving yards. Running back Daymian Longtin ran for 215 yards and 4 TDs and also caught 21 balls for 243 yards. Returning defensive players include senior linebacker Ryan Kowalski (41 tackles), plus veterans in the backfield in Zaylin Franklin (19 tackles), Vinnie Hurst (11 pass breakups) and Rylan Art, who played quarterback last year and is moving to free safety this season. Key newcomers include sophomores Matthew Gipson (QB), Tyler Zdon (RB), Max Hembrey (WR), Logan Myers (LB) and junior Anthony Koza (DB). Art and Mendoza are both returning all-NLCC selections. “We feel like we have a good mix of players returning and newcomers,” Norwood said. “We have a nice senior class, but we will still be young because we have 10 sophomores on the varsity roster.” Norwood said offensively there is more balance this fall, and a young group on defense is developing well “and will need to play well as a unit,” he said. Norwood is looking for improvement in the W-L column and in the conference. “Antioch is tough year in and year out,” he said. “We plan on being much more competitive and play with great effort and attitude.”

Grayslake Central

2022 record: 7-4

Coach: Brent Pearlman

Worth noting: With the departure of Mike Maloney, Central turned to an Illinois coaching classic in Pearlman, whose previous stops include his well-known successful stint at Prospect, Wheeling and Elk Grove (he was an assistant there last year). Pearlman also was an assistant at Lake Zurich and Fremd. He takes over a squad that returns all-conference performers in Matty Jens (TB-LB) and quarterback Cole Gillette. “We have many players who have experienced significant playing time in varsity games,” Pearlman said. “Matty has an outstanding work ethic, is an outstanding player and leader. Cole leads by example and is a very courageous player.” Pearlman said he’s been impressed with the offense’s ability to adapt and adjust, while returning experience on defense will be a plus. “Despite only having three full-time returning starters on offense, we have several players with extensive varsity game experience,” he said. Also look out for two-way player Sean Mullen. “Sean has had tremendous growth over the past year and is on the verge of a great season,” Pearlman said. The new Rams coach added reinforcements will help the team as the season progresses. “We have multiple new players starting and all have shown great improvement and growth,” he said.

Grayslake North

2022 record: 9-2

Coach: Brian Johnson

Worth noting: The Knights return 3 starters on offense in juniors Cam Bates (WR), Dom Pulliam (RB-DB) and Sean McMahon (OL-LB). Bates had 587 receiving yards and 7 TDs, while Pulliam had 500 all-purpose yards last year and 5 scores. Eight starters are back on defense including senior Minnesota State commit and all-NLCC selection Carter Barenbaum (S, 57 tackles, 5 interceptions), junior linebacker-tight end Tyler McBride (62 tackles), senior Max Bouma (LB-FB, 56 tackles) and juniors Mitch Hughes (CB-QB), Landon Dovel (LB-RB), Juan Marquez (DL-OL) and Ernesto Gonzalez (DL). Key newcomers include senior Kaleb Caputo (OL-DL), sophomores Kyle Case (OL-DL), Eli Woyat (FB-LB) and junior Alan Gielczynski (OL). “Last year in our first year there were a lot of changes and after a full year there is more stability and familiarity with everything we are striving to do,” Johnson said. “It’s always a work in progress, but I like how our players have responded to the philosophy of our program. Defensively, we have quite a bit of experience and we are going to rely on them. Naturally, we have some high expectations for our defense.” Johnson said there are some unknowns on offense with the graduations of QB Jacob Donohue (Wisconsin-Eau Claire), Michael Jefferson (Drake) and DJ Neely (Northern Michigan). “There has been really good, healthy competition for starting spots on offense and that is going to make everyone better,” the coach said. “The plan is going to be more balanced on offense. I’m excited what our offense has up its sleeve this year.” Johnson added the defense is ahead of where it was last year. “We are excited about how Carter Barenbaum is going to perform in his third year as a starter at safety,” Johnson noted. “We have a good mix of some size and some speed on defense.” Hughes takes over at quarterback. “There is going to be a little bit of pressure,” Johnson said. “We have the utmost confidence in him.” Bates is a four-sport athlete in football, basketball, baseball and track, and runs a 4.5, 40-yard dash. “Cam is going to be one of our most explosive players,” Johnson said. “He has Big 12 and Big Ten interest. Watch out for Marquez (6-2, 240) on both lines. “Juan is one of our strongest players,” Johnson stated. Johnson said Wauconda and Antioch have been leading the conference charge for the last few years. “I think there is going to be some parity in the conference this fall, and each week is going to be a challenge which should make it a fun season.”


2022 record: 4-5

Coach: Jason Ellerman

Worth noting: Returning players for Lakes include seniors Drew Schmidt (DL, 6-1, 220), Dylan Swanson (OL), Austin Gonzales (DL), Prodive Matumona (WR) and Anthony Bober (DB), along with junior Andy Mlyniec (OL, 6-4, 275), sophomore Dylan Davis (ILB-RB) and ILB-TE Zach Raffone. Newcomers include seniors Matt Waterman (TE) and Nate Carr (TE), juniors Brayden Thornton (DL) and Colton Horstein (ILB), along with sophomores Will Mercure (DB-WR), Rondell Griffin (RB), Christian Scornavacco (RB), Mason Gialo (WR), Jordan Phelan (OL) and Grant Loehde (OL), as well as junior offensive lineman JP Zeller. Swanson is the team’s lone returning all-conference player. Ellerman said strengths for the Eagles will be picking each other up and celebrating good plays, swarming the ball on defense and running the ball on offense. Physicality will help on offense, as will a fast and aggressive defense. “We are going to be a very young team that is hungry for competition,” Ellerman said. “Competing has been our focus all offseason and summer. Every week is going to be a challenge for Lakes, and we are very excited for it.”

North Chicago

2022 record: 1-8

Coach: Wilton Hill

Worth noting: The Warhawks have talent returning in juniors Jalen Bosley (DE), Raul Chacon (G-DT), senior Kymari Daniels (slot), junior Caleb Fitts (LB), junior outside backer Jaylen Gordon and senior quarterback-safety Lon McLendon. Top new players for Hill’s squad include senior running back-linebacker Keymarion Campbell, sophomore lineman Michael Grayer, sophomore defensive end TyBraun Graham, sophomore wide receiver-corner Marlin Jeffries), senior quarterbacks Chris King and Jabbari Sparkman, and sophomore slot-defensive back Dyzhir Usher. “We have formed a close bond over the summer working together,” Hill said. “That, along with a lot better mindset of working hard and finishing will put us in position to compete every game. Last year, we were a very young team, so we took our lumps. This year, we have a lot of returners with varsity experience now that should allow them to have more confidence and play faster.” Hill said goals on offense include establishing the run. “That is our identity,” he said. “We also have guys who can make plays on the perimeter and quarterbacks that can get the ball to the athletes to allow them to make plays.” Defensively, Hill said the key is finishing. “Compete whistle to whistle all four quarters,” he said. Hill said Campbell will be a key contributor on both sides of the ball, while King has all the intangibles to lead the team in the right direction. “He’s athletic and smart,” the coach said of King. Junior Jeffries also is a newcomer to watch. “Marlin is a young, talented player with more than 20 touchdowns last year at the frosh level,” Hill said. “He adds a lot of athleticism and competitiveness.” Hill isn’t making any predictions about increased wins. “We want to compete every game and give ourselves a chance at the end,” he said. “We are not in a position to overlook anyone. Everyone in the conference is tough.”

Round Lake

2022 record: 1-8

Coach: Matt Milazzo

Worth noting: Milazzo takes over the head coaching position from Scott Blecha after previous coaching stops at Lake Zurich (3 years), Hersey (7 years) and Huntley (2 years). He’s one of two new coaches on the circuit (joining Pearlman at Central). Back for the Panthers are seniors Isaac Jackson (RB) and Victor Moreno (DB) along with juniors William Cole (OL-DL, 6-4, 265) and Ceasar Guiterrez (DB), who was second in the state in tackles last year. Key newcomers include senior Daevon Mays and sophomore quarterback Ty Nixon. Cole is a returning all-NLCC player. “Youth will be a strength,” Milazzo said. “Many players had to play up last season, and the frosh-soph team played well down the stretch last year.” Versatility will be a strength on offense. “We will try to take advantage of what the defense gives us and create conflicts with players,” Milazzo said. The coach added Round Lake has a nice blend of players up front who provide different looks to the offense. Cole was an all-state wrestler last year and is top five in school history in throws. “William is just scratching the surface as a football player,” Milazzo said. “He has a chance to play on Saturdays (college).” Milazzo noted if Mays had played before this year, “he would be, at a minimum, a Division III kid,” he said. “He’s a natural leader who is improving every day.” Nixon takes over the signal-calling position. “Ty is a young quarterback who will have growing pains as a sophomore in a new offense, but throws the ball naturally and is a quiet competitor.” Milazzo said Wauconda and Antioch are always tough in the NLCC. “Don’t overlook Grant,” he said. “They have been good on the under-levels the last few years.”


2022 record: 9-2

Coach: Chris Prostka

Worth noting: In terms of postseason accolades, the Bulldogs return the most with seven all-NLCC selections back. Wauconda is one of three NLCC teams that reached the second round of the state playoffs last year. Back are seniors Connor Vanselow (RB), Brock Pfeiffer, Conlan Rath, Zac Johnson, Caleb Apodaca (6-2, 230) and juniors Logan Olsen and Liam Carney (6-5, 250). Vanselow ran for 1,055 yards and had 18 total TDs, while Olsen passed for 1,100 yards and threw 14 scores. Pfeiffer had 3 receiving TDs and 4 interceptions, while Rath had 48 total tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 1 interception and scored a defensive touchdown. Johnson had 72 total tackles, averaged 32.5 yards per punt and hit on 83% of his point-after attempts. Olsen, Vanselow, Pfeiffer, Rath, Connor Coty, Jackson Rudolph and Johnson were all-conference selections. “We have experience,” Prostka said. “We are returning a large number of players from last year’s team. Our senior group has been to the second round of the playoffs two years in a row. I like our toughness. We talk a lot about being able to respond to adversity. Our players understand that and will be prepared to take on whatever challenges we face. We’re also physical. We want to play physical football in all phases.” The Bulldogs return three starters on the offensive line, their quarterback (now a junior) and “we have multiple running backs who can get tough yards with the ability to break big runs,” Prostka said. On the other side of the ball, the team’s top four tacklers are back to go along with an experienced secondary, the coach added. Three more names of note: Nick Ori, Ethan Lundquist and Jake Wurster. “Nick is going to be a sophomore, but gained a good amount of experience last year as a freshman on varsity,” Prostka said. “Ethan gained strength in the weight room, is in great shape and plays hard all the time. Jake was a sectional champion in the 100 dash. We’re looking forward to him using his speed on the field.” Wauconda is 19-3 over the last two seasons.


AntiochGrantGrayslake CentralGrayslake North
Week 1@ Schaumburg; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 25vs. Mundelein; 7 p.m., Aug. 25vs. Bolingbrook; 7 p.m., Aug. 25vs. Vernon Hills; 7 p.m., Aug. 25
Week 2vs. Zion-Benton; 7 p.m., Sept. 1@ Glenbrook North; 7 p.m., Sept. 1@ Geneseo; 5 p.m., Sept. 1@ Mundelein; 7 p.m., Sept. 1
Week 3@ Lakes; 7 p.m., Sept. 8@ Grayslake North; 7 p.m., Sept. 8@ North Chicago; 7 p.m., Sept. 8vs. Grant; 7 p.m., Sept. 8
Week 4vs. North Chicago; 7 p.m., Sept. 14vs. Wauconda; 7 p.m., Sept. 14vs. Grayslake North; 7 p.m., Sept. 14@ Grayslake Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 14
Week 5@ Grayslake North; 7 p.m., Sept. 22vs. Round Lake; 7 p.m., Sept. 22@ Wauconda; 7 p.m., Sept. 22vs. Antioch; 7 p.m., Sept. 22
Week 6@ Wauconda; 7 p.m., Sept. 29@ Grayslake Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 29vs. Grant; 7 p.m., Sept. 29vs. Lakes; 7 p.m., Sept. 29
Week 7@ Grant; 7 p.m., Oct. 6vs. Antioch; 7 p.m., Oct. 6vs. Round Lake; 7 p.m., Oct. 6@ North Chicago; 7 p.m., Oct. 6
Week 8vs. Grayslake Central; 7 p.m., Oct. 13@ Lakes; 7 p.m., Oct. 13@ Antioch; 7 p.m., Oct. 13vs. Round Lake; 7 p.m., Oct. 13
Week 9vs. Round Lake; 7 p.m., Oct. 20vs. North Chicago; 7 p.m., Oct. 20vs. Lakes; 7 p.m., Oct. 20@ Wauconda; 7 p.m., Oct. 20
LakesNorth ChicagoRound LakeWauconda
Week 1vs. Lake Forest; 7 p.m., Aug. 25@ Wheeling; 7 p.m., Aug. 25@ Waukegan; 7 p.m., Aug. 25@ Hinsdale South; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 25
Week 2@ Vernon Hills; 6 p.m., Sept. 1@ Addison Trail; 6 p.m., Sept. 1vs. Maine East; TBD, Sept. 1vs. Kaneland; 7 p.m., Sept. 1
Week 3vs. Antioch; 7 p.m., Sept. 8vs. Grayslake Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 8vs. Wauconda; 7 p.m., Sept. 8@ Round Lake; 7 p.m., Sept. 8
Week 4@ Round Lake; 7 p.m., Sept. 14@ Antioch; 7 p.m., Sept. 14vs. Lakes; 7 p.m., Sept. 14@ Grant; 7 p.m., Sept. 14
Week 5@ North Chicago; 7 p.m., Sept. 22vs. Lakes; 7 p.m., Sept. 22@ Grant; 7 p.m., Sept. 22vs. Grayslake Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 22
Week 6@ Grayslake North; 7 p.m., Sept. 29@ Round Lake; 7 p.m., Sept. 29vs. North Chicagp; 7 p.m., Sept. 29vs. Antioch; 7 p.m., Sept. 29
Week 7vs. Wauconda; 7 p.m., Oct. 6vs. Grayslake North; 7 p.m., Oct. 6@ Grayslake Central; 7 p.m., Oct. 6@ Lakes; 7 p.m., Oct. 6
Week 8vs. Grant; 7 p.m., Oct. 13vs. Wauconda; 7 p.m., Oct. 13@ Grayslake North; 7 p.m., Oct. 13@ North Chicago; 7 p.m., Oct. 13
Week 9@ Grayslake Central; 7 p.m., Oct. 20@ Grant; 7 p.m., Oct. 20@ Antioch; 7 p.m., Oct. 20vs. Grayslake North; 7 p.m., Oct. 20


Grayslake North7-2
Grayslake Central5-4
North Chicago1-8
Round Lake0-9