2023 season preview: Scouting the SouthWest Suburban Conference

Bolingbrook’s Jonas Williams looks to pass against Lincoln-Way East. Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Frankfort.

Blue Division


2022 record: 7-3

Coach: Titcus Pettigrew

Worth noting: The Raiders enter the season as something of a wild card as they transition to a new coach after veteran coach John Ivlow left the program at the conclusion of the 2022 season. There’s plenty of talent left behind for Bolingbrook’s new coach, Pettigrew, to try to shape into another playoff qualifier for the Raiders, something Bolingbrook has done in 29 of the last 30 playoff-contested seasons. Pettigrew, last year’s defensive coordinator who played collegiately at Penn State, returns several key components of the team’s offensive attack, which includes sophomore quarterback Jonas Williams, who put together a freshman season unlike almost any other in state history, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and 37 touchdowns. One of Williams’ primary weapons, wide receiver I’Marion Stewart, did transfer to Kenwood, but the offensive specialist group still has tons of talent led by Kyan Berry-Johnson, a Wisconsin commit and several promising players ready to take on expanded roles such as Chico Jackson and A.J. Jones. The defensive side of the ball is likely the area to come under the most scrutiny, Bolingbrook allowed 35-plus points in all four of its losses last season (one of those losses was changed to a forfeit victory as past of sanctions placed on Maine South). But despite not having a Division I bound defender on that side of the ball for the first time in several seasons, the Raiders like the core on that side of the ball, most notably linebacker Chris Ellen and secondary staples Jermaine Jones and Tavarez Edwards.


2022 record: 6-4

Coach: Terrell Alexander

Worth noting: With a key cog of juniors leading the way, Homewood-Flossmoor may be a year away from a true resurgence, but the Vikings are fully capable of doing some damage this season. Senior Brandon Brigham and junior Michael Terrell form a dynamic duo at running back and will look to run behind senior offensive linemen Emanuel Zambrano and Jalen Cole. Senior Trenton Rosebourgh and junior Randall McDonald are competing for the quarterback spot. Junior defensive lineman Cameron Brooks is one of the conference’s rising stars. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Brooks picked up offers this summer from Illinois, Kansas and Kent State. Fellow junior Jarve Bey Jr. adds another big presence on the defensive line. Linebacker Jordyn Stewart and defensive back Jovan Plaxico are senior leaders. Watch for sophomore Myles Ellis to make an impact in several ways as a running back and receiver and on special teams. The Vikings’ four losses last season were all to teams which won at least seven games. H-F took care of business in key games against Lockport and Bradley-Bourbonnais in 2022 and will need to beat similarly talented teams again this year to make the playoffs.

Lincoln-Way East

2022 record: 13-1

Coach: Rob Zvonar

Worth noting: As usual, the Griffins have their sights set firmly on a state championship. The desire may be a bit greater this year after they fell just short in 2022, dropping the Class 8A title game 13-3 to Loyola. Lincoln-Way East was not nearly as dependent on seniors last season as it typically is, meaning many of the key contributors from the 2022 team return. There are 11 starters back. That includes senior quarterback Braden Tischer, who threw for 2,182 yards and 21 touchdowns and ran for 465 yards and four more scores last season. Senior receiver Cade Serauskis was reliable target for Tischer last season, finishing with 42 catches for 446 yards and four touchdowns and could be Tischer’s go-to guy this year after the graduation of leading receiver Jimmy Curtin. Another huge loss to graduation was James Kwiecinski, who was a workhorse running back for the Griffins in 2022, piling up 1,557 yards and 26 touchdowns. Lincoln-Way East will rely on some newcomers in the backfield, including junior Zion Gist. Josh Janowski, a 6-foot-2, 270-pound senior who is committed to Iowa, leads the offensive line and provides a big blocker for whoever gets the carries to run behind. The Griffins are typically stacked on defense, led by junior defensive end Caden O’Rourke. O’Rourke, whose older brother, Devin, starred for the Griffins and at Northwestern, has offers from the Wildcats and nine other Division I schools, including Illinois and Iowa. Senior lineman David Wuske and senior linebacker Conner Durkin are other key returning pieces on defense.


2022 record: 5-5

Coach: George Czart

Worth noting: After their Class 8A state championship in 2021, the Porters were hit hard by injuries during an up-and-down 2022 season. That allowed for running backs Eli Beltran and Aiden Preciado to gain valuable experience and both are expected to be big contributors as seniors this fall. Senior Drew Gallagher is one of three players competing for the starting quarterback spot. If Gallagher does not start at quarterback - and possibly even if he does - he will likely start at safety. Christos Alexandros, a 6-foot-1, 300-pound senior, will be a huge protector for whoever gets the quarterback job as he anchors the offensive line. Senior receivers Tanner Benaitis and Kevin Holland are back after suffering season-ending injuries last season. After retiring as Lemont head coach following the 2022 season, former Lockport head coach Bret Kooi has returned to the Porters’ staff and will call the plays offensively. Lockport hopes to hang its hat on its defense, led by the linebacker core of seniors Jameson Clark and Chase Creed and junior John Sherrod. Junior Kevin Hippner will be a key pass rusher, while sophomore defensive lineman Mike Pratt saw some varsity time as a freshman last season and already has an Illinois offer. “We expect to be a very competitive team with a much improved defense over last year,” Czart said. “Our offense is expected to be as balanced as possible.”


2022 record: 3-6

Coach: Troy McAllister

Worth noting: After making the playoffs and stunning Lincoln-Way East in McAllister’s first season in 2021, the Eagles took a step back last year against a tough schedule that featured seven postseason qualifiers. Sandburg’s 2022 campaign was derailed when senior quarterback Christian Evans suffered a season-ending leg injury in Week 2. Anthony Shelton, then a sophomore, was thrown into the fire to replace Evans and had some big performances. The Eagles hope that will pay off now as Shelton heads into his junior season with some valuable experience. Shelton has some strong veterans on the offensive line to protect him, with senior Zach Barrett and junior Matt Marek both sporting Division I offers. Senior Ethan Highfill and junior Charlie Snoreck - a three-sport athlete who started on the varsity basketball and baseball teams as a sophomore - look to step up at receiver. Watch for sophomore running back Luke Basiorka. Linebacker John Masino is the senior leader on defense, while sophomore Jaden Weaver is a big presence on the defensive line. Weaver, a 6-foot-1, 250-pound defensive tackle, started as a freshman and already has offers from Miami of Ohio and Ball State. Junior defensive backs Ryan Ward and Declan Glynn are expected to make an impact in their varsity debuts. The Eagles again have seven 2022 playoff qualifiers on their schedule. “The expectations for the season are to make the playoffs,” McAllister said.

Red Division


2022 record: 7-4

Coach: Adam Lewandowski

Worth noting: Andrew’s 28-18 win over Huntley in the opening round of the 2022 Class 8A playoffs marked the program’s first postseason victory since 2011. Despite losing several key seniors from that history-making team, the Thunderbolts look to build on the success with some anchors returning on both sides of the ball. Andrew’s triple-option attack relies on its offensive line to open up holes and 6-foot-4, 285-pound junior Michael McDonough figures to do plenty of that. McDonough has offers from Illinois, Purdue, Colorado, Akron and Ball State. Senior Nate Boylan is also a key cog on the offensive line and handles long-snapping duties. Senior defensive back Jack LoConte, who may also see time at running back, is one of the vital leaders on defense, along with junior linebacker TJ Burke. Senior defensive back James McGinley should step into a bigger role. Lewandowski expects junior receiver Dionte Thigpen and junior running back Brady Tanquilut to make major impacts as the Thunderbolts look to replace graduated running back Michael Barberi and swift-footed quarterback Andrew Skarzynski. A fast start is imperative with Andrew’s first four opponents going a combined 9-27 last season. “We are the fighters of our class in Illinois football,” Lewandowski said. “We need to stay healthy and focused on our mission.”


2022 record: 5-5

Coach: Mike Kohl

Worth noting: The Boilermakers season picture could have ended up a lot rosier with a few more breaks going their way. Bradley’s five losses, including a 14-12 loss to Collinsville in the opening round of the Class 7A playoffs, were by a combined 17 points including throwing a massive scare into Lincoln-Way East in Week 9 before succumbing 28-21. Bradley has quite a bit returning to try to make a push through to a few more victories in those big games, most notably quarterback Ethan Kohl. Kohl threw for more than 2,000 yards and 21 scores as a junior, breaking some of his father’s school records in the process. His receiving corps look sound as well with Luke Allen and Tyran Bender returning and Ethan Kohl’s younger brother, Gavin, and Kankakee transfer Ty Alderson adding more depth to that group. The offensive line is anchored by three-year starter Jack Prairie. Defensively, AJ Mancilla was the SWSC Red Division Player of the Year and will anchor the defensive unit from a linebacker position while James Batey and Vic Rogers are Boilermaker staples on the defensive line.

Lincoln-Way Central

2022 record: 3-6

Coach: David Woodburn

Worth noting: Woodburn takes over a program that has not made the playoffs since 2018 and hopes to lead the Knights on a road back to success. Lincoln-Way Central showed some flashes last season, notably in a 38-27 win over crosstown rival Lincoln-Way West and lost four games by 14 points or less, including a 14-7 defeat to SouthWest Suburban Red champion Andrew and a 28-25 loss to Bradley-Bourbonnais. If the Knights are in similar close games this season, they have a weapon that could make the difference in senior kicker/punter Drew Schiller, who is attracting some college attention. Senior quarterback Michael Kuehl returns, along with versatile senior running back/receivers Braden Meyer and Anthony Noto. Senior Owen Perez and juniors Ethan Toosely and Chris Biel anchor an experienced offensive line. The defense is loaded with seniors, including linemen Ryan Kotara and Nolan Redican and secondary anchors Ryan Mackowiak, Kristian Meloy, Ben Rafferty and Nicholas Mitcheff. A season-opening win at home over St. Charles East is imperative for the Knights to get on track. “I think we’re just going to have to grind out wins,” Woodburn said. “Offensively, I think we’ve got some really good stuff. We’re moving a lot of guys around on offense. On defense, we’re not overly big, but we’re pretty quick. We’re going to have to fight and claw for everything we get.”

Lincoln-Way West

2022 record: 3-6

Coach: Luke Lokanc

Worth noting: The Warriors were 3-2 in late September last season before a highly disappointing final month as they dropped their final four games, two by a touchdown or less and one by 11 points. Lincoln-Way West graduated 14 starters from that team but have some key pieces in place to attempt to make a run back to the playoffs. Senior quarterback Cole Crafton brings a bevy of experience under center and is an elite athlete who is committed to Louisville for baseball. Crafton has a speedster to target in junior Austin Rowswell, a state qualifier in track who has started to attract the attention of college football coaches, pulling in offers from Ball State and Eastern Illinois. Senior running back Joey Campagna and senior receiver/defensive back Jacob Bereza are experienced leaders. Junior receiver/defensive back DeAndre Coates is a player to watch, while senior Matt Reid and junior Reilly Kliros lead the offensive line. Seniors Cael Depolo and Nick Kavooras anchor the defensive line while junior linebacker Josh Veldman and senior defensive back Josh Howard are other key pieces on the defensive side.


2022 record: 2-7

Coach: Colt Nero

Worth noting: Stagg snapped a 23-game losing streak with its 14-8 season-opening victory over Reavis last season, winning for the first time since Week 1 in 2019. The Chargers followed that up with a 42-20 defeat of Oak Lawn to go 2-0, creating excitement about football in Palos Hills for the first time in quite a while. It was short-lived, though, as Stagg lost its final seven games, getting outscored 307-22 over its five SouthWest Suburban Red games and two SouthWest Suburban crossovers. Nero felt the Chargers would have remained more competitive if not for some significant injuries. Now, Stagg is hoping to make some additional noise with the vast majority of its 2022 starters back. The Chargers return eight starters on offense, led by senior quarterback Lebarion Gilmore. Gilmore, a three-year starter at quarterback and a superb athlete who also plays defensive back, missed three games due to injury last year but still threw for 645 yards and six touchdowns and ran for 284 yards. Senior receiver/defensive back Cherterion Rodgers is another three-year starter who will be counted on heavily, while running back/linebacker Anthony Sukalo and two-way lineman Yasine Gorchene are also key senior leaders. Stagg brings back 10 starters defensively, where junior linebackers Tre Washington and Adrian Danko figure to make an impact. “We’re in a good place,” Nero said. “We’re ready to put a good product on the field.”


Cameron Brooks, DL, Homewood-Flossmoor: Brooks, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound junior, picked up offers this summer from Illinois, Kansas and Kent State.

Cole Crafton, QB, Lincoln-Way West: A Louisville baseball recruit, Crafton earned SouthWest Suburban Red Offensive Player of the Year honors last season when he threw for over 2,000 yards and a school record 22 touchdowns.

AJ Mancilla, LB, Bradley-Bourbonnais: Mancilla, a senior who is also a wrestler, returns after being named the SouthWest Suburban Red Defensive Player of the Year last season.

Caden O’Rourke, DL, Lincoln-Way East: O’Rourke, who had 10 sacks as a sophomore last season, has 10 Division I offers, including from Illinois, Northwestern and Iowa.

Jonas Williams, QB, Bolingbrook: The sophomore is coming off one of the most impressive freshman seasons in state history as he threw for just under 3,000 yards with 37 touchdown passes.


Blue DivisionBolingbrookHomewood-FlossmoorLincoln-Way EastLockportSandburg
Week 1@ Grayslake Central; 7 p.m., Aug. 25@ Naperville North; 7 p.m., Aug. 25@ Kenwood; 7 p.m., Aug. 24@ Plainfield North; 7 p.m., Aug. 25vs. St. Rita; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 25
Week 2vs Hinsdale Central; 6 p.m., Sept. 1vs. Marian Catholic; 1 p.m., Sept. 2@ Batavia, 7 p.m., Sept. 1@ Wheaton North; 7:15 p.m., Sept. 1@ Oak Forest; 7 p.m., Sept. 1
Week 3vs. Naperville North; 6 p.m., Sept. 8vs. Waubonsie Valley; 7 p.m., Sept. 8vs. Neuqua Valley; 7 p.m., Sept. 8vs. Naperville Central; 6:30 p.m., Sept. 8@ DeKalb; 7 p.m., Sept. 8
Week 4@ Homewood-Flossmoor; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 15vs. Bolingbrook; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 15vs. Bradley-Bourbonnais; 7 p.m., Sept. 15@ Sandburg; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 15vs. Lockport; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 15
Week 5@ Lincoln-Way West; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 22@ Stagg; 6 p.m., Sept. 22@ Andrew; 7 p.m., Sept. 22@ Bradley-Bourbonnais; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 22@ Lincoln-Way Central; 7 p.m, Sept. 22
Week 6vs. Lincoln-Way Central; 6 p.m., Sept. 29vs. Sandburg; 7 p.m., Sept. 29@ Lockport; 6:30 p.m., Sept. 29vs. Lincoln-Way East; 6:30 p.m., Sept. 29@ Homewood-Flossmoor; 7 p.m., Sept. 29
Week 7@ Sandburg; 7:30, Oct. 6@ Lincoln-Way East; 7 p.m., Oct. 6vs. Homewood-Flossmoor; 7 p.m., Oct. 6vs. Andrew; 6:30 p.m., Oct. 6vs. Bolingbrook; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 6
Week 8vs. Lockport; 7 p.m., Oct. 13vs. Lincoln-Way West; 7 p.m., Oct. 13vs. Sandburg; 7 p.m., Oct. 13@ Bolingbrook; 7 p.m., Oct. 13@ Lincoln-Way East; 7 p.m., Oct. 13
Week 9vs. Lincoln-Way East; Oct. 20@ Lockport; 6:30 p.m., Oct. 20@ Bolingbrook; 7 p.m., Oct. 20vs. Homewood-Flossmoor; 6:30 p.m., Oct. 20vs. Stagg; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 20
Red DivisionAndrewBradley-BourbonnaisLincoln-Way CentralLincoln-Way WestStagg
Week 1vs. Thornwood; 7 p.m., Aug. 25vs. Plainfield East; 7 p.m., Aug. 25vs. St. Charles East; 7:30 p.m., Aug. 25vs. Plainfield Central; 7 p.m., Aug. 25@ Joliet Central; 6:30 p.m., Aug. 25
Week 2@ Oswego; 7 p.m., Sept. 1@ Thornwood; 6 p.m., Sept. 1@ Evanston; 7 p.m., Sept. 1@ Oswego East; 7 p.m., Sept. 1vs. Oak Lawn; 7 p.m., Sept. 1
Week 3@ Metea Valley; 7 p.m., Sept. 8vs. Kingdom Prep Lutheran, Wisc.; 6 p.m., Sept. 8vs. O’Fallon, 12:30 p.m., Sept. 9vs. Belleville East; 7 p.m., Sept. 8vs. Belleville West; 6 p.m., Sept. 8
Week 4vs. Stagg; 6 p.m., Sept. 15@ Lincoln-Way East; 7 p.m., Sept. 15vs. Lincoln-Way West; 7 p.m., Sept. 15@ Lincoln-Way Central; 7 p.m., Sept. 15@ Andrew; 6 p.m., Sept. 15
Week 5vs. Lincoln-Way East; 7 p.m., Sept. 22vs. Lockport; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 22vs. Sandburg; 7 p.m., Sept. 22vs. Bolingbrook; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 22vs. Homewood-Flossmoor; 6 p.m., Sept. 22
Week 6@ Bradley-Bourbonnais; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 29vs. Andrew; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 29@ Bolingbrook; 6 p.m., Sept. 29@ Stagg; 6 p.m., Sept. 29vs. Lincoln-Way West; 6 p.m.; Sept. 29
Week 7@ Lockport; 6:30 p.m., Oct. 6@ Lincoln-Way West; 7 p.m., Oct. 6vs. Stagg; 6 p.m., Oct. 6vs. Bradley-Bourbonnais; 7 p.m., Oct. 6@ Lincoln-Way Central; 6 p.m.; Oct. 6
Week 8vs. Lincoln-Way Central; 7 p.m., Oct. 13@ Stagg; 6 p.m., Oct. 13@ Andrew; 7 p.m., Oct. 13@ Homewood-Flossmoor; 7 p.m., Oct. 13vs. Bradley-Bourbonnais; 6 p.m., Oct. 13
Week 9@ Lincoln-Way West; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 20vs. Lincoln-Way Central; 7 p.m., Oct. 20@ Bradley-Bourbonnais; 7 p.m., Oct. 20vs. Andrew; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 20@ Sandburg; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 20


Week 1: Lockport at Plainfield North: The Porters get a big test right away as they travel to take on the Tigers, who are coming off a 10-1 season.

Week 2: Lincoln-Way East at Batavia: A battle between two teams who finished as state runners-up last season, the Griffins in Class 8A and Batavia in 7A. Lincoln-Way East beat the Bulldogs 31-16 in Frankfort in 2022.

Week 6: Andrew at Bradley-Bourbonnais: The top two finishers in the Red division last season square off in a game that could go a long way toward determining the Red champ once again.

Week 9: Lincoln-Way East at Bolingbrook: Jonas Williams threw for 402 yards and five touchdowns against the Griffins in Frankfort last season, but Lincoln-Way East prevailed 42-32. Expect more fireworks this year.

Week 9: Homewood-Flossmoor at Lockport: There will likely be some playoff stakes - whether it be qualification or seeding - on the line when these two face off to close the regular season.


Blue Division
Lincoln-Way East9-0
Red Division
Lincoln-Way West4-5
Lincoln-Way Central1-8