Illinois High School Football News

5 football storylines to watch in the Suburban Life area in 2022

The 2021 fall football season in the Suburban Life area was indeed one to remember, all the way until the final day in DeKalb.

Fenwick, behind senior quarterback and Suburban Life Player of the Year Kaden Cobb, beat Kankakee 34-15 in the Class 5A championship for the first state football title in the school’s rich athletic history. Later that evening, Wheaton North and another third-year starting quarterback, Mark Forcucci, routed St. Rita 35-6 for the program’s fourth state title – first since 1986 – as the Falcons returned to glory.

IC Catholic Prep reached the Class 3A semifinals before a devastating loss to eventual 3A champ Byron in the final seconds. Across town in Elmhurst, York reached the playoffs for the first time since 2011 after starting the season 6-0.

Fall practices began Monday, and local conference previews will be coming in the next two weeks. Meanwhile, here are five storylines to keep an eye on as the season kicks off Aug. 26.

Can York take the next step?

In 2021, Wheaton North used a DuKane Conference championship in the spring as a springboard to its run to a state championship in the fall.

Is it York’s turn?

The Dukes certainly have enjoyed a renaissance under head coach Mike Fitzgerald, who is entering his fifth season in Elmhurst. York, 1-8 the year before Fitzgerald arrived, beat Glenbard West last season for the first time since 2007 and its eight wins were the most since 2010. The Dukes’ sophomore team went 9-0. Excitement around the program is sky-high, with 90 kids out for varsity football. A first-round playoff loss to Minooka only has fueled the hunger at York.

Matt Vezza, who emerged as one of the area’s most dynamic dual threats at quarterback, returns to lead the offense and linebacker David Loch is back to lead the defense.

York is poised to potentially break the stranglehold Hinsdale Central and Glenbard West have had on the West Suburban Silver in recent years and the Dukes could be a contender for a deep run in the always difficult Class 8A bracket.

Montini’s Donovan Olugbode catches a pass during a 7 on 7 tournament at St. Charles North High School on Thursday, June 30, 2022.

Can Montini bounce back?

Competing in the grueling Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference perhaps caught up to Montini in 2021.

The Broncos dropped their final three games to finish 3-6, missing the playoffs for the first time since 1992 – a remarkable run of sustained excellence in Lombard.

Montini no doubt will be looking to put that disappointment in the rearview mirror and get back to the playoffs. Veteran coach Mike Bukovsky is excited about a deep receiving corps led by Donogan Olugbode, Mingo Nixon and JJ Turner. Quarterback Cole Teschner is back to throw to them, but talented running back Joshua Robinson transferred to Bolingbrook.

Defensively, Michael Wind and Luke Cushing will be back on the line. Three linebackers have experience – third-year starter Jonathan Goff, George Asay and Caden Phengkeokaisone.

The schedule, again, is no picnic, making the road to at least five wins a grind. Non-conference games with IC Catholic Prep and Hillcrest start things off and the season ends with a nasty four-game stretch of Providence, Marist, Nazareth and defending state champ Joliet Catholic.

Can Nazareth and IC Catholic Prep return to Champaign?

Nazareth and IC Catholic Prep have been area mainstays in the state championship games the past decade. Each program has three state titles since 2014 and Nazareth has five total finals appearances. Both lost playoff games last season to eventual state champions in games they led, Nazareth falling to Fenwick in the Class 5A quarterfinals and IC Catholic losing to Byron in the Class 3A semifinals.

Can they make their return to Champaign, site of this year’s finals?

Both programs bring back talented underclassmen at quarterback – Nazareth sophomore Logan Malachuk and IC Catholic junior Dennis Mandala. Both quarterbacks are surrounded by talent at the receiver position in Nazareth’s Justin Taylor, a Wisconsin recruit, and IC Catholic’s KJ Parker.

Glenbard South's Cam Williams (8) celebrates his late second quarter touchdown against South Elgin on Friday, September 10, 2021.

Who are players to watch?

If you like players who can catch the football, you came to the right place this season with talent in abundance.

Glenbard South receiver Cam Williams, who committed to Notre Dame this summer, is the third-ranked junior in the state. Montini sophomore Donogan Olugbode already holds offers from Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa. Taylor of Nazareth and Parker of IC Catholic are both versatile athletes.

There is no shortage of skilled quarterbacks, either.

St. Francis junior Alessio Milivojevic holds an offer from Ole Miss, and Vezza of York and Malachuk both made quite an impression in their first varsity seasons.

And don’t forget about the big boys on the line. St. Francis two-way standout TJ McMillen is headed to Illinois, Glenbard West O-lineman Chris Terek to Wisconsin. Lyons junior Eddie Tuerk and Nazareth sophomore defensive end Gabe Kaminski are both major Division I prospects.

What are games to watch?

Well, let’s just start with Week 1.

Hinsdale Central resumes a dandy of a non-conference series when it plays at Naperville Central, and IC Catholic Prep and Montini meet up again in Elmhurst after a close win by the Knights in last season’s opener. Nazareth hosts defending Class 5A runner-up Kankakee in a nifty new matchup, and Glenbard West is at CCL/ESCC power Marist.

It all leads up to an intriguing Week 1 tripleheader on Saturday, Aug. 27, with DuKane Conference and Public League schools: Glenbard North-Kenwood, Wheaton Warrenville South-Simeon and Batavia-Phillips.