A few bits of news and opinion from last week’s Red Grange Classic 7-on-7 tournament at Wheaton Warrenville South:
* With new coach Larry Calhoun, a Texas transplant, getting the job just days before, it was hard to know what to expect from Elk Grove. But Calhoun’s Grenadiers, at first glance, look a lot like the Brian Doll-coached clubs of the past few years: scrappy, opportunistic and dangerous. Junior quarterback Adam O’Malley showed poise and a strong arm, and the Grens’ defense stymied East St. Louis and Lyons in bracket play, winning 21-8 and 21-11 respectively. By taking first here against strong competition, Elk Grove demonstrated it’s a team to watch again in the Mid-Suburban League and Class 7A.
* When you’re in the same district as Glenbard West and the same conference as WW South, it’s easy to get overlooked. But anyone who takes Glenbard North lightly is likely to get burned. Coach Ryan Wilkens always seems to get the most out of his talent and the Panthers showed they have a pretty good pitch-and-catch duo with quarterback Brian Murphy (also one of the state’s best wrestlers) and receiver Ryan Storto, who scored 15 touchdowns in 10 games at WW South. Also keep an eye on two-way mainstay Justin Jackson and 6-3, 280-pounder D’Angelo Hodges, back to anchor the offensive line.
* Glenbard West isn’t necessarily built for 7-on-7s, but the Hilltoppers looked impressive in reaching the semifinals with bracket-play wins over Wheaton North and WW South. “We are as athletic as we’ve ever been,” coach Chad Hetlet said. “At times, we threw the ball as well as we ever have.” Everyone knows about Glenbard West tight end Nathan Marcus, a 6-5, 210-pound Vanderbilt recruit, but also keep an eye out for Scott Andrews, who scored 25 touchdowns on the sophomore level. One playmaker the Hilltoppers won’t have is senior running back Kendall Johnson, who has been dismissed from the team for violations of the school’s athletic code, Hetlet confirmed.
* One team that takes 7-on-7s pretty seriously is Maine South, which makes sense because the Hawks figure to have one of the best passing games in the state. They definitely have one of the top quarterbacks in the country, Northwestern recruit Matt Alviti, who will burn a lot of defenses this fall. Another reason for worry for Maine South’s rivals: the Hawks also won the lineman challenge at WW South.
* WW South has a quarterback competition for the second straight year. This season, the candidates are a pair of juniors: Ryan Graham, who split time last season with since-graduated Thaddeus Armstrong, and Casey Paraday, a transfer from Shiloh Christian in Texas. Who’ll get the job, or even whether one will play more than the other, won’t be clear for a while. One thing that we do know is the Tigers have another big-time receiver in 6-3, 195-pounder Corey Davis, who has offers from Notre Dame and Illinois State, according to Rivals.com.
* Winning individual awards were Alviti (tourney MVP), Lyons’ Matt Harris (top receiver) and Wheaton North’s Jaylen Howze (top defensive player).