Football conference preview capsules, Part 1

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Outlook: It has been a two-horse race for the past five years between Harper and Brooks and it looks to be more of the same this season. Brooks is the defending conference champion and Harper made it to the Public League semifinals last year.

Top five players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

K    Jesus Miranda, Brooks    6-0   155   sr.

S    Zeriam Jackson, Brooks    6-0   175   sr.

LB    Dyllan Harris, Brooks    6-2   245   sr.

RB    Sandillo Wright, Harper    6-1   175   sr.

CB    Christopher Thompson, Austin    5-9   185   sr.

Quote: “Brooks is the champion but they have to defend and we plan on being right there in the hunt.” — Harper coach Maris Carroll.

Predicted Finish: Brooks, Harper, Marshall, Austin, Collins, Hope.


Outlook: Raby coach D’Angelo Dereef has been touting his team as one of the better programs in the city. This may be the year he proves his point, but he will have to get past King’s Lonnie Williams and his 45 years of coaching experience. Upstart Phillips is loaded with speed and Harlan has the biggest offensive line in the city, averaging over 300 pounds.

Top five players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

QB   Chris Covington, Raby   6-2   220   sr.

DT   Jamal Milan, Raby   6-4   270   jr.

T   Marcellus Ellis, Harlan   6-5   315   sr.

CB   Nate Powell, King   6-3   180   sr.

WR   Malik Sanders, Harlan   6-5   180   sr.

Quote: “We have everything we need to be successful. It’s how bad we really want it.” — Raby coach D’Angelo Dereef.

Predicted Finish: Raby, King, Harlan, Phillips, Julian, Westinghouse.


Outlook: The reports of Hubbard’s drop off may be exaggerated, but the Greyhounds still may not have enough to overtake Morgan Park. Robeson is always a threat and Bogan’s offense can give any team problems.

Top five players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

RB   Charles Bournes, Morgan Park   5-8   170   sr.

C   Jonathan Harris, Morgan Park   6-2   290   sr.

RB   Darion Henderson, Hubbard   6-0   190   sr.

QB   Luwane Pipkins, Bogan   5-9   160   jr.

LB   Darren Williams Robeson   5-9   170   sr.

Quote: “I’m excited about the season. We have a very good coaching staff, players that want to learn, and if everyone stays healthy we will have a great season.” — Morgan Park coach Wesley Yates.

Predicted Finish: Morgan Park, Hubbard, Robeson, Bogan, Perspectives-Calumet, Orr.


Outlook: This may be the year Simeon coach Dante Culbreath earns his stripes as he will lead a team without a superstar. Dunbar still has coaching legend Glen Johnson and Lane is formidable.

Top five players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

LB   Martece McClinton, Simeon   5-10   195   sr.

LB   Jason Dawson, Dunbar   6-1   210   jr.

QB   Jayton Dorsey, Dunbar   6-0   170   sr.

DB   Darnell Cockrell, Simeon   5-9   170   sr.

DB   Michael Combs, Lane   5-9   170   sr.

Quote: “We are a young team, but we have experience in the right positions and I expect us to be very competitive.” — Simeon coach Dante Culbreath.

Predicted Finish: Simeon, Dunbar, Lane, Curie, Foreman, Vocational.


Outlook: Bolstered by its talented and very athletic junior class, Young holds the edge over a Taft team with 12 returning starters from last year’s 7-1 squad that finished in a three-way tie for first. Defending playoff qualifier Steinmetz has some excellent athletes but is hurt by depth.

Top five players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

WR   Victor Certa, Schurz   5-8   170   sr.

LB   Travis Hank, Young   6-2   185   jr.

TE   Anthony Kowalczyk, Steinmetz   6-3   225   sr.

RB   James Liss, Taft   6-0   170   sr.

RB   Trey Mills, Roosevelt   5-11   175   jr.

Quote: “Top to bottom anybody could finish first or finish last.” — Taft coach Matt Walsh.

Predicted finish: Young, Taft, Steinmetz, Schurz, Mather, Roosevelt, Amundsen, Lincoln Park.


Outlook: In a very intriguing and wide open race, Carver, Corliss and Payton are the likely top combatants for the section crown. A rejuvenated Bowen program under former Vocational coach David Underwood and upstart Phoenix are the dark horse candidates.

Top five players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

LB   Alex Brown, Payton   6-1   195   sr.

DB   Jabari Butler, Lindblom   6-0   170   sr.

QB   Christopher Evans, Carver   6-2   195   sr.

TE   Denzell Johnson, Bowen   6-3   245   sr.

LB   Demarco Thurman, Corliss   6-3   238   sr.

Quote: “We’ve been an Illini division program. As long as we don’t have the injuries we had last year, we should win the section.” — Carver coach Fred Ward.

Predicted finish: Carver, Corliss, Payton, Solorio, Phoenix, Bowen, Lindblom, Bulls Prep.


Outlook: In a league without a front runner, North Lawndale, Sullivan and Lake View are poised to fight for the top slot. Uplift is dangerous if it overcomes a lack of experience on the offensive line.

Top five players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

QB   Wendell Anderson, N. Lawndale   6-2   175   sr.

RB   Christian Banbuen, Uplift   5-10   205   sr.

DT   Morray Saidu, Lake View   5-9   270   sr.

QB   Devante Taylor, Sullivan   6-2   170   sr.

QB   Terry Tillman, Chicago Academy   5-10   155   sr.

Quote: “It’s going to be a great season because everybody’s so even, but I think Lake View has the most talent of anybody in the conference.” — Sullivan coach Vincent Rociola.

Predicted finish: North Lawndale, Lake View, Sullivan, Uplift, Manley, Clark, Urban Prep-West, Chicago Academy.


Outlook: In a league with four first-year head coaches and two new programs in their first year of varsity competition, an unpredictable season is likely. Neighborhood rivals Hyde Park and Kenwood are the teams to watch, followed by DuSable, now coached by former Vocational coach Chuck Chambers.

Top five players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

RB   Hassan Anderson, UP-Bronzeville   5-10   212   sr.

QB   Aaron Cruz, Washington   6-0   180   sr.

QB   Rhomel Fields, Kenwood   6-2   180   sr.

RB   Thomas Hawkins, Hyde Park   5-11   245   sr.

DB   Robert Price, TEAM Englewood   5-9   150   sr.

Quote: “Everybody’s young in this conference, and so it’s a toss-up, with everything coming down to what kids come out and play.” — TEAM Engelwood coach Eddie Jones.

Predicted finish: Hyde Park, Kenwood, DuSable, TEAM Englewood, Washington, Fenger, Urban-Prep Bronzeville, Urban Prep-Englewood.


Outlook: Four divisions comprise the conference that mixes new and emerging programs with older programs who are trying to revive struggling programs. With the exception of the Noble Street group of programs in Inter-City 3, in which Pritzker is the clear favorite, the divisions are deemed wide open.

Top 10 players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

QB   Jason Burns, Douglass   5-8   150   sr.

RB   Angel Davila, Clemente   5-9   165   sr.

QB   Jerry DeLeon, Kelvyn Park   5-9   150   sr.

QB   Matthew Ewing, Rowe-Clark   5-10   160   sr.

DE   Gregg Hoskins, Golder   6-1   210   sr.

RB   Charles Madden, Johnson   6-0   200   sr.

RB   Tyler Shephard, Hawkins   5-11   215   jr.

LB   Eion Thomas, South Shore Int.   6-1   220   jr.

RB   Alex Velasquez, Ag. Science   5-10   190   sr.

RB   Malik Washinton, Tilden   5-11   250   sr.

Quote: “We were 6-2 last year. I have three starters back, but we have some new players, too. I feel good about our chances.” — Clemente coach Mike Clark.

Predicted finish: 1: Clemente, Kelvyn Park, Douglass, Marine, Senn, Prosser, Farragut, Little Village. 2: Kennedy, Bronzeville, Juarez, Hirsch, Kelly, Longwood, Tilden, Gage Park. 3: Pritzker, Comer, Rowe-Clark, Noble Street, Rauner, UIC Prep, Golder, Muchin. 4: Ag. Science, Johnson, Hawkins, Woodlawn, South Shore International, South Shore, Ellison, Crane.


Outlook: North Boone shook things up last year by dethroning three-time defending conference champion Richmond-Burton. Both teams figure to be in the title hunt again this year, but watch out for Harvard, which finished last year on a high note by winning its final three games.

Top five players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

DL   Connor Bankson, Genoa-Kings.   6-0   195   sr.

RB   Christian Kramer, Harvard   5-9   145   jr.

RB/LB Reilly Marino, Burlington Cent.   6-0   200   sr.

WR/S Justin Velasquez, Marengo   5-11   180   jr.

TE/DE Josh Williams, Richmond-B.   6-5   190   sr.

Quote: “Once again our league will be very tough top to bottom, and any team that comes out of it should have an opportunity to do well in the postseason.”— Richmond-Burton coach Pat Elder.

Predicted Finish: Harvard, Richmond-Burton, North Boone, Burlington Central, Genoa-Kingston, Marengo, Rockford Christian.


Outlook: Reigning Class 8A champ Mount Carmel is the favorite in one of the state’s premier conferences. Defending conference champ Loyola doesn’t have big names, but will be a factor again here and in the 8A playoffs.

Top five players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

WR   Miles Boykin, Providence   6-4   230   jr.

RB   Matt Domer, Mount Carmel   6-0   188   sr.

QB   Tommy Mister, St. Rita   6-0   198   sr.

DT   Steven Richardson, Mount Carmel   5-11   285   sr.

DT   Enoch Smith Jr., Mount Carmel   6-2   272   sr.

Quote: “I’m very happy and excited about our running backs. I think those guys are as good as any running backs we’ve had.” — St. Rita coach Todd Kuska.

Predicted finish: Mount Carmel, Loyola, Providence, St. Rita, Brother Rice.


Outlook: Leo, Hales and Gordon Tech shared the title last year and this shapes up as another tight race. St. Joseph has been improving and could be primed for a big jump this fall.

Top five players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

DB   Jalen Hemphill, Hales   6-0   184   sr.

DB   Kadeem Hemphill, Hales   6-0   180   sr.

RB/DB Theo Hopkins, Leo   5-10   178   sr.

OT/DT Jervon Hudson, St. Joseph   6-4   290   sr.

OL/DL Raequan Williams, Gordon   6-5   275   jr.

Quote: “Hales has a tremendous amount of talent every year.” — St. Joseph coach Anthony Griffin.

Predicted finish: Leo, Hales, St. Joseph, Lake Forest Academy, Gordon Tech.


Outlook: De La Salle has several big-time players on offense and could make some noise in the postseason if it stays healthy. Fenwick, coming off a trip to the Class 7A quarterfinals, is also looking to play deep into November again.

Top five players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

OL   Aaron Roberts, De La Salle   6-6   295   sr.

OL   Jamarco Jones, De La Salle   6-5   295   sr.

RB   Mikale Wilbon, De La Salle   5-8   191   sr.

RB/LB Robert Spillane, Fenwick   6-2   218   sr.

LB   Robbie Odeneal Jr., McNamara   6-3   210   sr.

Quote: “We don’t have a Division I running back like Fenwick and De La Salle, but we have solid football players.” — St. Ignatius coach Pat Jennings.

Predicted finish: De La Salle, Fenwick, Bishop McNamara, St. Ignatius, St. Laurence.


Outlook: Glenbrook North appears poised to repeat as conference champion. Grant Rushing, an all-state running back last season, now plays for Illinois, but the Spartans return senior quarterback A.J. Spitz for his second varsity season as well as a deep receiving corps which features three all-conference returnees.

Top five players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

LB/OG Brady Nagel, Glenbrook N.   6-1    215   sr.

K   Josh Pollack, Highland Park   5-11   170   sr.

QB   A.J. Spitz, Glenbrook North   6-0   180   sr.

LB   Vincent Rodriguez, Niles North   5-7   165   sr.

FB   Landon Hinds, Deerfield   5-9   200   sr.

Quote: “We can’t hand the ball to [Grant] Rushing anymore. Other than that, not much has changed for us. We just need some guys to step up and fulfill the offensive output he left behind.” — Glenbrook North coach Bob Pieper. 

Predicted Finish: Glenbrook North, Deerfield, Highland Park, Niles North, Maine East, Maine West.


Outlook: Glenbrook South, Evanston, Niles West and New Trier all qualified for the postseason last year, but state power Maine South remains the team to beat in the CSL South. The Hawks have won 60 consecutive games within the conference and their supremacy figures to continue in 2013.

Top five players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

OT   Brendan Brosnan, Maine South   6-6   275   sr.

CB/RB Brett Laurie, Glenbrook S.   5-10   185   sr.

WR   Spencer Cotten, New Trier   6-4   195   sr.

WR   Cody Carroll, Glenbrook South   6-3   202   sr.

RB/CB Maalik Todd, Evanston   5-8   150   sr.

Quote: “The offseason has been great. We had record numbers lifting weights, and this is the strongest we’ve ever been. We also have a lot of returning players, and really believe we will play at a higher level this year.” — New Trier senior wide receiver Mark Snyder.

Predicted Finish: Maine South, New Trier, Glenbrook South, Evanston, Niles West, Waukegan.


Outlook: One of the state’s deepest conferences.

Top five players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

RB/DB Justin Jackson, Glenbard N.   5-11   180   sr.

QB   Clayton Thorson, Wheaton N.   6-4   197   sr.

QB   Jake Kolbe, Naperville Central   6-2   194   sr.

QB   Ryan Graham, WW South   6-2   190   sr.

RB   DeSean Brown, Naperville North   6-2   180   sr.

Quote: “No one is really counting on us to do anything this year.” — WW South’s Jake Schultz.

Predicted finish: Glenbard North, Wheaton North, Naperville Central, WW South, Naperville North, Lake Park, West Aurora, Glenbard East.


Outlook: Marist and Benet, both with potent passing attacks, should contend along with Joliet Catholic. Six teams reached the IHSA playoffs last season and it wouldn’t be a stretch to see that many qualify again.

Top five players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

TE   Nic Weishar, Marist   6-5   230   sr.

QB   Jack Beneventi, Benet   6-6   190   jr.

OL   JB Butler, Joliet Catholic   6-2   280   sr.

RB   Chris James, Notre Dame   5-9   212   sr.

WR   Flynn Nagel, Marist   5-11   178   jr.

Quote: “Every year [the conference] feels the same way. Each game’s a grind. Every team is really competitive.” — Marist coach Pat Dunne.

Predicted finish: Marist, Benet, Joliet Catholic, Notre Dame, Carmel, Nazareth, St. Viator, St. Patrick, Marian Catholic.


Outlook: Crystal Lake Central is poised for another strong season with veterans at key positions on both sides of the ball. Woodstock also returns a solid core, while Grayslake North and Woodstock North look to overcome significant graduation losses in hopes of continuing their upward trajectories.

Top five players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

QB/RB Titus Booker, Grayslake N.   6-0   175   jr.

QB   Kyle Lavand, Crystal Lake Cent.   6-0   190   sr.

RB/LB Mike Santucci, Woodstock   5-9   175   sr.

FB/LBGrant Wade, Woodstock N.   5-8   175   sr.

LB/FB Connor Hines, Crystal Lake C.   5-9   205   sr.

Quote: “This is a hard-working, fun-loving group of players that embrace the work ethic necessary to be successful.” — Crystal Lake Central head coach Matt Fralick.

Predicted Finish: Crystal Lake Central, Grayslake North, Woodstock, Woodstock North, Hampshire, Grayslake Central, Johnsburg.


Outlook: Cary-Grove has only five starters back from last year’s Class 6A runner-up, but all signs point to the Trojans reloading and putting up a solid defense of their conference title. Should they falter, there are plenty of worthy candidates ready to rise to the top in what is once again one the deepest leagues in the state.

Top five players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

DL   Brandon Dranka, Huntley   6-2   230   sr.

OT   Shane Evans, Prairie Ridge   6-5   290   sr.

QB   Bret Mooney, Jacobs   6-4   215   sr.

QB/DB Austin Rogers, Crystal Lake S.   6-2   200   sr.

OT   Trevor Ruhland, Cary-Grove   6-4   270   jr.

Quote: “The FVC Valley is again going to be a dog fight. Cary-Grove always is a top team in the state, and all the others continue to improve.” — Crystal Lake South coach Chuck Ahsmann.

Did you know? Dundee-Crown will be without senior standout Cody Lane, who ran for 1,217 yards and 18 touchdowns last year, but tore an ACL during the summer.

Predicted Finish: Cary-Grove, Huntley, Crystal Lake South, Jacobs, Prairie Ridge, McHenry, Dundee-Crown.


Outlook: Sandwich and Coal City shared the top spot last season, with Sandwich winning the head-to-head matchup 14-10. But this is a year when any of the six teams could challenge for the title.

Top five players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

RB/LB Austin Breunig, Sandwich   5-9   170   sr. 

RB   Wes Brown, Plano   5-8   175   sr.

OL/DL Trevor Marevka, Peotone   6-2   270   sr.

WR/DE Nick Peters, Coal City   6-7   215   sr.

QB   Brennen Shetina, Coal City   6-0   180   sr.

Quote: “I think you can throw them all in a hat. It’s very hard to pick a winner. Everyone should be very good.” — Coal City coach Lenny Onsen.

Predicted finish: Coal City, Plano, Sandwich, Manteno, Peotone, Herscher.


Outlook: Former Riverside-Brookfield mastermind Otto Zeman has taken over at Westmont. But while the Sentinels may be entertaining, Wilmington remains king despite being inexperienced. The Wildcats, who outscored their five conference opponents 202-6 last season, are seeking their sixth consecutive league title.

Top five players    Ht.    Wt.    Yr.

RB/LB Austin Skoryi, Wilmington   5-9   171   sr. 

DB/RB Alex Zlomie, Wilmington   6-1   188   jr.

DL   Dexter Fierro, Wilmington   6-0   205   jr.

LB/RB Kevin Coppin, Lisle   6-1   190   sr.

TE/DE Austin Applebee, Seneca   6-4   195   sr.

Quote: “We are a very young team with three players back on both offense and defense. The key will be how well we come together.” — Wilmington coach Jeff Reents.

Predicted finish: Wilmington, Seneca, Lisle, Westmont, Reed-Custer, Dwight.

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