Football conference preview capsules, Part 1

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SHARE Football conference preview capsules, Part 1

ILLINI HEARTLAND

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.

ILLINI LAND OF LINCOLN

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.

ILLINI PRAIRIE STATE

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.

ILLINI RED BIRD

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.

CHICAGO BIG SHOULDERS

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.

CHICAGO GREAT LAKES

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.

CHICAGO SECOND CITY

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.

CHICAGO WINDY CITY

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.

INTER-CITY

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.

BIG NORTHERN EAST

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.

CATHOLIC BLUE

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.

CATHOLIC RED

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.

CATHOLIC WHITE

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.

CENTRAL SUBURBAN NORTH

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.

CENTRAL SUBURBAN SOUTH

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.

DUPAGE VALLEY

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.

EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC

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.

FOX VALLEY FOX

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.

FOX VALLEY VALLEY

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.

INTERSTATE EIGHT LARGE

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.

INTERSTATE EIGHT SMALL

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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