A look at the area’s best football teams.
1. Loyola: It’s hard to pick against the defending class 8A champions. Senior tight end and Duke commit Jake Marwede leads a potentially high flying offense and fellow senior and quarterback Tommy Herion is one to watch. Loyola should be deep at nearly every position.
2. Mount Carmel:The junior class is impressively long and athletic. Lineman Verdis Brown will bring plenty of attention. The senior class is experienced and ready to shine, led by running back commit Michael Kennedy (NIU) defensive back commit Phazione McClure (North Dakota State).
3. Marist:Potentially the area’s best defense, led linebacker Micah Awidoran (Yale) and defensive back Rob Topps (Kansas). Marist is coming off of an appearance in the Class 8A title game.
4. Homewood-Flossmoor:Junior running back Justin Hall is primed for a huge season. Senior offensive lineman Jamezz Kimbrough has continued to look like an impact player since emerging on the scene as a freshman and middle linebacker Montreal Blade is one to watch.
5. Glenbard West:The Hitters are a team that you can always expect to be in the mix, especially after taking home the Class 7A state title last season. The Hilltoppers’ standouts are yet to be determined, but there is little doubt they will hit the ground running.
6. Lincoln-Way East:The Griffins reached the quarterfinals last season and added plenty of depth thanks to Lincoln-Way North’s closing.
7. Montini:Home to one of the most exciting athletes in the area, senior running back Prince Walker. Joe Spivak, one of the hardest workers in the area, headlines a strong offensive line.
8. Bolingbrook: Loaded with talent. The top names are wide receiver Kendall Smith (Illinois) and the incredibly athletic I’Shawn Stewart. Last season, quarterback was a big question mark for the Radiers and if they can answer that this season, they have the pieces for a big season.
9. Crete-Monee: Always one of the most athletic teams in the area, the Warriors were 11-2 season and played in the Class 6A title game. Juawan Treadwell, the younger brother of Vikings’ first round pick Laquon, is an athlete to watch. Also keep an eye on defensive lineman John Mitchell. They have a nice mix of athleticism and power.
10. Phillips:The first Chicago Public League school to win a state title has reloaded with talent, including Chris and Craig Elmore. Expect to see several new names pop up for Wildcats this season.
11. Neuqua Valley:No lack of playmakers for the Wildcats. Senior wide receiver Owen Piche is a consistent target and so is wide receiver and defensive back Isaiah Robertson (Notre Dame). The Wildcats lacked consistency last season, but now have some experience under their belts.
12. Oak Park-River Forest:There is no doubt that senior quarterback Jeremy Hunt is one of the top signal callers in the area, he’s 6-2, 226-pounds and throws with a special zip. For a team that always seems to have depth, he could be the difference maker.
13. Brother Rice:Brother Rice senior wide receiver Ricky Smalling (Illinois), was the only junior on last season’s All-Area squad, he’s a force. A big season from Smalling is expected, as from the rest of the Crusaders.
14. Nazareth: The two-time defending state champion Roadrunners lost Sun-Times Player of the Year Julian Love, but have size on both sides of the ball. Senior defensive end Christian Sampleton and defensive lineman Devonte Dunn have the potential to be game-changers. Watch for Love’s younger brother Michael.
15. Lyons: Ben Bryant has the ability to be one of the area’s best quarterbacks. The Lions were sneaky good in 2015 and should make noise this season.
16. Providence:The Celtics have been talking about this season since winning the state title in 2014. Athletes like quarterback Jared Drake and wide receiver Martez Malone are poised and ready to help Providence get back to top form.
17. New Trier:The Trevians were 9-1 season and reached the Class 8A quarters last season. Returning quarterback Clay Czyzynski had a good offseason and he could be a breakout performer.
18. Glenbard North:Junior defensive back Tyrik Henderson, a tremendous athlete, has been on recruiting radars since his freshman year. The Panthers have one of the best defensive backfields in the area with Jace James and Greg Newsmen. Quarterback, helmed by Shane Conway, could be the make or break spot.
19. Maine South: The Hawks advanced to the second round of the playoffs and return offensive lineman Kevin Jarvis (Michigan State). Quarterback is the biggest question mark, but senior Nick Leongas has shown a lot of potential.
20. Cary-Grove:The Trojans advanced to the Class 7A semis last season and always seem to be a contender at the end of the season. They return playmaker Tyler Pennington, a 5-11, 221-pound senior fullback.
21. Libertyville: The Wildcats are reloading after an appearance in the Class 7A title game. They’ve got several top prospects, including junior offensive lineman Charlie Schmidt (6-4, 270-lbs). They weren’t a high-flying passing offense last season and will have to establish an identity Week 1.
22. Batavia: Two big names stand out for the Bulldogs, offensive lineman Evan Day (Illinois State) and all-around athlete Glenn Albanese. The majority of the offensive line is back and this is a team that has significant potential.
23. Barrington:The biggest hole to fill is quarterback, but the Broncos have several big names on defense, including defensive end Jackson Perkins.
24. Simeon: The Wolverines have plenty of raw talent. The season all depends on how they harness it. Junior Jayson Jackson, an athlete to watch, had a big offseason.
25. Oswego East:The Wolves added running back Ivory Kelly-Martin, a transfer from Nazareth and one of the most promising backs in the area.