No. 2 Maine South at No. 6 Glenbard West, Sat. 1:30 p.m.
Two Class 8A superpowers take the field. Maine South are the defending champions and Glenbard West advanced to the semifinals last season. The Hawks’ offense is potent. Senior running back and NIU recruit Fotis Kokosioulis is a playmaker and quarterback John O’Sullivan appears ready to lead. The Hilltoppers defense is always strong and they have offensive playmakers galore in senior running back Ryan Diver, senior receiver Alec Pierce, and senior back Dre Thomas.
No. 3 Loyola vs. No. 8 Phillips at Gately, Sat. 6:30 p.m.
Both teams have had dominant runs over the past few years. Phillips has standout quarterback J’Bore Gibbs — an athletic dual-threat that knows how to make plays. The Wildcats also feature a solid group of new faces, led by defensive end Terrance Taylor. Loyola is battling several key injuries, but expedite lineman Charlie Gross to support the young offense. It’ll be fun to watch the Ramblers’ always staunch defense against Phillips’ high-flying offense.
Cary-Grove at No. 1 Prairie Ridge, Fri. 7 p.m.
The battle for the Fox Valley conference title will likely be decided in Week 1. Prairie Ridge, the defending Class 6A state champions, were 14-0 last season behind the spectacular efforts of Iowa recruit Samson Evans. Fellow Hawkeyes recruit Jeff Jenkins will lead a strong offensive line for the Wolves. Cary-Grove’s calling card in the last several years has been its offensive line and this year will be no different. Defense is the big question for the Trojans and that unit will be thoroughly tested against Prairie Ridge.
No. 24 Crete Monee at No. 7 Lincoln-Way East, Fri. 7 p.m.
Crete-Monee’s offense is loaded with speed and strength including quarterback Isaiah Rucker and several talented running backs. Lincoln-Way East has similar athleticism across the board and a solid, experienced defense. Imposing 6-6, 230-pound defensive end Devin O’Rourke has quick hands and makes plays. Lincoln-Way-East plays disciplined and rarely makes mistakes. This match-up could have implications deep into the season.
No. 21 Naperville Central at No. 20 Glenbard North, Fri. 7:30 p.m.
It will be interesting to watch how the Redhawks jell. They have transfers at key positions, including quarterback Payton Thorne and athlete Jayden Reed. We will begin to find out against Glenbard North. The ceiling is high for Naperville Central, the young team should grow throughout the season. Glenbard North is an experienced squad with the top defensive backfield in the area, led by Tyrik Henderson. The Panthers calling card the last several seasons has been their defense, but with an experienced offensive line expect to see skill players emerge early in the season.