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Breaking down the preseason Super 25 football rankings

Lincoln-Way East's Anthony Sottosanto blocks during a practice. | Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times.

The Chicago Sun-Times preps team has put together a comprehensive preview of the 2018 high school football season. Our coverage includes the top ten players in all the key positions; the top 50 players overall and the “Super 25” list of the best teams. Leading this effort is our high school sports analyst Beth Long. Here is a look at the breakdown of the Super 25:

Star running back AJ Henning doesn’t think Lincoln-Way East will have a motivation problem this season. The Griffins were undefeated last year and plan on achieving that again, along with another Class 8A crown. They begin the season ranked No. 1 and are loaded on both sides of the ball.

“Do it again,” Henning said “That’s our ultimate goal this season, to be in Champaign playing for the state championship. Our motivation is to be the first team in Lincoln-Way East history to do it two times.”

1. LINCOLN-WAY EAST: It’s nearly impossible to pick against the defending champions. The Griffins have Henning, the area’s top running back and high-potential quarterback Jack Baltz to lead the offense. It’s not going to be an easy road to defend the title, but they have the pieces to do it. Full L-W East preview

2. PHILLIPS: Phillips has the most raw talent in the state. The Wildcats are led by Alabama-bound receiver Jahleel Billingsley and two Illinois recruits, all around athletes Fabian McCray and Joseph Thompson. There are also a slew of talented juniors ready to contribute. The defending Class 5A champs have moved up to 6A. Full preview

3. LOYOLA: Always a contender, the Ramblers have more starters back than in recent seasons, especially at the offensive skill positions. The receiver duo of Rory Boos and Noah Jones will make an immediate impact and an experienced offensive line will help junior running back Trevor Cabanban make a name for himself. A talented corps of linebackers, including Armoni Dixon and Patrick Daniels, will lead the defense. Full preview

Maine South’s Cole Dow hands off. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.
Maine South’s Cole Dow hands off. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

4. MAINE SOUTH: The Hawks return a strong group of lineman, headlined by junior Peter Skoronski. The defense brings back nine starters. If the new faces in the offensive skill positions step up their could be a special season in Park Ridge. They get tested right off the bat in Week 1 against Glenbard West. Full preview

5. MARIST: The RedHawks have showcased their offensive prowess the past several seasons. That will continue this year behind quarterback Mike Markett and receivers Jadon Thompson and Billy Skalitzky. Full preview

6. BATAVIA: The defending Class 7A state champions appear to be just as talented and well-rounded this season. Northwester recruit Michael Jansey Jr. and Luke Weerts, two of the best defensive players in the area, lead the linebackers. New quarterback Jack Meyers has a bevy of long, athletic receivers to target. Full preview

7. NAZARETH: One of the most athletic and talented teams in the state. Last year’s Class 6A runners up return plenty of experience. Jack of all trades Michael Love is headed to Bowling Green and can make an impact all over the field. Running back Devin Blakley is a playmaker and quarterback JJ McCarthy is solid. Nazareth’s defense is led by lineman Nathan Lugo, they will be the unit that makes or breaks the Roadrunners in 2018. Full preview

Homewood-Flossmoor’s Isaiah Coe rushes the passer. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times.
Homewood-Flossmoor’s Isaiah Coe rushes the passer. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times.

8. HOMEWOOD-FLOSSMOOR: The Vikings have excelled behind a high-flying offense the last few years. Defense could become the calling card this fall. A talented defensive line returns several starters from last year, including top recruit Isaiah Coe. Oregon State recruit Wynston Russell is at defensive back and Central Michigan linebacker recruit Justin Whiteside will also be a major factor. Last season they only allowed 15 points per game, could this defense be even better? Full preview

9. GLENBARD WEST: A perennial power. The Hilltoppers will rely on defense again, but they do have some special athletes on offense including running back Tyquan Cox. A lot will become clear Friday against Maine South. Full preview

10. LAKE ZURICH: The Bears allowed just nine points a game last year, tearing through an undefeated season until losing to Batavia in the Class 7A title game. There is a strong possibility that dominance could continue this season behind North Dakota State recruit Luke Dwyer. Full preview

11. OSWEGO: The offensive is loaded, led by bruiser running back Charles Coleman, running back Markus Tilmon and receiver Jamal Fomby. The Panthers advanced to the Class 8A quarterfinals last season, losing to Lincoln-Way East. They could achieve even more this season.

12. BARRINGTON: Undefeated in the Mid-Suburban West and 10-1 overall, the Broncos were rock solid last season. They lost a lot, including star quarterback Ray Niro, but they should be a major threat this year if the can grab some momentum early in the season.

13. NAPERVILLE CENTRAL: The Redhawks advanced to the Class 8A quarterfinals last fall and return electric quarterback Payton Thorne to lead the high-potential offense. The schedule is loaded.

14. PRAIRIE RIDGE: The Wolves have the longest winning streak in the state, 28 games. It will be a new look squad this season but success should continue behind new quarterback Connor Lydon and running back Jackson Willis.

15. RICHARDS: Athletic and talented, the Bulldogs have the potential to finish the season even higher in the rankings. The team is full of athletes who play both ways, including quarterback and defensive back Sebastian Castro, an Iowa recruit, and defensive back Walter Riley who is returning from injury.

16. MINOOKA: Advanced to the Class 8A quarterfinals last season after quietly racking up nine wins. The Indians have been a factor for the last several years and this season looks to be no exception. A program on the rise.

17. HINSDALE CENTRAL: Nearly all of the offensive line returns, providing unmatched experience at a key position. The linebacking corps is one to watch as the season unfolds, led by Aidan Cruickshank, an athlete who can make an immediate impact.

18. ST. RITA: The Mustangs built momentum through the regular season last year. They finished 9-3 and advanced all the way to the Class 7A quarterfinals. Look for defensive lineman Kempton Shine, an Eastern Michigan commit, to make an impact.

Mount Carmel’s Kyle Davis (25) breaks away for a touchdown. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.
Mount Carmel’s Kyle Davis (25) breaks away for a touchdown. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

19. MOUNT CARMEL: There could be a new look and feel for the Caravan under first-year coach Jordan Lynch. Talented quarterback Rad Premovic returns and Western Michigan recruit Kyle Davis is a threat at running back. They really started to click near the end of last season.

20. LINCOLN-WAY WEST: The Warriors reached the quarterfinals for the fourth time in six years in 2017. They have eight starters back on offense, four on the line including three-year starters Martin Bender and Nate Mahoney. That should help make running back Caleb Marconi a force this season.

21. MONTINI: Back on the map and ready to roll. The Broncos dive headfirst into the Catholic League Blue but have the talent to compete. Running back Nick Fedanzo, an Illinois recruit, and offensive lineman Mike McNicholas (Kent State) should both make a splash.

22. SIMEON: Very athletic once again, led by quarterback Alante Brown. The Michigan State recruit is very experienced. The Wolverines lost to St. Rita in the first round of the 7A playoffs last season and should be able to build on that this year.

23. ST. CHARLES EAST: Watch out for Justin Jett, a four-year starter at the fullback spot. He’s a dangerous, but is far from the only talented player on the offense. They should make a lot of noise in the new DuKane conference.

Bolingbrook’s Anthony Williams Jr. is met at the line by Lincoln-Way East. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.
Bolingbrook’s Anthony Williams Jr. is met at the line by Lincoln-Way East. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

24. BOLINGBROOK: As usual there are talented players all over the field. Defensive back Cameron Mitchell is heading to Northwestern. Running back Anthony Williams Jr. is a Michigan State recruit and the offensive line is very strong, led by Alex Parades.

25. RABY: Primed for a big year. The Raiders went 11-2 in 2017 and feature Northern Illinois recruit Romel Goston at defensive back and Western Michigan-bound wide receiver Marshawn Foster.

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Want the latest info and analysis on high school football? Our preps team of Michael O’Brien, Beth Long and Annie Costabile will share all the latest news, insights and Super 25 football rankings in a new livestream show called “Sun-Times Game Week.” You can watch it LIVE every Monday night at 6:30 p.m. right here on our high school sports Facebook page. You can also ask questions using the hashtag #SunTimesGameWeek or email those questions to