Previews of Week 1’s top five high school football games

Breaking down the best games of the opening weekend.

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Batavia’s Art Taylor works through a drill during practice.

Batavia’s Art Taylor works through a drill during practice.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

A look at the five best football games in the opening week of the season.

Antioch at Lake Forest, 7 p.m. Friday

Antioch hasn’t lost a regular-season game since 2016, going 30-3 over the past three seasons. The Sequoits have one of the most dynamic pass-catch duos in the state, and they happen to be brothers both committed to Minnesota: junior quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis and junior receiver Dino Kaliakmanis. Defense and special teams are a strength for Lake Forest. Senior defensive end Rylie Mills, a Notre Dame recruit, is the No. 3 player in the state and a top-150 player nationally in the Class of 2020. Junior linebacker Mac Uihlein has four Big Ten offers and Kai Kroeger, a South Carolina recruit, is the No. 2-ranked senior punter in the country.

Hillcrest at No. 12 Brother Rice, 7:30 p.m. Friday

Brother Rice has the state’s best pair of defensive tackles in seniors Denver Warren, a transfer from West Aurora with 19 offers, and Justin Jefferson. They’ll lead an experienced unit that will take some pressure off an inexperienced offense. Junior running back Willie Shaw is an impact player for the Crusaders on the other side of the ball. Two-sport standout Mar’Keise Irving of Hillcrest is the other marquee junior back in this game. Expect him to be a bigger factor in the Hawks’ passing game this year too.

No. 22 Providence at Willowbrook, 7:30 p.m. Friday

Injuries kept Providence from getting past the first round of the Class 6A playoffs last season. If the Celtics can stay healthy, they have the experience (16 returning starters) and talent to make a long postseason run this fall. Senior center Jake Renfro, a Cincinnati recruit, leads a big line and junior tight end Jameson Geers has six Big Ten offers. Sophomore running back Aaron Vaughn will be a headache for opposing defenses too. Willowbrook has quietly become one of the state’s premier 7A programs with three straight trips to the quarterfinals. Senior Sam Tumilty is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks around.

No. 4 Maine South at No. 16 Glenbard West, 1:30 p.m. Saturday, live on the U-Too

Maine South has dominated this rivalry the past two years, winning 62-34 in 2017 and 35-14 last season. To make it three in a row, the Hawks will look for big games from two-way lineman Peter Skoronski, a Northwestern recruit and the state’s No. 2 overall senior, and safety Ryan Kilburg, a Western Michigan recruit. Senior linebacker Greyson Metz, one of the state’s top uncommitted seniors, leads Glenbard West’s defense. With speedster Tyquan Cox graduated, the Hilltoppers will feature more of a power running game this season.

East St. Louis at No. 5 Batavia, 6 p.m. Saturday

This could be the best matchup of the year among mid-sized teams. East St. Louis is an eight-time state champ that is expected to be in Class 5A this season after petitioning to play up in recent years. The Flyers have three of the state’s top 10 seniors: uncommitted four-star safety Antonio Johnson, three-star defensive tackle Kevon Billingsley (Missouri) and three-star center Javontez Spraggins (Tennessee). Batavia has two state titles and two more semifinal berths in 6A and 7A since 2011. A pair of third-year starters, running back Art Taylor and running back/linebacker Quinn Urwiler, lead the Bulldogs.

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