No. 1 Loyola at No. 9 St. Rita, 7:30 p.m. Friday
These long-time Catholic League rivals, now in different divisions, are both expecting to have their most talented teams in years. No. 1 Loyola has six D-I recruits: running back Vaughn Pemberton (Ball State), offensive tackle Conor Clyde (Dayton), defensive end Brandon Svets (Harvard), linebackers Liam Conaghan (Eastern Illinois) and Braden Mullen (Dartmouth), and kicker Nate Van Zelst (Wisconsin). A seventh, Illinois-bound lineman Josh Kreutz, won’t play this season because of injury. No. 9 St, Rita has the state’s best junior in Kaleb Brown, who can line up at running back or receiver. Receiver Henry Wilson (Western Michigan), back after missing the end of the Mustangs’ run to the 5A state final in 2019 with a broken leg, is another playmaker.
No. 12 Bolingbrook at No. 3 Lincoln-Way East, 7 p.m. Friday
No. 3 Lincoln-Way East has won two of the past three Class 8A titles, but that’s not in play during this abbreviated pandemic season. Instead the Griffins will look to extend their conference and regular-season winning streaks of 20 and 28 games, respectively. Three MAC recruits lead the way: running back Jamal Johnson (Bowling Green), receiver Mason Pierre-Antoine (Northern Illinois) and safety Matt Kordas (Bowling Green). No. 12 Bolingbrook’s defense was loaded with playmakers coming out of last season, but safety Justin Walters (Notre Dame) and cornerback Malik Rainey (Cincinnati) are early enrollees in college. Linebacker Tyler McLaurin (MIchigan) is still around, though.
No. 5 Brother Rice at Providence, 7:30 p.m. Friday
This old-school Catholic League matchup features a pair of explosive running backs: Rice’s Willie Shaw, a Toledo recruit who had 20 touchdowns last season, and Providence’s Aaron Vaughn. No. 5 Rice is experienced across the field with veterans like linebacker Myles Jones (Georgetown), defensive end Ryan Whelan (Dayton), quarterback Jack Lausch and offensive linemen Luke Murphy, Max Mallon and Conor McAlilly. Providence returns Minnesota-bound tight end Jameson Geers and adds Kevin Spelman, a transfer from Ohio who will start on both lines.
Waubonsie Valley at No. 10 Naperville Central, 2 p.m. Saturday
Antonio Torres, an all-conference defensive back/running back as a sophomore at Waubonsie last season, is now at No. 10 Central. The Redhawks also picked up senior quarterback Jaden McGill from Oak Park. He’ll be throwing to receiver Reggie Fleurima, who this week became Northwestern’s first commit in the Class of 2022. Kicker Aiden Ellison is one of the nation’s best. Dual-threat quarterback Nathan Pappas is a player to watch for Waubonsie, which has a new coach in Tom Baumgartner.
Hersey at Rolling Meadows, 1 p.m. Saturday
The last time one of these teams didn’t win at least a share of the Mid-Suburban East title was 2011. Rolling Meadows has a new coach in Sam Baker (formerly at Grayslake North) and an almost entirely new defense. But receiver Daniel Sobkowicz, who had 50 catches in 2019, is back. Hersey must replace two-way star Jordan Hansen, now playing safety at Northern Illinois after accounting for 59 touchdowns as a starting quarterback for the Huskies.