St. Rita’s hold on the preseason No. 1 spot will be thoroughly tested the first three weeks of the season with games against Mount Carmel, Loyola and a talented team in Louisville, Kentucky.
Mustangs coach Todd Kuska is counting on Ohio State recruit Kaleb Brown, a game-breaking receiver/running back, to help elevate the entire team.
“He brings the level of confidence up for everyone else,” Kuska said. “When you know you’ve got the best player it makes everyone play to a higher level.”
1. St. Rita
Star power and playoff experience should be a successful combination for the Mustangs, led by Brown, three-year starting quarterback Tommy Ulatowski and offensive lineman Valen Erickson. Read more on St. Rita.
The Blue Devils were unbeaten in the spring and return 10 starters on defense and eight on offense, including quarterback Aidan Lucero and running back Maurice Edwards, a Vanderbilt recruit. Read more on Warren.
3. Brother Rice
Jack Lausch, a Notre Dame recruit for baseball and football, is back at quarterback. Illinois recruit Henry Boyer, a 6-6, 235-pound tight end, is a blocking force. The Crusaders added one of the best running backs in the area in Aaron Vaughn, who transferred from Providence and have multiple starters back on the offensive line. Read more on Brother Rice.
Several experienced players return on offense, including running back Marco Maldonado. Junior quarterback Jake Stearney played a bit last season and showed off a big arm. There are more questions on defense, where the only notable returners are lineman Mike Williams and linebacker James Kreutz. Read more on Loyola.
5. Lincoln-Way East
The Griffins will be much younger than usual, but the program has a tradition of reloading. Senior Brennan Stolarek won the quarterback job and has a pair of talented, experienced receivers in seniors Trey Johnson and Jack Tremblay. Cornerback Jon Guch and lineman Michael Cardilli are returning starters on defense, along with junior linebacker Jake Scianna. Read more on Lincoln-Way East.
Dynamic quarterback Dontrell Jackson Jr. has an experienced line in front of him, led by Northwestern recruit Deuce McGuire. The inexperienced defense will have to learn quickly. Read more on Marist.
7. Joliet Catholic
The Hilltoppers return eight starters on defense, which should lead to plenty of wins when combined with a high-powered offense led by running back Jordan Anderson, an Illinois recruit. Read more on Joliet Catholic.
8. Hinsdale Central
An experienced offensive line and backfield, led by Thomas Skokna and Nick Fahy, will help the growing pains at quarterback. The Red Devils have a solid core back on defense in linebackers Sean Allison and JT Pyle and lineman Micah McCurry. Read more on Hinsdale Central.
9. Wheaton North
There’s nothing like a third-year starting quarterback. Holy Cross recruit Mark Forcucci was one of the keys to the Falcons’ 5-1 finish in the spring. He threw for 919 yards with 12 touchdowns and just one interception during the abbreviated season. Six total players return on offense and four on defense. Read more on Wheaton North.
10. Maine South
Quarterback Rowan Keefe, running back Mike Sajenko and tight end Chris Petrucci are major weapons on offense and the defense is more experienced than it appears, led by lineman Thaddeus Gianaris. Read more on Maine South.
11. Mount Carmel
Seventeen starters graduated, so it is a new start for the Caravan. It may take a few weeks for the talented young newcomers to figure it out, but the potential is high. Junior Blainey Dowling is expected to start at quarterback, and keep an eye on running back/defensive back Darrion Dupree, a standout sophomore.
Fullback Nick Hissong dominated in the spring and is the perfect fit for the Trojans’ option attack. QB Jameson Sheehan and running back Wade Abrams also return. A deep senior class anchors the defense.
13. Naperville Central
Mike Ulreich takes over as coach and has a ton of offensive talent, including quarterback Owen Prucha, receiver Reggie Fleurima and an experienced line. The defense will be the question mark early.
14. Glenbard West
Only two starters return on offense and three on defense, but this is a program that knows how to reload. Keep an eye on junior running back Joey Pope.
15. Neuqua Valley
Junior quarterback Mark Mennecke is a possible breakout star. Running back Matt Williams and receiver Grant Larkin will help anchor the offense. Keep an eye on senior defensive back Palmer Domschke.
The defense, led by junior linebacker Tyler Jansey, should be strong. The running game will need to help stabilize the offense, but the Bulldogs are one of the area’s consistently excellent programs and return 10 starters.
There’s talent all over the field for the Friars, who have a lot to prove this season with 19 starters returning. Quarterback Kaden Cobb, a Ball State recruit, is joined by receivers Eian Pugh (Illinois) and Max Reese (Eastern Michigan). Highly-recruited Jimmy Liston anchors the offensive line. The defense is also full of future college players.
Senior wide receiver Jake Bostick, an Iowa recruit, is joined by sophomore running back Dominick Ball on a powerful offense. Linebacker Mitch Larkin and lineman Jhermari Mabry lead the defense.
19. Wheaton Warrenville South
Another traditional power with a new coach. Sean Norris takes over and has eight starters on offense back along with an experienced defensive backfield.
There’s a lot for the Mid-Suburban League champions to replace, but most of the new starters saw some action last season. Expect the Broncos to reload, led by experienced offensive linemen Will Warman, Adam Krieps and Peter Hutchison.
The Red Raiders were undefeated in the spring and should be solid on both lines. Quarterback Sam Deligio transferred in from Jacobs.
Lineback Sebastian Cheeks, a North Carolina recruit, is one of the state’s best players. He’s one of 11 returning starters for the Wildkits, who have a third-year starting quarterback in Sean Cruz.
Quarterback Jimmy Makuh and running back Ben Clawson will give opponents fits. Keep an on defensive back Josh Bontje. Nearly all of last season’s starters return.
South Suburban Red conference champs return running back/defensive back Kendrick Washington and defensive end Roy Williams, a NIU recruit.
25. Morgan Park
The Mustangs only played three games last season, but almost the entire team returns. Quarterback Aaron Warren and speedster Tysean Griffin were breakout talents in the spring. Read more on Morgan Park.