No. 23 Hersey at Lincoln-Way West, 7 p.m. Friday
One of the things we missed in the abbreviated spring season was a playoff-quality matchup like this between upper-level teams from different parts of the area. Hersey has one of the most exciting players around in senior running back Ben Clawson, who averaged 11.7 yards per touch and scored 19 touchdowns in six spring games. Senior running back Justin Harris is one of 12 returning starters for Southwest Suburban Red favorite Lincoln-Way West.
No. 25 Morgan Park vs. No. 17 Fenwick, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Triton
The preseason Prep Bowl was discontinued a few years ago, but this feels like a revival. Morgan Park was one of the spring’s breakout teams, despite graduating most of its starters from 2019. Receiver Tysean Griffin, whose offers include Tennessee and Illinois, headlines a talented sophomore class and is a favorite target for 6-4 quarterback Aaron Warren. Fenwick’s 19 returning starters include quarterback Kaden Cobb (Ball State), receivers Eian Pugh (Illinois) and Max Reese (Eastern Michigan) and offensive lineman Jimmy Liston — yet another Power Five prospect.
Phillips at No. 16 Batavia, 7:30 p.m. Friday
With two-time state champion coach Troy McAllister leaving for Sandburg, Phillips opens the Joe Winslow era with as tough of a two-game start as anyone in the state: at Batavia and at Mount Carmel. Winslow, the Wildcats’ longtime offensive coordinator, has one of the Public League’s top quarterbacks in Tyler Turner. Batavia graduated five Division I players but returns 10 starters. Among them are strong safety/running back Jason Buckley, Indiana State-bound defensive back/receiver Anthony Roberts and linebacker Tyler Jansey.
Simeon vs. No. 7 Joliet Catholic, 7 p.m. at Joliet Memorial Stadium
With no postseason in the mix last spring, Simeon got a head start on prepping for this year’s playoffs by getting experience for some promising youngsters. The best of the bunch is junior wide receiver Malik Elzy, a four-star prospect whose 12 Power Fiver offers include Notre Dame, Tennessee, Illinois and Michigan. Joliet Catholic, No. 1 in the Associated Press Class 4A rankings, is led by a pair of Illinois recruits: running back Jordan Anderson and linebacker Malachi Hood.
No. 2 Warren at No. 20 Barrington, 7:30 p.m. Friday
Warren has emerged as a Class 8A power under coach Bryan McNulty by relying on a relentless defense and a potent ground game. Expect more of the same with 18 starters back, including Vanderbilt-bound running back Maurice Edwards and Central Michigan-bound linebacker Jalen Handford. Dual-threat quarterback Aidan Lucero adds another dimension to the Blue Devils’ offense. Barrington, coming off a 6-0 spring, will build around a veteran offensive line.