Early-season surprise teams, early-season strugglers

A look at three regular playoff teams in 0-2 holes and three surprising undefeated teams.

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Notre Dame’s Vincenzo Ricciardi (9) looks to pass the ball against St Rita.

Notre Dame’s Vincenzo Ricciardi (9) looks to pass the ball against St Rita.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

It’s a bit early to make definitive statements about any teams, but falling in an 0-2 hole can make qualifying for the playoffs a battle. Opening undefeated is a nice cushion before heading into a rough conference schedule. Here’s a look at three teams that traditionally make the playoffs that face difficult roads to the postseason and three unbeaten teams that have surprised so far.

Notre Dame (0-2)

The Dons lost a tight game to Glenbard North on the road in Week 1 and were hammered by Fenwick in Week 2. Coach Mike Hennessey’s team has qualified for the playoffs in 13 of the last 14 seasons. The Dons are at Mount Carmel in Week 3, so an 0-3 start is very possible. St. Rita looms Week 9. That means Notre Dame may have to turn things around and whip off five consecutive wins in games against Nazareth, St. Viator, Benet, DePaul Prep and St. Laurence.

Waubonsie Valley (0-2)

The Warriors had a rough spring season with just one win in four games, but there was reason for optimism this season with 18 starters returning. The season opened with a home loss to Oswego East and a road loss at St. Charles East. It could be an uphill battle the rest of the way. Next is a trip to Ohio to face Shaker Heights. Week 4 is a major challenge against No. 3 Naperville Central. There’s also a matchup against Neuqua Valley on Oct. 8.

Rolling Meadows (0-2)

The Mustangs have qualified for the playoffs the last nine seasons and 16 of the last 17 seasons. Post season football is pretty much expected. Sam Baker’s squad was just 2-4 in the spring and the struggles have continued this season with consecutive home losses (Glenbrook South, Hoffman Estates) to start the season. The remaining schedule is difficult. Rolling Meadows faces road trips to Deerfield, Hersey and Prospect along with a home game against Buffalo Grove.

Deerfield (2-0)

The Warriors managed to play their entire spring schedule and finished 5-1. Quarterback Austin Layette is a returning starter that threw for 900 yards in the short season. He’s picked up right where he left off with three touchdown passes in the Week 1 win against Hinsdale South. Senior linebacker/running back Luke Woodson has been a monster on both sides of the ball. He has 21 tackles and 378 yards rushing with five touchdowns in the first gwo games.

Glenbrook South (2-0)

The Titans haven’t been to the playoffs since 2017 and were 1-4 in the spring. But a strong offensive line and an experienced backfield with Matt Burda and Will Collins has helped them open with a win at Rolling Meadows in Week 1 and a shoutout of Sandburg in Week 2. There are several challenges on the schedule, including Evanston, New Trier, Maine South and Barrington but the solid start makes the playoffs a strong possibility.

Geneva (2-0)

The Vikings were winless in 2019-20 and haven’t made the playoffs since the 2015-16 season. New coach Boone Thorgensen is off to a strong start with comeback wins against Metea Valley and Kaneland. Quarterback Alex Porter and several starters returned on the offensive line from a squad that was 2-4 in the spring. Carter Powelson, a converted defensive end, rushed for 157 yards in Week 1 and 189 yards and two touchdowns against Kaneland.

Geneva’s schedule is extremely difficult the rest of the way, with games against four ranked teams in the next seven weeks. The Vikings could lose all of those games and still make the playoffs if they manage to defeat Glenbard North, St. Charles East and Lake Park.

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