No. 9 Marist at No. 1 Mount Carmel, 7:30 p.m. Friday
It’s the first week of conference play in the powerful CCL/ESCC Blue, which means plenty of playoff-type atmosphere. Dermot Smyth, a starting wide receiver for Marist last season, is settling in well at quarterback with 538 passing yards, a 67% completion rate and three touchdowns to go along with 126 rushing yards and two TDs. Defensive back John Nestor (Iowa), defensive lineman Jamel Howard (Wisconsin) and receiver Ryan Sims (Miami, Ohio) also are impact players for the RedHawks (2-1). Mount Carmel (3-0) has outscored St. Rita, Phillips and Notre Dame by a combined 121-3. Quarterback Blainey Dowling, tight end Parker Startz, receiver Denny Furlong and running back Darrion Dupree are among the playmakers for the Caravan offense. Asher Tomaszewski (Kansas State) and Danny Novickas (Ohio) lead the defense.
No. 15 Joliet Catholic at Providence, 7:30 p.m. Friday
Will County bragging rights are at stake for a couple programs turning the page after some offseason changes. Joliet Catholic (3-0) graduated 16 starters from the 14-0 Class 4A champs, but returns its entire defensive line: Jeremy Johnson, Billy Burke, Hunter Powell and Dillan Johnson. Northwestern-bound lineman Anthony Birsa anchors the offense, which features Louisville baseball recruit TJ Schlageter at quarterback. Defensive back/linebacker Trey Swiderski also is a Louisville baseball commit. Providence grad Tyler Plantz, who spent the last seven seasons on Brian Kelly’s staff at Notre Dame, is in his first season as head coach at his alma mater. The Celtics (2-1) have wins over Lake Central (Ind.) and Fenwick along with a loss to defending 7A champ Wheaton North.
No. 10 Prairie Ridge at No. 17 Jacobs, 7 p.m. Friday
The winner will be the last unbeaten team in the Fox Valley Conference at 4-0 overall and in league play. Prairie Ridge’s option attack is rolling along; in last week’s win over Huntley, quarterback Tyler Vasey ran for 226 yards and fullback Nathan Greetham rushed for 166 behind veteran linemen Henrik Nystrom, Ethan Goudschaal and John Fallow. Jacobs is a program on the rise. Last year’s team went 8-4 — the Golden Eagles’ best record since 1999 — and reached the 7A quarterfinals. Tight end Grant Stec has more than a dozen offers and is one of the state’s top juniors.
Brother Rice at No. 2 Loyola, 1:30 p.m. Saturday
This is another CCL/ESCC Blue opener. Brother Rice (2-1) didn’t bring a lot back from last year’s 10-2 team. But Wisconsin recruit Roderick Pierce III is a force on the defensive line, and Marty O’Keefe, Owen Lyons and Rickey Taylor are all proven receivers. Colgate-bound quarterback Jake Stearney has completed 78% of his passes for Loyola (3-0) for 539 yards and 10 touchdowns. Spencer Leadbetter is the Ramblers’ top receiver with 152 yards and four TDs. Lineman Brooks Bahr (Michigan) leads the defense.
No. 6 Naperville North at Neuqua Valley, 7 p.m. Friday
This is the fourth meeting in 18 months for these crosstown rivals, who played once in the pandemic-delayed spring 2021 season and twice last fall with Neuqua winning two of those three games. Naperville North (3-0, 0-0 DuPage Valley) has a pair of Big Ten recruits: Northwestern-bound quarterback Aidan Gray, who has 582 total yards and seven touchdowns, and kicker David Olano (Illinois). And junior receiver Luke Williams’ nine offers include three from the Big Ten. Junior quarterback Ryan Mohler, making his first varsity start in relief of injured Mark Mennecke, passed for one TD and ran for another last week as Neuqua (2-1, 0-0) beat defending Missouri state champ St. Louis St. Mary’s.