With the opening kickoff of the 2013 high school football season just a few days away, I think this is a good time to play a little game to help local fans prepare for the upcoming gridiron campaign.
Here are 20 questions on my mind:
1) Are there any returning playoff teams from a year ago?
Yes, five -- Aurora Central Catholic, Aurora Christian, Batavia, Kaneland, and St. Charles East.
Aurora Christian repeated as Class 3A state champions, defeating Tolono Unity 42-12 in the 2012 title game.
2) Is there a motto for the upcoming season?
If I had to pick one, I'd say this is the year of the veteran quarterback.
Batavia's Micah Coffey (18 TD passes in 2012), Kaneland's Drew David (23 TD passes), and West Aurora's Quintez Jones (13 TD passes) are all entering their third seasons as starting signal-callers for their respective teams.
Other returnees include St. Charles East all-Upstate Eight Conference River Division senior Jimmy Mitchell, Geneva junior Daniel Santacaterina, who missed second half of last season with a shoulder injury, and Marmion senior Brock Krueger, who shared time behind center with Charlie Faunce a year ago.
3) What games figure to be the key conference matchups?
Geneva at Batavia, Sept. 13; St. Charles North at St. Charles East, Sept. 13; West Aurora at Wheaton Warrenville South, Sept. 20; St. Edward at Aurora Central Catholic, Sept. 27; Montini at Marmion, Sept. 27; St. Charles East at Geneva, Oct. 4; St. Francis at Marmion, Oct. 11; Aurora Christian at Immaculate Conception, Oct. 12 (a repeat of last year's Class 3A second-round playoff game won by the Eagles, 28-21); St. Charles East at Batavia, Oct. 18; Aurora Christian at Montini, Oct. 19: Kaneland at Morris, Oct. 25.
4) What is the best nonconference clash?
Glenbard North at Batavia, Aug. 30. The Bulldogs, who handed the Panthers a 42-41 opening-day defeat last season, will once again face a stiff challenge from the DuPage Valley Conference title contender powered by elusive senior tailback Justin Jackson (Northwestern recruit).
5) What is the most intriguing game?
St. Charles North at Elk Grove, Aug. 30. First-year North Stars head coach Rob Pomazak will face a familiar foe in Friday night's season opener. Pomazak was an assistant coach for the Grenadiers, who have made 4 consecutive Class 7A state playoff appearances.
6) Who is the dean of area coaches?
It's Geneva's Rob Wicinski, who enters his 15th season at the helm (91-58 record) for the Vikings.
7) The top passing combinations will be?
I'm counting on hearing public address announcers mention these quarterback-to-receiver names with some regularity -- Austin Bray to Noah Roberts (Aurora Christian), Micah Coffey to Michael Moffatt (Batavia), Daniel Santacaterina to Kyle Brown (Geneva), Drew David to Dylan Nauert (Kaneland), Brock Krueger to Seth Sevenich (Marmion), Jimmy Mitchell to Brannon Barry (St. Charles East), Erik Miller to Garrett Johnson (St. Charles North), and Quintez Jones to Cameron Mackey (West Aurora).
8) Who are the biggest targets?
Geneva's 6-foot-3 senior wide receiver Kyle Brown, St. Charles East's 6-5 senior wide receiver Brannon Barry, and St. Charles North's 6-5, 245-pound senior tight end Garrett Johnson (Ball State recruit) head the list.
9) Who is the best receiver out of the backfield?
Batavia's 150-pound senior tailback Anthony Scaccia, who was the team's second leading receiver in 2012.
10) Are there any running backs returning?
There are plenty of them.
The list includes Aurora Central Catholic's Brian Bohr and Julian Rios; Batavia's Anthony Scaccia and Anthony Thielk; Kaneland's Jesse Balluff and Nate Dyer; Marmion's Jordan Glasgow; St. Charles East's Erik Anderson; and St. Charles North's Evan Kurtz.
11) Any names we'll hear a lot about by season's end?
Aurora Christian quarterback Austin Bray, a 6-3, 220-pound junior, who takes over for since-graduated Ryan McQuade.
12) What are the best player names?
I like Aurora Christian running back Legend Smith and Aurora Central Catholic receiver Sean Anger.
13) Who are the area's top kickers?
Kaneland's Matt Rodriguez heads the list of strong-legged standouts, with Aurora Christian's Trevor Hills not too far behind.
14) Are there any teams with long winning streaks?
Kaneland will carry a 28-game regular-season winning streak into Friday night's home clash against Chicago-Brooks. The Knights edged Brooks 25-24 in last year's season debut.
15) Who figure to be the top offensive linemen?
Aurora Christian's Jonah Walker and Nathan Wells; Aurora Central Catholic's Alec Licar; Geneva's Quinn Einck; Kaneland's Alex Snyder, Shane Jorgensen and Joe Komel; Marmion's Oscar Garza and Zach Siwiec; St. Charles East's Ben Smith and Brennan Bosch; and St. Charles North's Chase Giancakos and Camden Cotter.
16) Who are the top pass rushers?
This list is headed by Aurora Christian's Jonah Walker; Batavia's James Millette and Ryan Minniti; Geneva's Billy Douds; and Kaneland's Sam Bower and Justin Diddell.
17) Who are the linebackers to watch?
Aurora Central Catholic's Cody Ekstrom; Batavia's Anthony Thielk; Geneva's Joe Boenzi; Kaneland's Gary Koehring; Marmion's Sam Breen; St. Charles East's Mike Candre; St. Charles North's Reece Conroyd; and West Aurora's Isaiah Ruffin.
18) Is this some sort of new math?
The Upstate Eight Conference currently features 14 teams divided into two 7-team divisions -- the UEC River (Batavia, Elgin, Larkin, Geneva, St. Charles East, St. Charles North and Streamwood -- and UEC Valley (East Aurora, Metea Valley, Waubonsie Valley, Bartlett, Neuqua Valley, South Elgin and West Chicago).
19) Do I have a favorite place to watch a game?
I enjoy covering games at all 9 of our area schools but 2 of my favorite press boxes to watch football are St. Charles East and St. Charles North.
20) Where will the state football championships be held?
The scene has shifted from Champaign to DeKalb in 2013. The Class 1-4A title games will be held on Friday, Nov. 29, while the Class 5-8A title games are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 30, at Northern Illinois University's Huskie Stadium.
You can reach Craig Brueske can be reached at email@example.com.