Barrington (3-6) at Jacobs (5-5)
When: today at 7:15 p.m. at Jacobs Athletic Field
Outlook: Jacobs begins its quest for a fourth consecutive playoff berth under coach Bill Mitz. Barrington aims for a playoff return on the heels of last year's 3-6 finish. Broncos coach Joe Sanchez returns six starters on either side of the ball, including senior quarterback Daniel Kubiuk (6-0, 170). Barrington returns three-year starters in the secondary (safety JP Brooks) and at outside linebacker (Colin Costagna). The secondary also boasts junior sprinter Scotty Miller. As a sophomore last spring, Miller won the Mid-Suburban League 100-meter dash title (11.04) and went on to finish sixth at state in the 200 dash (22.66). Jacobs must contain Miller on kick returns. Barrington's linemen on both sides of the ball lack varsity experience. Only senior center Vito Anzalone returns on the offensive line. Three defensive linemen graduated. The talented Barrington secondary will be tested by Jacobs senior quarterback Bret Mooney (6-4, 215), who has received an offer from Colgate and has interest from additional Division I schools. An all-area and all FVC Valley pick last year, Mooney threw for 2.086 yards and 16 touchdowns. He benefits from the return of all-area receiver Hunter Williams (31 rec., 747 yards, 7 TD) and speedy tailback Josh Walker, called up late in his sophomore season. Jacobs expects Kubiuk and the Broncos to come out in the spread, but they must be ready if Barrington instead relies on its ground game. "The first game you have to ready for the unexpected," Mitz said. "It's always a little bit of a scramble at the beginning, but we're prepared. The big thing is we have to contain Kubiuk and we can't let Scotty Miller be a threat in the kicking game."
Next: Barrington at Prospect; Jacobs at St. Charles East
Bartlett (7-4) at Huntley (6-4)
When: today at 7:15 p.m. at Huntley Athletic Field
Outlook: Opening night is always memorable, but this is a special season opener in Huntley as District 158 unveils its new stadium complex under the Friday night lights. "Even a lot of the kids who are now in college are trying to make it back for this game," Huntley coach John Hart said. "The vision that everybody, especially the administrators, had in putting this thing together is so exciting." These teams have not met previously but could find themselves in the same playoff bracket in future years with Huntley approaching Bartlett's Class 8A status. The Hawks, who play their home games on synthetic turf at Streamwood's Millennium Field, should feel right at home on Huntley's new carpet. Bartlett's strength is its sizable offensive line and a promising group of four ball carriers attempting to replace a graduated 1,984-yard rusher who scored 24 touchdowns. The Hawks want to run the ball, control the clock, sustain drives and protect the football en route to qualifying for the playoffs for the 12th time in 13 seasons. Bartlett rarely threw the ball last season, when Jordan Flint was pressed into action as a sophomore after the starting quarterback was injured on the first series of the season. Flint grew in the off-season to 6-foot-3 and returns a more confident passer, his coach said. Still, the Hawks plan to run the ball first and foremost. Tasked with stopping the run are Huntley defensive end/linebacker Brandon Dranka (6-2, 230), safety Michael Andrews (5-11, 195) and a crew of inexperienced linebackers. Bartlett's defense returns one full-time starter: outside linebacker Chris Janssen. Huntley's offense will try to expose the Hawks' defensive inexperience with new quarterback Blake Jacobs (6-1, 180) and wide receivers Josh Esikiel (5-11, 175) and Connor Boesch (6-5, 180).
Next: Niles Notre Dame at Bartlett; Huntley at Elgin
Cary-Grove (13-1) at Wheaton North (10-2)
When: today at 7:30 p.m. at Jim Rexilius Field
Outlook: Two state-ranked teams with proud playoff traditions meet on the synthetic turf at Rexilius Field. Cary-Grove enters the contest ranked No. 4 in Class 6A; Wheaton North is No. 9 in Class 7A. Class 6A state runner-up Cary-Grove could not find a Week 1 nonconference opponent until January despite the fact it graduated 17 of 22 starters. "We were even reaching out to teams in Wisconsin," C-G coach Brad Seaburg said. "I don't think a lot of teams want to play us because of the (flexbone option) offense we run, especially Week 1 because they don't have film. At least that's what I've been told." Wheaton North eventually obliged. The Falcons return only three offensive starters, but sometimes it's about quality more than quantity. The Falcons return the lethal passing combination of Northwestern-bound quarterback Clayton Thorson (6-4, 197) and wide receiver Matt Biegalski. Thorson runs a 4.6-second 40-yard dash. Biegalski made 43 receptions for 759 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. "Some are calling (Thorson) the best quarterback in the state," Seaburg said. "They do some things very well there, so that's a pretty tall challenge to stop them Week 1." The Trojans will attempt to pressure Thorson with returning defensive lineman Emerson Kersten and returning linebacker Matt Hughes. Cary-Grove's entire starting backfield is new. Quarterback Jason Gregoire did get a few starts late last season when starter Quinn Baker was injured, including a first-round playoff game. The Trojans return two high-quality offensive linemen in juniors Michael Gomez (6-0, 249) and Division I recruit Trevor Ruhland (6-5, 263). Ruhland has an offer from Minnesota with more on the way. The running game will initially center on Joe Scott (5-11, 181) and Matt Sutherland (5-8, 153). Normally a starting safety, the plan is for Sutherland to replace injured junior back Zach McQuade temporarily, Seaburg said.
Next: Cary-Grove at Lake Zurich; Wheaton North at Geneva
Elgin (1-8) at Dundee-Crown (3-6)
When: today at 7:15 p.m. at the D-C Bowl
Last meeting: Dundee-Crown 54, Elgin 12
Outlook: Dundee-Crown has its sites set on making the playoffs for the first time since 1994. Elgin's goal is to become a more competitive varsity team than a year ago. New Elgin coach Kyle Rohde will rely on third-year quarterback Ryan Sitter (662 yards, 4 TD) to direct the offense, supported by senior tailback Jaylen Clemons (113 carries, 539 yards, 5 TD) and 200-pound senior fullback Daniel Page. The defense returns starting inside linebacker Dan Graves. Linemen Abel Barazza (5-8, 245) and Zack Rago (6-3, 280) key the trenches as two-way performers. The Maroons must protect the ball better than they did a year ago, when they finished with a -13 turnover deficit. Coach Vito Andriola's team features few two-way players. In fact, an already experienced Dundee-Crown defense got stronger this summer when junior Malik Dunner transferred back to Dundee-Crown, his original school, from Elgin. Dunner played varsity football for the Maroons last year but now roams the secondary for the Chargers. D-C's offense attacks with speedy running backs Cordero Parson and Caleb Parson and halfback T.J. Moss (50 carries, 264 yards, 2 TD). D-C linebackers Tim Shanmaier, Jordon Linson and Zach Thelen all return. The predicted August humidity on opening night could work in D-C's favor since Elgin's roster of 25 requires some players to compete on both sides of the ball. "I don't care if it's 1,000 degrees because we're in really good shape," Andriola said. "I'm super pleased with our summer. No one outworked us. It was really tough."
Next: Huntley at Elgin; Dundee-Crown at Streamwood
Larkin (2-7) at McHenry (3-6)
When: today at 7:15 p.m. at McCracken Field
Last meeting: McHenry 60, Larkin 20
Outlook: Larkin possesses speed at every skill position on offense and defense, led by 5-foot-5, All-Upstate Eight River Division running back Damion Clemons. The senior runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds. Senior wide receivers Jarelle Shipp and Donte Bonds were members of the school's state-qualifying 400-meter relay team last spring, also coached by Mike Scianna. Quarterback Kemmerin Blalark -- a talented vocalist who occasionally sings the national anthem at basketball games -- is healthy and ready to lead a potent offense after injuries shortened the mobile quarterback's junior campaign. The defense is led by all-UEC River free safety Alejandro Duran (5-7, 150), who had 4 interceptions as a junior. Defensive lineman Quentyn Jackson (6-3, 290) could be a force for the Royals. McHenry has won the last 2 matchups between these nonconference foes and 4 of 6 since the series began in 2007. The Warriors became a more competitive team last year in coach Dave D'Angelo's first season. 'They'll try to navigate the competitive Fox Valley Conference's Valley Division and reach the postseason for the first time since 2007. Nabbing a playoff berth won't be easy for McHenry without a win over Larkin. Scianna said his team is preparing to face a McHenry offense quarterbacked by junior Mike Briscoe (6-4, 210). "He's a big guy and they're a tough team," Scianna said. "They have some speed, too. He's building a program to beat some of those good teams in their conference, not necessarily to beat Larkin. Hopefully, they underestimate us a little bit."
Next: West Chicago at Larkin; McHenry at Marian Central Genoa-Kingston (3-6) at St. Edward (2-7)
When: today at 7 p.m. at Greg True Field
Last meeting: St. Edward 15, Genoa-Kingston 14
Outlook: St. Edward can't afford to slip at home against the Cogs if they intend to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. A win is a virtual must for a team that must fight its way through the Suburban Christian Conference's tough Blue Division. Ninth-year coach Mike Rolando believes this squad has the capability to make the postseason. "I think we can beat just about anybody," he said. "A lot of things still have to develop and take place, but the confidence level is there. We have a lot of talent at a lot of different positions." Last year's matchup went down to the wire. St. Edward kicker Joe French, now a junior, booted a 41-yard field goal for the winning points. The Green Wave defense subsequently sealed the win by intercepting a pass at their own 28-yard line with 15 seconds. It was the fourth Genoa-Kingston turnover of the game. A player to watch is senior running back Davontae Elam. Last year against G-K he produced 166 yards and 2 touchdowns on 18 carries.
Next: Genoa-Kingston at Rockford Lutheran; St. Edward at Hamilton West Hancock
Hampshire (3-6) at Burlington Central (5-4)
When: today at 7 p.m. at Rocket Hill
Last meeting: Burlington Central 16, Hampshire 7
Outlook: Nothing gets a football player's blood boiling like a rivalry game on opening night. Hampshire stewed for days after last year's meeting, a game the Whip-Purs felt they let slip away. Not only did they allow Central to convert too many fourth downs, a receiver dropped a would-be, 25-yard touchdown pass early in the second half that would have given them a 14-10 lead and momentum. The Whips have dropped 5 straight season openers. Those slow starts spawned unwanted consequences: Hampshire failed to make the playoffs the last four seasons. "Playing (Central) is always a good test and it will be again this year," 25th-year Hampshire coach Dan Cavanaugh said. "I think (the players) know how important it is. We've talked about it." Look for the Whip-Purs to establish the running game behind senior running back Nick kielbasa (5-9, 180). Hampshire returns four defensive linemen and two inside linebackers, an area of strength. That group is tasked with stopping Central senior quarterback Casey Matthews, who gained some experience at the position late last season. Senior Reilly Marino is the team's leading returning rusher and talented junior Trevor Davison could line up at multiple positions. Matthews will also play safety once again. The point of attack could be an issue for the Rockets, who return few experienced linemen on either side of the ball. Central has won 3 straight meetings against Hampshire and 7 of the last 10. "Winning this game doesn't make you or break you, but it sure gives the winner a confidence boosts and kicks (the loser) the other way," Central coach Rich Crabel said. "It basically sets the tone for your season. We know we need to get off to a good start so it's always a big game for us."
Next: DeKalb at Hampshire; Burlington Central at Stillman Valley
Hoffman Estates (0-9) at Streamwood (3-6)
When: today at 7 p.m. at Millennium Field
Last meeting: Streamwood 38, Hoffman Estates 20
Outlook: Expect the unexpected as teams with new coaches square off. Streamwood is now led by former Westmont coach Mark Orszula, who replaces Cal Cummins. The new coach inherits some good athletes at the skill positions, but both lines are works in progress. The defensive secondary is a strength with three returning starters. Senior Lenard Brown is expected to be the focal point of he running game. Hoffman Estates enters the season with a 19-game regular season losing streak dating back to October of 2010. The Hawks welcome their third coach in as many seasons, veteran Mike Donatucci. He coached Fremd for 19 seasons, guiding that program to 16 consecutive playoff appearances, 8 Mid Suburban League West titles and a 137-62 record. Donatucci spent the first 13 years of his career as a Hoffman Estates assistant.
Next: Dundee-Crown at Streamwood; Buffalo Grove at Hoffman Estates
Marian Central (11-1) at Crystal Lake South (6-4)
When: today at 7 p.m. at Ken Bruhn Field
Last meeting: Marian Central 31, Crystal Lake South 0
Outlook: With the legal controversy over the construction of new home bleachers at CL South's Ken Bruhn Field shelved for the time being, CL South held its walk-through on the game field this week in anticipation of the nonconference opener against Marian Central, which begins the season ranked No. 6 in Class 5A. Two-time defending champion of the Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division, Marian slapped the Gators in the face in the 2012 season opener. CL South hopes to avoid such a sting this time around with a huge, athletic offensive line, running back Chris Ivers and senior quarterback Austin Rogers (6-2, 205). Rogers took over at quarterback after a 1-3 start and helped lead the Gators to the playoffs for the 13th straight year. The Hurricanes return senior running back Ephraim Lee, who last season rushed for over 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns. Junior Billy Bahl is expected to take over at quarterback for Chris Streveler, now playing for Minnesota. "The new quarterback is supposed to be a real good thrower, so we can't just stack against the run to stop that real good running back," CL South coach Chuck Ahsmann said. "(Marian Central coach) Ed Brucker has been doing this for a long time and knows how to prepare his team, so we know we're in for a dogfight."
Next: McHenry at Marian Central; Crystal Lake South at Crystal Lake Central
Westminster Christian at Luther North (5-5)
When: Saturday at 1 p.m.
Outlook: The new Westminster Christian varsity football team makes its anticipated debut Saturday afternoon. The Warriors played a middle school schedule in 2011, then a junior varsity schedule last year. The roster of 30 is robust for a Class 1A school. According to athletic director Rick Palmer, the Warriors enter the season with the third largest roster of any team in the 10-member Northeast Conference. Key players include quarterback Max Tucker, a transfer from Wheaton Academy, 6-foot-6, 220-pound two-way lineman Isaac Hawn and 5-10, 185-pound tailback DeShawn Bloom. They'll face an opening test against the Wildcats, who made the playoffs last year as a 5-4 team. In fact, four of Westminster's first five opponents made the playoffs last season. "It's a very tough schedule to open up against, but we'll see how we hold up," coach John Davis said.
Next:Mooseheart at Westminster Christian; Luther North at Alden-Hebron
St. Charles East (6-4) at South Elgin (4-5)
When: Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at South Elgin Stadium
Last meeting: (2009) St. Charles East 21, South Elgin 14
Outlook: This is the first meeting between these Upstate Eight Conference schools since 2009. St. Charles East won all 4 previous meetings between the teams by a cumulative score of 136-43. The game marks the beginning of a new era at South Elgin, where new coach Pat Pistorio takes over for Dale Schabert, who stepped down in early July. Pistorio is an offensive specialist who previously coordinated the Chicago Slaughter indoor football team as well as Lake Forest and Harper Colleges. The offensive mind will attempt to maximize the talents of inherited players like all-area quarterback Rob Cuda (6-1, 195), all-area tight end/linebacker Nate Marotta (6-23, 225) and all-UEC Valley wide receiver Tyler Christensen (5-11, 160). Coach Mike Fields' Saints return a pair of quality offensive linemen: all-UEC River center Ben Smith (5-10, 230) and junior offensive tackle Brennan Bosch (6-1, 250), who has an offer from Illinois. Three-year starter at safety, Brannon Barry (6-5, 205), has an offer from Western Illinois. A two-way player, Barry also made 41 receptions for 450 yards and 5 touchdowns last year. Cornerback Mitch Munroe (5-10, 170) also plays wide receiver. South Elgin aims for a playoff return after consecutive 4-5 finishes. "With the returning leadership we have back in place, I definitely think we can surpass that," Pistorio said. "But we're setting the bar one game at a time."
Next: South Elgin at Benet; Jacobs at St. Charles East