Burlington Central (4-5) at Hampshire (6-4)
Where: today at Hampshire Athletic Field, 7:15 p.m.
Last year: Hampshire 41, Burlington Central 7
Outlook: This series took a turn last year. Burlington Central had won 3 straight meetings between these northern Kane County rivals and 7 of the last 10, but the Whip-Purs won the 2013 clash by 24 points. Hampshire enters this game with an entirely new offense under first-year coach Mike Brasile: the spread. The Whips have the right player to run the new offense in returning senior quarterback Nick Mohlman, a 1,000-yard passer who threw 12 touchdowns and completed 58 percent of his passes. He'll target 6-2 receiver Matt Bridges, among others. Returning safety Mason Fleury (3 ints.) leads a defense that retains the same 4-2 look. "We'll give teams a run for their money," Hampshire linebacker Mike Palazzolo said. "We've worked hard this year and we're a lot faster." Central returns a senior-heavy squad intent on competing for the Big Northern East title and its first playoff berth since 2011. Third-year linebackers Cole Roach and Craig Keim lead an experienced defense. Offensively, junior quarterback Robert Doubek will hand off to third-year running back Trevor Davison and throw in the direction of 6-4 receiver Brendan Bushy. Central coach Rich Crabel likes playing the program's biggest rival on opening night, particularly this season. "It's a game where we know we have to strap it up and go," Crabel said. "You believe you're going to come out on top, but even if we don't it's great competition for us to start off the year. It gives us a good look at what we need to be better at to beat the good teams. This year it's a new system for them and they're only going to get better as the year goes on. I think it's to our advantage."
Next week: Hampshire at Grayslake North; Burlington Central at Dixon
Dundee-Crown (6-4) at Elgin (0-9)
Where: today at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Field
Last year: Dundee-Crown 52, Elgin 12
Outlook: Dundee-Crown needs to win this game if it hopes to make a repeat playoff appearance. The Chargers, now under the direction of first-year coach Mike Steinhaus, a 2003 D-C graduate, are experienced at the skill positions. Ball State recruit Malik Dunner returns at safety. He'll also carry the ball on offense, creating a dangerous tandem with senior Caleb Parson, the team's top returning rusher with over 900 yards and 13 touchdowns. Quarterback Jeff Atherton also returns. However, only two defensive starters are back besides Dunner: linebackers Zach Thelen and Jarrod Raap. The Chargers blew out Elgin last season, but the Maroons are a more balanced team in coach Kyle Rohde's second season. The Maroons have speed at every skill position, including third-year receiver Jordan Smith, 6-foot-6, 235-pound receiver Elijah Bonds (also a key defensive end) and quarterback Dontrell Gaddy. A roster of 35 gives Elgin depth at those positions in case a starter is injured. The offensive line returns four players. The Maroons hope to take a step forward. The program enters 2014 on a 12-game losing streak and has lost 25 of 27 games since making the playoffs in 2010. One of the 2 wins during that span was against Dundee-Crown in the 2011 season opener. Elgin will try to score on defense and special teams while limiting its turnovers on offense. "We really have been focusing on take-aways and turnovers," Rohde said. "We led the area in giving the ball up last year and we were at the bottom of the list as far as taking the ball away."
Next week: Streamwood at Dundee-Crown; Elgin at Huntley
Crystal Lake South (4-5) at Marian Central (8-3)
Where: today at 7:15 p.m. at George Harding Field
Last year: Marian Central 28, Crystal Lake South 2
Outlook: Crystal Lake South went 2-4 in games decided by a touchdown or less last season, but the opener against Marian wasn't one of those close games. Hurricanes quarterback Billy Bahl completed 50 percent of his passes for 243 yards and 2 touchdowns in his first varsity start and the Marian defense kept CL South's offense off the board for the second year in a row. Bahl, who since committed to Miami (Ohio), returns after throwing for 29 touchdowns and over 2,500 yards. He'll face a Gators secondary that includes three returning starters: seniors Tyler Baker, Joe Ahsmann and Alex Reich. "Billy Bahl is a heck of a quarterback so we'll see where we are," CL South coach Chuck Ahsmann said. "You don't see too many Division I quarterbacks who can throw the ball like that." The CL South defense also returns ends Steven Anchor (6-1, 215) and Josh Andrae (6-2, 240). Offensive lineman Alex Gardeck will play full-time at linebacker. Offensively, senior Payton Minogue takes over at quarterback. Kyle Bartusch is a fullback who can catch the ball out of the backfield. Senior Kyle Loupee (6-4, 290) leads the offensive line. The Gators have not scored a touchdown against the Hurricanes in 2 meetings. Marian Central won the 2012 contest between these McHenry County schools 31-0.
Next week: South Elgin at Crystal Lake South; Marian Central at McHenry
Jacobs (7-3) at Barrington (10-2)
Where: today at 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Barrington 22, Jacobs 15
Outlook: Jacobs opens its quest to make the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season against a program that reached a 2013 Class 8A quarterfinal before losing to Stevenson 14-0. Jacobs returns 12 starters, including five players entering their third year with the varsity. Three of those veterans play defense: end Jamal Wilson (6-2, 250), two-way lineman Carson Shoemaker (6-1, 245) and safety Cody Ferencz. Linebackers Brendan Heiss, Matt Barnes and Sean Barnes also return, as does cornerback Josh Yonker. Heiss might play quarterback in the place of graduated star Bret Mooney, or the job could go to sophomore Chris Katrenick, a transfer from Marian Central. Either can throw to experienced receivers Camden McLain (6-1, 175) and Nick Gierlak (5-10, 174). However, the heart of the offense will be senior running back Josh Walker, who last year rushed for 1,050 yards and 14 touchdowns in 156 attempts and was named all-area. Walker, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, qualified for the state track meet last spring in the 100. He's not just fast. "Outsiders don't know what kind of heart he has," Jacobs coach Bill Mitz said. "He's a strong, physical kid. It's not like he's a track guy playing football. He's a football player." Barrington returns 15 starters from a 10-2 team. Quarterbacking the Broncos will be either senior Adam Broomfield or junior Johnny Davidson. Whoever gets the nod has the advantage of throwing to seasoned receivers Seamus Moran, Scotty Miller and Dylan Bingham. The trio combined last season for 71 receptions and 1,312 yards. Junior Alex Serrano (6-3, 280) and Brett Morrison (6-3, 280) return to the offensive line. The defense is anchored by four returning linebackers, highlighted by all-area pick Jake Coon in the middle. This is the last road game Jacobs will play until Week 9 at McHenry. Its next 7 games will be played in Algonquin.
Next week: St. Charles East at Jacobs; Barrington at Elk Grove Village
Wheaton North (9-3) at Cary-Grove (7-4)
Where: today at 7:30 at Al Bohrer Field
Last year: Wheaton North 42, Cary-Grove 18
Outlook: Wheaton North was a senior-led team a year ago. Cary-Grove was largely a young squad gaining experience. The roles are reversed this fall. The Trojans return 16 players from a team that reached the second round of the Class 6A playoffs before losing to state semifinalist Rockford Boylan 17-10. Meanwhile, the Falcons are trying to fill some big shoes due to heavy graduation losses after making it to a Class 7A quarterfinal, where they dropped a 16-6 decision to Lake Zurich. Sophomore Luke Anthony gets the nod at quarterback, replacing Northwestern freshman Tyler Thorson. Two offensive linemen return to block for a pack of heretofore unproven running backs. Defensively, only linebackers Nick Singleton and Austin Oltman and defensive back Ben Moore are back. Conversely, experienced Cary-Grove returns most of its offense, including four-year lineman Michael Gomez (6-0, 170) at guard, Notre Dame-committed tackle Trevor Ruhland (6-4, 275) and center Scotty Topole (6-4, 240). Senior quarterback Jason Gregoire, fullback Tyler Pennington and running backs Matt Sutherland, Zach McQuade and Kevin Hughes all return. Pennington in 8 starts as a freshman rushed for 1,015 yards and 8 touchdowns in 176 attempts (5.8 avg.). "We have a lot of potential," said Gregoire, an all-area basketball player. "We've just been trying to get better every day and get ready for Week 1 to put ourselves in position to win."
Next week: Cary-Grove at Lake Zurich; Joliet Catholic at Wheaton North
Huntley (4-5) at Bartlett (3-6)
Where: today at 7:30 at Millennium Field
Last year: Huntley 22, Bartlett 12
Outlook: Both teams are eager to put the disappointment of missing last year's playoffs in the rearview mirror. Surviving this good nonconference matchup on Millennium Field's newly refurbished artificial surface would go a long way to bolstering the winner's playoff resume. Bartlett returns 14 starters, including seven players who started last year as sophomores. Directing the offense will be senior quarterback Jordan Flint, a starter since his sophomore season. The 52-percent passer threw for nearly 1,110 yards and 6 touchdowns as a junior. Also back are senior receivers Bryce Petty (Fordham) and Isaiah Cottman (16 rec.) and 6-5 tight end Jason Hasenberg. Featured running back Nolan Bernat and Streamwood transfer Travious Brown form a formidable backfield duo. The team's top college prospect is two-way lineman Kyle Sanft (6-4, 285). He and fellow junior defensive tackle Brian Yurik were both named all-Upstate Eight Valley last season. Linebackers Dan Danek and Mike Bucaro return. The secondary is fleet of foot, thanks to Petty, Cottman and Bernat. The Hawks will face a burgeoning Huntley program that has 248 players at all levels. "They're 8A and they have a ton of kids out," Bartlett coach Tom Meaney said of the Red Raiders. "They have the numbers and the excitement over there. Being at our home this time, we hope we can play our type of football a little better. I think we have much more experience this year. The kids aren't so young and they know what to expect in that first game. It was trying for some of them last year." Defense should be a Huntley strength, particularly a defensive line that returns starters Chase Burkart (6-0, 240), Zach Herbert (6-0, 260) and Jeremy Behnke (6-0, 250). The offense returns four offensive linemen but will be blocking for a new quarterback and new running backs. The team returns proven wide receivers Josh Esikiel (38 rec., 510 yards, 4 TD), speedster Brandon Altergott (16-424-7) and slot man Kyle Kesul (18-179-2). "We start off with a really, really good team in Bartlett," Huntley coach John Hart said. "Along with us, they know whoever wins that ballgame is going to be a good football team. We'll see what kind of character we have. If we win, we'll see how we handle it, if we want to be a lot better. If we don't play well or (the Hawks) play real well, we'll have to check our character level."
Next week: Elgin at Huntley; Bartlett at Notre Dame
South Elgin (3-6) at St. Charles East (6-4)
Where: today at 7:30 at Norris Stadium
Last year: St. Charles East 35, South Elgin 27
Outlook: The South Elgin football team plays the first of 3 straight road games to open a season in which they play at home only three times. The Storm aim for a better result than last year against the revamped Saints. First-year St. Charles East coach Bryce Farquhar takes over for Mike Fields, who resigned in March after five seasons. The new coach inherits three-year starting offensive lineman Brennan Bosch (6-0, 260), whose offers include Illinois, senior running back Ramon Lopez (439 yards, 6 TD) and receiver Morgan Flanigan (24 rec., 403 yards, 3 TD). On the other side of the ball for St. Charles East, just one lineman, one linebacker and one defensive back return to a defense that yielded 30 points per game in 2013. South Elgin aims for a better balance between the run and pass now that sprinter Shawn Griffin and pounder Kyle Ware are again healthy. They can take the heat off the new quarterback (either Hayden Nelson or Jake Amrhein). Proven senior receivers Nick Menken (36 rec., 675 yards, 11 TD) and Andrew Kamienski (26-368-3) are joined by 6-foot-2 junior Derek Kumerow. The defense hopes to improve after allowing 30.7 points and 312 total yards per game. Senior Colin Wood is back to pace the defensive backs, and junior linebacker Justin Nutof returns for his second varsity season. This is the second straight year the Saints and Storm have kicked off the season. It won't be the last if South Elgin can help it. "It's become a good rivalry," Storm coach Pat Pistorio said. "We're going to try to renew the contract with them. We're looking forward to, hopefully, establishing a tradition and playing them every year."
Next week: South Elgin at Crystal Lake South; St. Charles East at Jacobs
Streamwood (1-8) at Hoffman Estates (2-7)
Where: today at 7:30 p.m. at Garber Stadium
Last year: Hoffman Estates 28, Streamwood 20
Outlook: The Sabres aim to defeat the Hawks in a nonconference season opener for the third time in four seasons. Second-year Streamwood coach Mark Orszula said his team got stronger in the weight room and should be better able to compete at the line of scrimmage than it did a year ago. The Sabres have a new quarterback in 6-foot-5, 225-pound senior Max Draper and trusted returning receivers in all-Upstate Eight River selection Noah Polich (39 rec., 547 yards, 5 TD) and 6-4 senior Cole Segar (24-338-5). Running backs Tae Reetz and Nino Adkins are important two-way players who double as defensive backs alongside returning corner Jelyn Hill. Middle linebacker Jake Painter and lineman Jonah Exline also return. Nine starters return on each side of the ball for coach Mike Donatucci's Hawks. The Hoffman Estates offense averaged 9.9 points per game last year. Returning quarterback Jeff Mayes (458 yards passing, 359 rushing) is protected by three experienced linemen, led by Zack Clark (6-3, 265). Defensively, outside linebacker Gil Alicia switches to the middle for a defense that allowed 30 points per game a year ago. The Streamwood staff is respectful of the Hawks after seeing their scrimmage last week. "They're a very good football team," Orszula said. "You can see they've made big improvements from Year 1 to Year 2. They're going to be a great challenge."
Next week: Hoffman Estates at Hersey; Streamwood at Dundee-Crown
St. Edward (5-5) at Genoa-Kingston (5-5)
When: today at 7 p.m.
Last year: St. Edward 43, Genoa-Kingston 21
Outlook: St. Edward has won 6 straight season openers, the last 3 against Genoa-Kingston. G-K returns several key players from a 5-5 playoff team that finished second in the Big Northern East, but so does the Green Wave. Defensively, coach Mike Rolando's team welcomes back eight defensive starters in all, including tackle Kasey Cooke (6-0, 285), end Brandon Ostrander (6-4, 250) inside linebackers Chris Kelly and Jack Tierney and third-year safety Danny Favela (2 ints.). Quarterback Joe Mullen aims to improve on last year's line of 957 yards and 10 touchdowns on 58-of-120 passing. He can throw to tall receivers Nick Duffy (6-4), Danny Favela (6-3), Petey DeWindt (6-2) and Ostrander at tight end. The varsity roster has grown steadily from 19 players in 2012 to 24 in 2013 to 33 this year. The largest team St. Edward has fielded in 10 seasons gives the program something it has lacked for a decade: depth. "Having 33 is a big step up for us," Rolando said. "We've made the playoffs three of the last five years so we have kids coming through the program who don't remember when we used to be real bad. They expect us to be competitive and they want to be a part of it. They see the fun we have." The Cogs return senior quarterback Griffin McNeal, who last year, according to the DeKalb Chronicle, completed 55.1 percent of his passes for 1,199 yards and 13 scores. He threw 7 interceptions.
Next week: Chicago Clark at St. Edward; Genoa-Kingston at Byron
Luther North (5-5) at Westminster Christian (2-7)
Where: Saturday at 1 p.m. at Warrior Field
Last year: Luther North 44, Westminster Christian 26
Outlook: Year 2 of Westminster Christian varsity football begins with the first season opener on home turf. This team has some talented players who gained experience last season, but it has little depth. Several players on the roster of 22 will be counted on to play both ways, therefore, avoiding injuries is key to any improvement for the budding program. The offense returns all-Northeastern Athletic Conference receiver Scotty Graziano, who as a 145-pound freshman snagged 40 receptions for 694 yards and 6 touchdowns. He is the favorite target of senior quarterback Max Tucker (1,514 yards, 12 touchdowns). Sophomore Xavier Brown steps in as the featured running back. The team's strongest player is sophomore two-way lineman Isaac Hawn (6-foot-6, 260 pounds). Former Larkin coordinator Terry Schabert will call the defense with an eye toward wholesale improvement. Last year the Warriors surrendered 42.9 points per game. "We didn't always have people lined up in the right positions last year," coach John Davis said. "That's why we went out and got one of the best." Luther North is coming off back-to-back 5-5 seasons.
Next week: Westminster Christian at Mooseheart; Alden-Hebron at Luther North
McHenry (2-7) at Larkin (3-6)
Where: Saturday at Memorial Field, 1:15 p.m.
Last year: McHenry 30, Larkin 18
Outlook: This matinee marks the eighth straight season opener between these nonconference opponents. The Royals seek a more-favorable result against the Warriors in coach Dragan Teonic's debut; McHenry has won 3 straight meetings and 5 of 7 in the series. Larkin senior Cameron Tomlin will be the featured running back, though other talented young backs will also get touches. Athletic junior David Hibbler is among several promising wide receivers. Sophomore Elijah Hernandez is the team's new quarterback. The success of Larkin's many skill-position players ultimately depends on how well a mostly raw offensive line that returns only senior Ty Former (5-10, 268) jells. The Larkin defense is mostly young and inexperienced, so Teonic is more concerned with continuing to teach his players than breaking down the Warriors ad nauseam. "We just have to maximize what we have and do the best we can do," Teonic said. "That's all you can do. I know that sounds hokey, but I'm really just worried about coaching our team. Let's just get the most we can out of the Royals and we'll go from there. The kids are buying into getting better day by day. It's kind of fun to watch."
Next week: Vernon Hills at Larkin; Marian Central at McHenry