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Daily Herald's 2014 Season Coverage
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Article updated: 8/28/2014 10:00 PM
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Week 1 Tri-Cities previews
 

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Week 1 Tri-Cities previews

Senn at Aurora Christian

Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.

Story Continues Below

Last year: Did not play.

Outlook: No names, no numbers, no film, no scouting report. No matter. Although Aurora Christian coach David Beebe said, "I literally have nothing" on Senn football, we'll go out on a limb and say the Eagles, ranked No. 6 in Class 3A in The Associated Press' preseason poll, will not have much trouble in their season opener against this Chicago Public League team. Biased? No. Aurora Christian won its first two games last season, against CPL teams DuSable and Bronzeville, by a cumulative score of 122-0 -- and Bronzeville went on to make the playoffs. In 2012, the second of Aurora Christian's successive championship runs in Class 3A, the Eagles beat DuSable 48-0, though in the playoffs Raby scored twice in a 49-12 first-round loss. Aurora Christian beat Chicago Academy 48-0 in 2011. This will be a special game and an interesting one, especially at home. It is Beebe's first as a head coach after 10 years as defensive coordinator for his older brother, Don -- who stays on as offensive coordinator. And except for senior quarterback Austin Bray, who will be out to impress colleges right quick, no other player was a full-time starter last season, when the Eagles went 9-4 to reach the 3A semifinals. Gaining experience is a must, particularly for a player like receiver Jacolby Maxwell who didn't play as a junior. Besides, everyone starts 0-0. "It really doesn't matter who you play, you've got to play the same way every time," David Beebe said.

Next week: Momence at Senn, Sept. 5; Bronzeville at Aurora Christian, Sept. 5.

Aurora Central Catholic (0-0) at Wauwautosa East (Wis.) (0-1)

Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.

Last year: Did not play.

Outlook: Aurora Central Catholic repeatedly called to finalize details on Friday's scheduled season opener against Tilden. On Aug. 22 Chargers coach Brian Casey and ACC athletic director Sean Bieterman finally learned Tilden had only five football players in the program. Scrambling, ACC contacted all bordering state high school associations to land a Week 1 opponent. Only Wisconsin responded, Casey said, producing Wauwautosa East, which had an opening after its Week 2 foe bowed out. Chargers defensive coordinator John Belskis and defensive backs coach Dan Eul hastily drove north to scout East's season opener Aug. 22, against Wauwautosa West. The East Red Raiders, 3-6 in 2013, lost 42-7. The scoop was athletic three-year starting quarterback Jackson Telder operated a pro-style spread offense similar to what ACC has seen and will again this season. Defensively the Red Raiders were a gap-control unit not overly aggressive pressuring the quarterback. Line play is the area Casey is most concerned about entering the season. While neither top skilled athletes Matt Rahn at quarterback nor running back Brandon Babler played a down last season, Casey seeks to gauge his men up front. He's heartened by the size of 6-2, 330-pound Mikey Malawski, the experience of Chris Nilo and the physicality of 6-5, 240 Jeff Kus but Casey still questions the overall physicality of the Chargers' line play as the team goes from practice to game speed. "If we play physical I think we have a chance," Casey said, "but if we play soft I think not only is it going to be a difficult Friday night but a difficult year."

Next week: Aurora Central Catholic at Lisle, Sept. 5.

Oswego at Batavia

Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Last year: Did not play.

Outlook: The defending Class 6A state champion Bulldogs get back on their horse against a highly regarded outfit that a year ago went 9-3 and reached the 8A quarterfinals. Coach Brian Cooney's Panthers are rated 19th in the metropolitan area by "Edgy" Tim O'Halloran at CSNChicago.com -- two spots ahead of Batavia, which enters the season No. 11 in Daily Herald rankings. O'Halloran reported Oswego junior quarterback Steven Frank has early offers from Miami of Ohio, Illinois and Illinois State. Daily Herald stats of Geneva's 29-27 2013 opening day win over Oswego had Frank completing 7 of 15 passes for 151 yards, 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions -- and also that Oswego surrendered 337 passing yards, 4 touchdowns. (Batavia opened with a 29-26 win over Glenbard North, where the Bulldogs head next week.) Like Batavia's rein in the Upstate Eight River, Oswego has won the Southwest Prairie Conference the last three seasons. The presence of Frank and what Batavia coach Dennis Piron called a "solid" Oswego offensive line counters the heart of Batavia's defensive strength, that of returning all-conference defensive ends Josh Leonhard and Noah Frazier. Frazier's 13 sacks last season set a program record and Leonhard's 12 also surpassed the prior mark. Add linebackers Jake Hlava and Joe Gross and that's a lot of pressure and second-level skill Frank will be looking into. If Oswego's line can protect Frank, Batavia's secondary is the least-experienced part of its defense. Batavia intrigues offensively. As of Wednesday Piron had yet to name a starting quarterback (at least to this outlet) between senior Evan Acosta and junior Kyle Niemiec. Having graduated last year's signalcaller Micah Coffey as well as record-setting tailback Anthony Scaccia and top receiver Michael Moffatt, this essentially is a new group of skilled players. There is a core of great experience, however, a deep offensive line of Patrick Gamble, Mitch Krusz, Jack Breshears, Zach Tate, Zach Sims and so forth. One can picture Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Gaspari in his man cave concocting new plays and schemes; perhaps that'll happen, but behind this championship-caliber line Batavia may look to establish the run with new scatback Blake Crowder and power back Frazier while the quarterbacks get their feet wet.

Next week: Waubonsie Valley at Oswego, Sept. 5; Batavia at Glenbard North, Sept. 5.

Geneva at West Aurora

Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Last year: Did not play.

Outlook: A new and welcome game, as Geneva meets Upstate Eight newcomer West Aurora in a conference crossover. West Aurora coach Nate Eimer is really looking forward to this season, and that includes opening up against a Geneva program, and a coach in Rob Wicinski, he respects. "He's just a great guy to model your program around," Eimer said. Geneva, 7-3 last season, expects to vie for another playoff spot with leadership at the quarterback position in three-year starter and Northern Illinois-bound quarterback Daniel Santacaterina, size on the offensive line and defensive quickness paced by returners such as linebacker Wyatt Shodeen and all-conference nose tackle Stephen Kemp. The Vikings will test West Aurora's defense vertically, throwing to 6-6 Mike Landi and dynamo Pace Temple. The Vikings will also seek balance on the ground, sending little backs Liam Burns, Justin Nebel and Justin Taormina through a towering offensive line bookended by man-mountain tackles Ben Baker and Loudon Vollbrecht. As it is every year for West Aurora, the keys begin on the line of scrimmage. This will be a proving ground for a unit Eimer sees as a solid, experienced group of players headed offensively by Hayden Sak and Stephen Castellanos. On the other side of the ball, defensive linemen like 290-pound Sam Deisher must remain disciplined, which holds for the entire team including new full-time starting quarterback John Doyle. Blackhawks skill players such as DaQuan Cross and Drake Spears are every bit as athletic as a Temple or Taormina, and should they get the ball in space, watch out. (The same caution goes for West Aurora's special teams, which must remain vigilant against Wicinski's tendency to pull off onside kicks, fake punts, etc.) As important as the X's and O's will be mistakes and confidence. Geneva has it while West Aurora, coming off a 1-8 season, must claim it and go with the inevitable momentum shifts, as it returns to Upstate Eight play for the first time since 1996. "We're really focused on trying to be 1-0 and then we'll go from there," Eimer said.

Next week: Richards at Geneva, Sept. 5; West Aurora at Plainfield East, Sept. 5.

Brooks at Kaneland

Game time: 7:15 p.m. Friday.

Last year: Kaneland 27, Brooks 7.

Outlook: Originally scheduled for Gately Stadium on Chicago's South Side, this game has been moved to Kaneland to give the Knights three straight home games to open the season, and six overall. (Brooks will not field a sophomore team, so McHenry's is coming over to start the action.) Kaneland is 3-0 against this Chicago Public League team out of the Illini Land of Lincoln conference, but after winning 44-0 in 2011 the games have been tighter. Brooks, 9-3 last season, 8-3 in 2012 and a step up from many CPL teams, nearly had Kaneland beaten two years ago before the Knights rallied to a 25-24 win. With Leroy Magallanes taking over as Eagles head coach for Jason Richardson, Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly is not 100 percent sure what to expect. In the past Brooks had run a lot of spread offense. Along with 200-pound quarterback Eric Matthews, the Eagles offer athletic defenders like Jaleel Grandberry, Kenneth Riley Jr. and Khaliff Alao. "They have some pretty good athletes on that side of the ball that we're worried about," Fedderly said. Kaneland graduated nearly everyone who either ran or caught a ball against Brooks -- all but receiver Connor Fedderly, who caught 1 pass for 13 yards -- but speed remains Kaneland's game. As the Knights ran for 195 yards and led 23-0 late in the first half in 2013, running back Isaac Swithers should get every chance to start strong in his new role as No. 1 ground threat. This game will also bring junior quarterback Jake Marczuk up to varsity speed. In fact, it's a good game to break in Kaneland's large number of first-time varsity starters.

Next week: Simeon at Brooks, Sept. 6; Marshall at Kaneland, Sept. 5.

Marmion at Plainfield Central

Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.

Last year: Marmion 25, Plainfield Central 7.

Outlook: Seventeen-year Plainfield Central coach John Jackson has had some solid players come through in recent years, but when three other high schools open within the district, well, you can go 0-9 as the Wildcats did last season. However, the double-wing devotee did go 6-4 in 2012, and his body of work as well as his influence upon other coaches should land him in the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. As it was, last year three times Plainfield Central passes landed in the hands of returning Marmion defensive back Noel Abraham, among the 5 passes the Cadets intercepted. Senior Matt Gurke, who came on in relief last year for Plainfield Central, is a 6-foot-4 quarterback, targeting receivers Khamari Montgomery and Roger Thigpen. Marmion held returning back Akwasi Aikens to 11 yards on 8 carries a year ago. The Cadets, on the other hand, ran for 376 yards and all of it without Jordan Glasgow. Marmion's star-crossed star again won't be in the lineup for a season opener after July knee surgery. But fullback Lucas Warren did, running for 94 yards, and he'll head a new group of backs in this opener. Marmion coach Dan Thorpe said his team's offense is ahead of the defense at this point due to graduation losses. In 2013 Marmion held Plainfield Central to 43 yards on the ground and 130 total, so there's the benchmark.

Next week: Ottawa at Marmion, Sept. 5; St. Charles North at Plainfield Central, Sept. 5.

South Elgin at St. Charles East

Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Last year: St. Charles East 35, South Elgin 27.

Outlook: This should be a crackerjack game between Upstate Eight Conference crossover foes each seeking a quick start toward a playoff season. It's also seven-year St. Charles East program assistant Bryce Farquhar's first game as Saints varsity head coach, but he's over that. "It might be my first, but to a lot of other people it's not theirs. We're just ready to go," he said. Given that second-year South Elgin coach Pat Pistorio is a former receiver for the Storm, one could believe this will be a pass-first operation, but Farquhar anticipates his defense will face a balanced offense. South Elgin, which beat St. Charles East on the sophomore level last season, offers returning receiver Nick Menken, who caught 11 touchdown passes and rang up 675 yards receiving. He'll look to one of two quarterbacks who may take snaps, Hayden Nelson and Jack Amrhein. The Storm also features running backs Kyle Ware and Shawn Griffin. Last year St. Charles East led 22-0 at halftime before South Elgin, uh, stormed back and scored 20 points in the fourth quarter. The Saints threw for 266 yards but that was with graduated Jimmy Mitchell throwing 33 times; Farquhar had yet to announce his starting quarterback, a competition apparently narrowed down to senior Kyle Cook and junior Aiden Wright. The top returning receiver for the Saints, Mo Flanigan, caught 3 passes for 34 yards and a touchdown against South Elgin, while returning running back Ramon Lopez led the Saints with 45 yards rushing on 14 carries. Most of St. Charles East's experience returns on the offensive line, so it's possible Lopez could be busy. Farquhar looks forward to displaying what this team has been doing since he took over: "go out and execute the way we should and perform to our best."

Next week: South Elgin at Crystal Lake South, Sept. 5; St. Charles East at Jacobs, Sept. 5.

Elk Grove at St. Charles North

Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Last year: Elk Grove 23, St. Charles North 22 (OT).

Outlook: Paraphrasing St. Charles North coach Rob Pomazak, there were a couple games during his first season as a varsity head coach he might like to have back. If this is one of them, the reality is he had the North Stars in position to win. Against the program for which Pomazak had been defensive coordinator returning defensive end Jordan Bergren's fumble recovery and an onside kick and recovery helped St. Charles North score twice in the last 47 seconds to force overtime. Elk Grove prevailed, and this is a chance to make amends. The Grenadiers -- 6-4 last season to St. Charles North's 5-4 -- has size up front but so does St. Charles North. If Elk Grove's 6-3, 290-pound junior left tackle Daniel Dalenberg goes up against St. Charles North's 6-3, 292-pound sophomore defensive tackle Sam Ambrogio, well, duck. But this is also about foot speed and quickness and in the North Stars' new featured back Dom Sidari, Pomazak thinks he has that. A "legit" sub-4.5 sprinter, Sidari might get the lions' share of the calls as the North Stars look to establish the ground game behind team captain Brendan McCarthy on the line. That's also because St. Charles North is starting a new varsity quarterback in Kyle Novotney, though the 6-foot junior was a winner on the sophomore level and in youth-league ball. According to Daily Herald correspondent Dick Quagliano, as of Wednesday Elk Grove coach Larry Calhoun had yet to name a starting quarterback. The Grenadiers also graduated their top running backs, though receiver Matt Wary is back after 41 catches for 435 yards. Again it could be anyone's game and, in a close contest, St. Charles North cannot repeat last year's 15 penalties for 128 yards.

Next week: Barrington at Elk Grove, Sept. 5; St. Charles North at Plainfield Central, Sept. 5.

Burlington Central at Hampshire

Where: today at Hampshire Athletic Field, 7:15 p.m.

Last year: Hampshire 41, Burington 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 until the Whip-Purs won the 2013 get together by 24 points. Hampshire enters this game with an entirely new offense under first-year coach Mike Brasile, who has installed the spread. The Whips have the right man 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 to 6-4 receiver Brendan Bushy. Central coach Rich Crabel likes playing the school'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

Huntley at Bartlett

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 behind them. 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. As a junior the 52-percent passer threw for nearly 1,110 yards and 6 touchdowns. 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 and the secondary is fleet of foot, thanks to Petty, Cottman and Bernat. The Hawks will face a burgeoning Huntley program that has ? 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." 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).

Menomonie, Wis. vs. St. Francis

Game time: 4 p.m. Friday, Middleton High School in Madison, Wis.

The quick hit: First-year coach Mike Fitzgerald unfurls St. Francis' new schemes. He ran a spread at Marist, but expect senior running back Steven Fassnacht to also hit the ground running while quarterbacks Clint Bobowski and Nick Dama get their feet wet.

Walther Christian at Wheaton Academy

Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.

The quick hit: All the pieces are in place for a spectacular opener at the West Chicago campus. Performance Trust Field debuts, allowing the Warriors to be a true "home" team for the first time since the program, revived in 2007, was discontinued in 1989.

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