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Week 1 football previews / Lake County
 

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Week 1 football previews / Lake County

By Joe Aguilar and Patricia Babcock McGraw

jaguilar@dailyherald.com and pbabcock@dailyherald.com

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Lyons (5-5) at Warren (7-4)

When: 7:30 p.m., tonight

Last year: Warren def. Lyons, 42-35 (3OT)

Skinny: It took some time, three overtimes, to be exact, but Warren finally got past Lyons in the season opener last season. The Blue Devils are hoping for a shorter night on their own field, and will look to get the ball into the hands of wide receiver Caleb Reams, who is capable of making quick work of most defenses. Reams has committed to the University of Illinois and has been developing nice chemistry with new quarterback Jay Nickell. Nickell was the backup last year to his older brother, Andrew. Lyons also has some college prospects in quarterback Tommy Fiedler and running back Leonard Ross. Meanwhile, the Lions have a lot of new faces on defense and Warren returns only two starters on offense.

-- Patricia Babcock McGraw

Fremd (6-4) at Lake Zurich (12-2)

When: 7:30 p.m., tonight

Last year: Lake Zurich def. Fremd, 24-0.

Skinny: The Lake Zurich defense set the bar high last season by shutting out a formidable Fremd team in the season opener. It was one of four shutouts for the Bears, who allowed just 9.1 points per game last season. "We got (Fremd) early, but by the middle of the season, they were playing much better. And they have a lot of really good players returning from that team," Lake Zurich coach Dave Proffitt said. "They've got a big team on the line and they are very aggressive." Fremd's line features nothing but 6-footers who weigh an average of more than 250 pounds apiece. Lake Zurich will be battling not only Fremd's size but also its own inexperience. The Bears return just five of 22 starters, which gives them their most inexperienced team in almost a decade. Veteran running backs Ben Klett and Zane Lodico will get a lot of reps, especially as the newer players catch up.

-- Patricia Babcock McGraw

Libertyville (4-5) at Palatine (4-5)

When: 7:30 p.m., tonight

Last year: Palatine def. Libertyville, 25-7.

Skinny: It's possible a poor showing against Palatine set the tone last season for Libertyville, which missed the playoffs after two straight appearances. The Wildcats were plagued by mistakes in the season opener. "We had turnovers and a lack of execution on offense," Libertyville coach Mike Jones said of last year's Palatine game. "We really struggled and we put our defense in some bad situations. We can't do that this year." Libertyville brings back seven starters on offense and is excited about the potential of dynamic quarterback Riley Lees, a junior who can do a little bit of everything. After its strong start against Libertyville, Palatine also finished 4-5 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006. The good news is that the Pirates return quarterback Nick Orlando, who rolled up more than 1,200 total yards, nearly 1,000 of which came through the air.

-- Patricia Babcock McGraw

Kenosha Indian Trail (7-2) at Stevenson (10-3)

When: 7:30 p.m., tonight

Last year: Kenosha Indian Trail def. Stevenson, 15-14.

Skinny: Would the real Stevenson please stand up? The Patriots felt like they didn't show their true colors in last year's disappointing upset loss in Kenosha. "We're looking to show them this year what the Patriots are really all about," Stevenson coach Bill McNamara said. "They are a very good team and would fit well in our conference. But we made so many mistakes last year." Stevenson was hampered by seven turnovers, many of which came on snaps after its starting center went down with a broken leg. If the Patriots can take care of the football, their offense should be able to do some damage. Back is speedy receiver Cameron Green, who has committed to Northwestern. He'll be targeted frequently by veteran quarterback Willie Bourbon, who has thrown for 2,000-plus yards in each of the last two seasons. Bourbon has committed to Northwestern for baseball. Take away the pass and Stevenson can run at you with senior running back Jack Joseph, who rushed for nearly 900 yards last season. Kenosha Indian Trail already has a game under its belt. The Hawks defeated Plymouth of Wisconsin last week, 27-19.

-- Patricia Babcock McGraw

Mundelein (1-8) at Wheeling (2-7)

When: 7:30 p.m., tonight

Last year: Mundelein def. Wheeling, 29-22.

Skinny: Mundelein's only win last year came against Wheeling. The Mustangs are hoping to duplicate that result and then add to it. "We're really excited. We believe we can win some games this season," Mundelein coach George Kaider said. "It's a tough game against Wheeling because you're not just playing Wheeling, you're playing a Brent Pearlman team and that means it's a very well-coached team." Pearlman, a close friend of Kaider's, won multiple state championships at Prospect and is now in his third season at Wheeling. The Wildcats haven't qualified for the playoffs since 2008, but optimism is high this season with the return of Isaac branch, one of the best running backs in the Mid-Suburban League. He rushed for nearly 1,000 yards last season. Amani Dennis also returns at quarterback after rolling up nearly 1,200 yards last season, about 860 of which came through the air. Meanwhile, Mundelein will start a fairly new face at quarterback. Junior Colten Fisher was a safety last season but was asked to play quarterback for the Mustangs' season finale. He passed for 232 yards and ran for another 100 yards in that game against Lakes. Mundelein boasts some size on the line as well as experienced skill position players in running back Rob Hamilton and wide receiver Jake Buscher. Meanwhile, eight starters return to the Mundelein defense.

-- Patricia Babcock McGraw

Fenton (6-4) at Grayslake Central (4-5)

When: 7:15 p.m., tonight

Last year: Grayslake Central def. Fenton, 29-8.

Skinny: Grayslake Central earned its win at Fenton last year the hard way. Major storms swept through the Chicago area during Opening Night last season and some games were canceled and moved to Saturday. The Grayslake Central-Fenton game was one of them, but the game was canceled on Friday only after the players sat around and waited for three hours for the official decision. The Rams then had to ride all the way home, got to bed late and then had to be back the next day. "It was a tough weekend, but we were still able to have some success against (Fenton)," said first-year Grayslake Central coach Jason Schaal, who was the offensive and defensive line coach last year. "They've got a big team but with our speed, we should be able to hit the edge and take advantage of that." Much of Grayslake Central's speed comes from running backs Cameron Schwartz and DeJuan Ali, both of whom were on relay teams for the track team last spring. Junior quarterback Luke Shepherd has also looked good in transitioning to varsity starter. Fenton is about to reap the rewards of bringing up eight sophomores two years ago. Those eight players are all experienced seniors now and ready to help the Bison qualify for the playoffs for the second straight year. Quarterback Willie Wassmann is one of those seasoned veterans. He passed for 15 touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards last season. Running backs Kyle McPherson and Matt Lucas are Fenton's big threats on the ground.

-- Patricia Babcock McGraw

Lakes (8-2) at Grayslake North (7-3)

When: 7:15 p.m., tonight

Last year: Grayslake North def. Lakes, 49-39.

Skinny: Because many Lakes and Grayslake North students go to middle school together at Palombi in Lake Villa, athletic contests between the two high schools often has a rivalry feel. But there's an old adage about how a rivalry isn't really a rivalry until both sides have won games. Well, now it's official. This is a rivalry. Last year, Grayslake North won in football for the first time ever in this series, which has been running for about the last five years. "I don't think they expected to lose to us," Grayslake North coach Steve Wood said of Lakes. "I think they're going to be (extra) hungry this year. They will bring their A-game this year. The place is going to be packed for this game." Grayslake North is loaded again on offense, and will likely continue to score at breakneck speed. Quarterback Merrick Gentile and running back Titus Booker, who committed to Indiana, are the headliners and will again get most of the reps. The Knights also boast plenty of size on the line, starting with 6-foot-6, 310-pound senior Dan Krajewski. Lakes, which won the North Suburban Conference Prairie Division with a perfect 6-0 record, is also a juggernaut again. Back is Ethan Sage, who played half the season at quarterback after starter T.J. Edwards (now at Wisconsin) went down with an injury. Sage will be one of four quarterbacks Lakes could use under center. Jake Balliu, a three-sport star, is one of the other top candidates. Like Grayslake North, Lakes also features a Division I recruit. Two-way lineman Ryan Mullen committed to Miami of Ohio.

-- Patricia Babcock McGraw

Kenosha Tremper (4-5) at Antioch (5-5)

When: 7:30 p.m., today

Last year's result: Kenosha Tremper won 29-26.

Skinny: The Sequoits seek revenge against the Trojans after suffering a heartbreaking loss in last year's season opener. Antioch looks to build off last season, which saw the Sequoits win their last three regular-season games to secure an at-large playoff berth. Senior quarterback Alan Taylor and senior two-way lineman Jon Haeffele begin their third season as varsity starters. Taylor, who played running back last season, and junior running back Griffin Hill both earned all-conference honors in 2013.

-- Joe Aguilar

Grant (3-6) at Crystal Lake Central (8-2)

When: 7:30 p.m., today

Last year's result: Crystal Lake Central won 29-15.

Skinny: Grant will have a new head coach on the sideline for the first time since 2006, as Vito Andriola replaces Kurt Rous, who stepped down following last season to spend more time with his young family. As Dundee-Crown's coach the last three seasons, Andriola did not face Fox Valley Conference foe Crystal Lake Central since the teams played in different divisions. Andriola, who took D-C to the playoffs last season, inherited a pair of all-conference players in quarterback Spencer Lhotka and running back Jeremy Bredwood. Crystal Lake Central won the FVC Fox with a 6-0 record last season. The Tigers graduated prolific QB Kyle Lavand but return star wide receiver Jack Ortner (79 receptions, 11 TDs in 2013) and 1,000-yard rusher Ryan Williams, who scored 16 TDs last season. Matt DeCoste, a 5-9 senior, takes over at QB.

-- Joe Aguilar

DePaul College Prep (3-6) at Round Lake (1-8)

When: 7:30 p.m., today

Last year's result: Gordon Tech won 27-16.

Skinny: Jordan Eder begins his second year as head coach, and the 26-year-old is feeling more comfortable with a year under his belt. His Panthers were competitive against DePaul College Prep (formerly Gordon Tech) in their 2013 season opener. Eder encouraged his players to run track in the spring, and the Panthers could see their improved speed pay off this season. The offense has a pair of proven playmakers in quarterback Cole Steger and running back Chris Perry. DePaul College Prep is coming off consecutive 3-6 seasons. The school changed its name from Gordon Tech this summer. The Rams boast a big-time player in senior defensive lineman Raequan Williams (6-5, 280), who's receiving plenty of interest from D-I schools.

-- Joe Aguilar

Vernon Hills (3-6) at DeKalb (5-5)

When: 7:30 p.m., today

Last year's result: DeKalb won 25-10.

Skinny: Bill Bellecomo's debut as head coach was tough in more ways than one last year. The Cougars not only lost to the Barbs, but lost quarterback Jordan Freibrun to a season-ending injury in the fourth quarter of the season opener. Connor McNamara was thrust into the starting-QB job as a sophomore and started the Cougars' remaining eight games. Bellecomo said Thursday that McNamara will start tonight after receiving good competition in camp from sophomore Kyle Hall. Speedy Richard Clark and Kyle Thomas, both of whom play both running back and linebacker, also return along with defensive tackle Steve Didier and wide receivers Kiwanne Durant and Andres Salazar. With 5 wins last year, DeKalb's Barbs went to the playoffs for just the fifth time in their history.

-- Joe Aguilar

Wauconda (4-5) at Woodstock North (1-8)

When: 7:15 p.m., today

Last year's result: Wauconda won 16-13.

Skinny: Wauconda barely won the first meeting in school history between the two teams last season. The Bulldogs will look to duplicate last year's result with an offense that returns junior quarterback Kevin Malisheski (929 passing yards in 2013) and senior wide receiver Josh Anderson (28 receptions, 7 TDs in 2013). Junior linebacker Grant Rodgers, who begins his third season on varsity, leads a young defense. Woodstock North comes off a disappointing season after back-to-back 7-win seasons in 2011 and 2012. The Thunder return senior fullback Jordan Plummer, who rushed for nearly 700 yards last season.

-- Joe Aguilar

Fenwick (10-3) at Carmel (2-7)

When: 7:30 p.m., today

Last year's result: Teams did not play each other.

Skinny: Carmel is coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons (5 wins total) and back-to-back season openers against state power Lincoln-Way East. Fenwick will provide another quality opening-night opponent. The Friars ousted Hersey in Round 1 of the Class 7A state playoffs last year, before losing a one-point game to Wheaton North in the second round. Since then, they've added one of the best quarterbacks in the state in Jack Beneventi (6-6, 210), who transferred from Benet after throwing for 3,800 yards and 27 TDs last season. Fenwick's roster also includes junior QB Gavin Graves, who started for Mundelein the last two years. Carmel will look offensively to senior quarterback Michael Huiras, who engineered the Corsairs' Week-9 upset of Notre Dame last year, and sophomore fullback Rondel Jamison. The O-line features junior Sean Foster (6-7, 270), who's received 11 D-I offers, and junior tight end Noah Turner (6-3, 241), who's also a major-college prospect.

-- Joe Aguilar

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