By David Oberhelman and Kevin Schmit
Bishop McNamara at IC Catholic Prep
Game time: 7:15 p.m. Friday.
Last year: Bishop McNamara 49, IC Catholic 32; Bishop McNamara 42, IC Catholic 14 (Class 3A semifinals).
Outlook: After last year's semifinal at Plunkett Park, McNamara beat Tolono Unity 50-7 to win the Class 3A title. Now The Associated Press ranks Bishop Mac and IC Nos. 1 and 4, respectively, in 3A. Coach Rich Zinanni, with the Fightin' Irish a whopping 42 years, graduated quarterback Kobe Shutter, star running back Jonathan Ward and linebacker-fullback Jerrico Johnson but returns left-side linemen Brandon Lowe and standout Dylan Deatherege. Also back is receiver Chris Bell, who caught 34 passes for 881 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior. Plus, ICCP coach Bill Krefft noticed a lot of lower-level talent at the skill positions. His Knights have a lot of skill as well with featured back Jordan Rowell and Lazerick Eatmen plus smart quarterback Luke Ricobene. IC has lost the last two openers against McNamara, plus the semifinal, and a faster start is key. Linebackers Khali Saunders, Matt Jordan and Kemon Reese will slide from up the gut to off the edge against the stout Irish front.
Next week: Bolingbrook at Bishop McNamara; IC Catholic at St. Laurence.
Glenbard North at Naperville Central DuPage Valley Conference
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Last year: Naperville Central 13, Glenbard North 12.
Outlook: The DVC race gets off to a blazing start. Last season Glenbard North surrendered a 12-7 fourth-quarter lead to the defending conference champions, but returning Panthers tailback Vittorio Tricase had a huge game with 125 yards rushing, 84 receiving and touchdowns both ways. The ground game is Glenbard North's strength, though three-year starting quarterback Shane Conway looks to gain momentum, surrounded by such athletes as Northwestern-bound Jace James. It's a tremendous opening test for a Naperville Central defense that figures to be the strength of the team. Luke Turner, who holds several college offers, could play at any level of the defense but he'll be counted on for run support. Linebackers Laddie Skarecky and Troy Hudetz obviously will be key to that effort along with lineman Joe Gannon. The offense got an off-season overhaul, with Pat Ryan taking over at quarterback and junior A.J. Deinhart stepping in at running back.
Next week: Waubonsie Valley at Glenbard North; Naperville Central at Neuqua Valley.
Glenbard West at Bolingbrook
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.
Last year: Glenbard West 28, Bolingbrook 7.
Outlook: A great game last year looks even better this season. The Hilltoppers, last year's Class 7A champion, is a state-caliber team again but for different reasons. The defense is lightning quick with the return of Jackson Goleash, switching from linebacker to safety, and linebackers Chris Langan, Mark Mattson and Eric Samuta. With Dionte Moorehead back on the defensive line and Justice Bradley in the secondary, the Hilltoppers have every level covered in the defense. Who fills the shoes of graduated running back Sam Brodner, now at Wisconsin? It could be a few players, including returner D.J. Ficarella and Dre Thomas. You'll also see Goleash and Moorehead in the backfield. As always -- and despite the graduation of Tuf Borland, now at Ohio State -- Bolingbrook is loaded with college-level talent. Receiver Kendall Smith is committed to Illinois and defensive end Izayah Green-May is headed to Wisconsin. Both teams might use multiple quarterbacks.
Next week: Glenbard West at Hinsdale South; Bolingbrook at Bishop McNamara.
Montini at Maine South
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.
Last year: Montini 20, Maine South 17.
Outlook: Montini is 2-1 in openers against the Hawks, countering a 36-35 meltdown loss in 2014 with last season's win on returning kicker Michael Cooney's 31-yard field goal. Cooney notched 2 field goals in that game and Maine South's returning specialist Sean McNulty booted 3. Perpetual Central Suburban South leader Maine South graduated four-year starting quarterback Brian Collis but returns running back Fotis Kokosioulis and receiver Matt Holbrook from last year's 8-3 squad. The Hawks also bring 6-foot-5, 340-pound Michigan State-bound lineman Kevin Jarvis, No. 4 in Illinois' senior class according to Rivals.com. Jarvis is sure to fire up Montini's intense, 295-pound two-way lineman Joe Spivak. Running back Prince Walker, a Western Michigan recruit, ran for 98 yards and a touchdown, and Purdue-bound cornerback-receiver Mitch West scored on a 50-yard pass. Montini coach Chris Andriano would like to further explore that option with new quarterback Brad Norgle.
Next week: Lake Zurich at Montini; Maine South at Loyola.
Wheaton Warrenville South at Wheaton North
DuPage Valley Conference
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Last year: WW South 10, Wheaton North 7 (OT).
Outlook: Neither team qualified for the playoffs last season, making this chapter of the cross-town game much more important. Given what awaits on the schedule, a strong start is key for both sides. The Tigers bring immense confidence after a successful summer, but how will that success translate into the season? Their offense should be improved with quarterback Matt Dohse behind center, but the key is to avoid the injuries of last season. An undersized, inexperienced defense includes linebacker Jack Farley and defensive back Drew Polezoes, both returners. Last year's overtime loss to the Tigers basically cost Wheaton North a playoff berth, so expect a little extra motivation to win. Wheaton North returns a third-year starting quarterback in Luke Anthony, who last season threw for 1,735 yards. The defensive strength clearly comes from the corps of linebackers: Nevada-bound Danny Walker, Erik Mueller and Bo Neidballa, who also pitched in last season at running back.
Next week: Lake Park at WW South; Joliet Catholic at Wheaton North.
The Rest of the Best
American Fork (Utah) at Hinsdale CentralGame time: 7 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: An unusual opener for the Red Devils, but when American Fork came looking for an out-of-state trip, they responded. Columbia-bound quarterback Josh Bean, a part-time starter last season, takes over Hinsdale Central's lightning-quick offense.
Downers Grove South at Homewood-FlossmoorGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: After giving up 56 points last year, the Mustangs face an H-F team ranked fourth in The Associated Press 8A rankings. Quarterback Matt Greenwald and running back-receiver Blake Freko must keep the Vikings' offense off the field.
Fenton at Leyden Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Fenton has a surplus of backs who look to help improve upon the 89 points it scored all last season, including a 42-7 opening loss to the Eagles. The surplus extends to quarterback, where D.J. Kelly and Kyle Cacioppo bring diverse abilities.
Glenbard South at Addison TrailGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: As a sophomore Raiders quarterback Jack Crouch threw for 18 touchdowns to only 7 interceptions. He's since added polish. The Blazers don't want to rely on two-way play, but it's tough to keep Darrion Conrad and Nick D'Ambrose on the sideline.
Hinsdale South at ProspectGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: This is a new season opener for the Hornets, who are hoping to start on a similar path as last year's run to the 6A semifinals. They have a pair of strong options at quarterback in Brian Rudolph and junior Justin Kolzow, an Oswego East transfer.
Lake Forest at Glenbard EastGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: This is a mystery foe for Glenbard East, but a good one; Lake Forest has reached at least the second round of the 6A playoffs each of the last six years. The Rams are new in skill spots, but there's buzz about sophomore quarterback Bret Bushka.
Lake View at WestmontGame time: 7 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Westmont aims for a third straight opening win after beating Chicago Christian in 2014 and 2015. That Brenton Baldwin will pass the ball is a given. The Sentinels also seek to establish the running game led by Robbie Russo and lineman Josh Thime.
Lisle at SandwichGame time: 7 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Sandwich coach Chris VanDyke, former Naperville Central assistant and Immaculate Conception coach, returns quarterback Justin Sartori and running back Zach Bosek. Lions linebacker Mark Pivek will attempt to make them uncomfortable.
Lockport at Downers Grove NorthGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Like last season, Downers North knows it needs a victory to aid its playoff hopes. It'll be interesting to see how much the Trojans, who return running back Drew Shelly, throw the ball with the quarterback tandem of Nick Taviani and Jack Carr.
Metea Valley at Neuqua ValleyGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Metea seeks its first win over this DuPage Valley Conference and District 204 rival. Tailback Alonzo Taylor-Jones will follow big tackle Bryce Effner, but that heads into Neuqua strengths -- lineman Tommy Ciesla, linebacker Anthony Ippolito.
Naperville North at SandburgGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: The Huskies' chance at redemption from last season's disappointment finally begins. Expect the offense to be explosive with returning quarterback Luke Cegles, running backs Eric Wright and Matt Montgomery and a crew of quality receivers.
New Trier at YorkGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: With John Chrisman, Chuck Walsh, Ron Graziano and Cal Widener all returning to the offensive line, the Dukes will break in junior quarterback Charlie Pakenas slowly. Expect a power run game from Keith Freeman and a few other experienced backs.
St. Francis at GenevaGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: A great opener for the Spartans and new coach Joe Lepsche, facing wily Geneva coach Rob Wicinski. The Vikings don't return much at all but their traditional tailback-led offense will challenge Greg Bogdanski and an overall fresh St. Francis squad.
St. Laurence at BenetGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Before treading into the ESCC, the Redwings take on the Vikings -- ranked 10th in the 6A Associated Press poll -- out of the Chicago Catholic League. Benet's offense will hit the ground running with third-year quarterback Jack Sznajder.
Waubonsie Valley at Lake ParkGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Junior Tanner Westwood, an exciting slotback last season, makes his first varsity start as the Warriors quarterback. Lake Park has similar high hopes for its new varsity quarterback, junior Jackson Behles, who improved throughout the summer.
Wheaton Academy at West ChicagoGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Sophomore Ben Thorson grabs the reins as Wheaton Academy's quarterback, assisted by strength on the line. West Chicago's Zach Stefan had some reps for West Chicago. Speaking of strength, Wildcats senior back Trey Lally goes 6-foot-4, 200.
Willowbrook at Grayslake NorthGame time: 7:15 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: A new opener for the Warriors, who lost last year's first game and didn't make the playoffs as a five-win team. Plenty of returners remember that disappointment, starting with defensive back-receiver Jon Kelso and running back-linebacker Jack Jessen.