Jacobs (7-3, 3-2) at Huntley (10-1, 5-0)
Fox Valley Conference
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Last year: Huntley 22, Jacobs 19
Outlook: Defending league champion Huntley opens a new era under first-year coach Matt Zimolzak against the team that gave the Red Raiders their toughest Fox Valley Conference game a year ago. That game wasn't decided until Huntley batted down a final desperation pass from Jacobs quarterback Chris Katrenick inside the 10-yard line as time ran out. Katrenick, committed to Bowling Green, had a rough game against Huntley last season, partly due to conditions. Playing in a 20-mph wind, he completed 17 of 51 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown. Katrenick must be wary of Huntley's veteran defensive ends, Olalere Oladipo (39 tackles, 4 sacks) and Caleb Jones (38 tackles, 5 sacks). Huntley quarterback Eric Mooney is explosive. He scored 16 rushing touchdowns in 76 attempts last season, including a 15-yard score against Jacobs. That's a touchdown every 4.75 carries.
Next week: Dundee-Crown at Jacobs; Huntley at Prairie Ridge
Prairie Ridge (11-2, 6-0-) at Cary-Grove (11-2, 4-1)
Fox Valley Conference
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Last year: Cary-Grove 21, Prairie Ridge 14
Outlook: Two top contenders for the Fox Valley Conference crown meet in the season opener for the second straight season. It's a titanic clash between successful, veteran teams led by their respective superstars. Cary-Grove senior linebacker/fullback Tyler Pennington is a two-time all-state selection who led the Trojans to a Class 7A semifinal last season by rushing for 1,433 yards and 24 touchdowns and making 43 tackles. Prairie Ridge junior quarterback Samson Evans is an all-state pick who led the Wolves to a Class 6A semifinal last season by rushing for nearly 2,000 yards and 29 touchdowns and throwing for over 700 yards and 9 touchdowns. "Evans is so explosive," Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. "He has the ability to beat you on any one play. You have to be right so often with a guy like that who can break the game wide open. He has the ability to make a big play at any moment."
Next week: Huntley at Prairie Ridge; Cary-Grove at McHenry
South Elgin (9-2) at St. Charles East (4-5)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Last year: South Elgin 28, St. Charles East 6
Outlook: These nearby Upstate Eight Conference teams meet in a nonconference season opener for the fourth straight year. South Elgin has won the last two meetings, thus the Saints hope to click right from the start. This time last season they were still adjusting to the installation of a new 3-3-5 defense and a triple-option offense. The offense returns quarterback Zach Mitchell, receiver Justin Galante and wingback Dante Macaluso, all seniors. South Elgin coach Pat Pistorio said two of his quarterbacks will play in this game: juniors Nate Gomez and Nate Smith. Gomez played against the Saints last season and completed 4 of 6 passes for 52 yards and rushed for 19. South Elgin won that game by winning the turnover battle 3-1. That helped the Storm withstand a 94-yard, 11-play fourth-quarter drive directed by Mitchell that cut the lead to 14-6 with 5:01 left. South Elgin outgained the Saints 472 yards to 205. "I feel with what they have coming back and from what we saw of them over the summer, they are definitely a playoff contender," Pistorio said. "They have a ton back and they have some talent. It's going to be an absolute war."
Next week: South Elgin at Lockport; St. Charles East at East Aurora
St. Francis (5-4) at Geneva (9-2)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Outlook: Two teams in search of new identities square off in a nonconference game at Burgess Field. The Vikings are young and inexperienced. Geneva will field new players at every position. Only one Geneva player expected to start was in the starting lineup a year ago -- Lance Arni -- but he is switching positions from defensive back to tailback. St. Francis ushers in a new regime. Coach Joe Lepsche, formerly at Division III University of St. Thomas, takes over for Mike Fitzgerald, now a teacher and assistant coach at Naperville North. Senior linebacker Greg Bogdanski is a returning all-Chicago Catholic League Green selection after leading the Spartans with 70 tackles. Nolan Pechan (7 TDs) is the featured ball carrier. "We've played them in the past and they absolutely ripped us so we have a tremendous amount of respect for their program," Geneva coach Rob Wicinski said.
Next week: Geneva at Kaneland; St. Viator at St. Francis
Elgin (0-9) at East Aurora (1-8)
Upstate Eight crossover
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Aurora Christian.
Outlook: Each of these teams hungers to shake off the struggles of recent years by opening this season with a confidence-building win against a similar program. How similar? Since 2011, East Aurora is 2-43 with one of those wins coming against Elgin in 2013. Elgin is 3-42 over the same span, including a win against East Aurora in 2012. Second-year Elgin coach Anthony Mason believes his team is taking steps toward developing into the program he envisions it can be. The former NIU defensive back looks for his first win as a head coach. He has high expectations of athletes like versatile ball carrier Shareick Morris, who has 4.4 speed, and hard-running junior Dae'Vion Arthur. This game is being played at Aurora Christian because East Aurora's home Stadium is being demolished and rebuilt. It is slated to reopen in 2017 with a synthetic turf field and an eight-lane track
Next week: Elgin at Mundelein; St. Charles East at East Aurora
Hampshire (6-4, 4-2) at Dundee-Crown (2-7, 1-4)Game time: 7 p.m. Friday
Outlook: Due to Fox Valley Conference contraction, these District 300 high schools find themselves in direct competition for the first time.
Next week: Burlington Central at Hampshire; Dundee-Crown at Jacobs
McHenry (1-8, 0-5) at Crystal Lake South (5-5, 2-3)Game time: 7 p.m. Friday
Last year: Crystal Lake South 24, McHenry 21
Outlook: This is a pivotal game for the Gators' long-term playoff hopes. A win against the Warriors, who finished last in the FVC Valley a year ago, is a must if CL South is to return to the postseason. New McHenry coach Nat Zunkel makes his debut.
Next week: Cary-Grove at McHenry, Crystal Lake South at Crystal Lake Central
Westminster Christian (6-4, 5-3) at Mooseheart (0-9, 0-8)Game time: 7 p.m. Friday
Last year: Westminster Christian 60, Mooseheart 0
Outlook: The Warriors look to take the first step toward securing their second straight playoff berth. The 19-man roster is led by returning quarterback Tannor Park, wide receiver Scotty Graziano and running back Xavier Brown. "You never know how good they might be year to year," Westminster coach John Davis said of Mooseheart. "We've seen them go from horrible to undefeated so we can't take them lightly."
Next week: Chicago Hope Academy at Westminster Christian; Rockford Christian Life at Mooseheart
Batavia (10-2) at Belleville West (5-5)Game time: 7 p.m. Friday
Outlook: After rolling 278 miles downstate on a bus, the Bulldogs hope to keep rolling behind the biggest offensive line in program history. Both teams were knocked out of the Class 7A playoffs last year by Cary-Grove.
Next week: Batavia at Libertyville; Belleville West vs. Lincoln-Way East (at Illinois Wesleyan)
Mundelein (4-5) at Larkin (1-8)Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Last year: Mundelein 49, Larkin 25
Outlook: Larkin enters the third season under coach Dragan Teonic with a seasoned senior class featuring eight three-year starters. Quarterback David Hibbler, running back Kindrel "Nomo" Morris and a host of returning players at key positions have the Royals thinking turnaround. Mundelein opened last season 3-0 but missed the playoffs after losing 5 of its last 6 games
Next week: Elgin at Mundelein; Larkin at Maine West
St. Charles North (7-3) at Schaumburg (5-5)Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Last year: St. Charles North 30, Schaumburg 15
Outlook: Quarterback Zach Mettetal returns to terrorize defensive backs after torching opponents in 2015 for 1,932 yards and 22 touchdowns. He he'll look for 6-foot-4 Colorado State-bound receiver Griffin Hammer, who caught 36 passes last year, 7 for touchdowns.
Next week: Bartlett at St. Charles North; Wheeling at Schaumburg
Streamwood (3-6) at Hoffman Estates (4-5)Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Last year: Hoffman Estates 34, Streamwood 0
Outlook: Former Fremd coach Mike Donatucci leads the Hawks against the senior-heavy Sabres. "Donatucci is always going to have his kids ready," Streamwood coach Don Guindon said. "They're usually very disciplined and very aggressive so it's a good first game for us to set the tone of a physical season."
Next week: West Chicago at Streamwood; Hoffman Estates at Buffalo Grove
Yorkville (4-5) at West Aurora (5-5)Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Outlook: The Blackhawks return dynamic twin brothers Davion Cross and DaQuan Cross from the school's first playoff team in 20 years.
Next week: West Aurora at Waukegan; Marian Catholic at Yorkville
Conant (6-4) at Bartlett (5-5)Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Last year: Conant 25, Bartlett 22
Outlook: It's a battle between old and new. Conant 12th-year coach Bill Modelski plans to retire from coaching after this season. He has coached in the program in some capacity for 30 years. Meanwhile, new Bartlett coach Eric Ilich debuts.
Next week: Bartlett at St. Charles North; Conant at Rolling Meadows
CICS/Ellison (5-4) at Marmion (3-6)Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Outlook: The Cadets are poised for a turnaround season with nine starters returning on defense and five on offense. NIU-bound defensive end Weston Kramer is "one of the most physical linemen I've coached in 29 years," Marmion coach Dan Thorpe said.
Next week: DuSable at Marmion; CICS/Ellison at Lake Forest Academy
Byron (9-3) at Burlington Central (1-8)Game time: 7 p.m. Friday
Outlook: The Rockets open the season under the direction of new coach Brian Melvin, their third coach in three years. Byron advanced to a Class 3A quarterfinal last season.
Next week: Burlington Central at Hampshire; Rockford Lutheran at Byron
St. Edward (6-4) vs. Christ's Church Academy (0-9)Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Outlook: These teams meet in Orlando under the lights at the Disney World Resort. St. Edward plans to attack via the air with junior quarterback Dylan Mlarnich. CCA opens the season under the direction of new coach Jim Stomps.
Next week: Lindblom at St. Edward
Aurora Central Catholic (3-6) at Aurora Christian (4-5)Game time: 7 p.m. Friday
Outlook: There should be plenty of fireworks in this battle between Aurora private schools. The Eagles missed the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, but coach David Beebe has most of his team back. The Chargers return six players on offense, including quarterback Johnny Belskis, wide receiver Griffin Zajac and three linemen. Five more return on defense.
Next week: Westmont at Aurora Central Catholic; Chicago Marshall at Aurora Christian
Kaneland (7-4) at Chicago Brooks (3-6)Game time: 7 p.m. Friday
Last year: Kaneland 45, Brooks 22
Outlook: Junior Jack Douglas takes over at quarterback in Kaneland's spread attack. Sophomore running back Jonathan Alstott returns after rushing for 542 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Next week: Geneva at Kaneland; Brooks at Harlan