Bartlett at ConantWhen: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last year's result: Bartlett 6, Conant 0
Outlook: Bryan Stotz returns to the Northwest suburbs in the hopes of turning the tide for Conant. Stortz, who once coached at Lake Zurich, inherits a Conant team that was winless last year and scored more than a touchdown in only two of those games. Jack Reiger will key the offense from the running back spot and anchor the defense at middle linebacker. Bartlett returns just 2 starters from a team that went 4-5 a year ago. Bartlett returning offensive linemen Mike Oakes and Co. will try to clear a path for back Joey Allen.
Warren at BarringtonWhen: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last year's result: Did not play
Outlook: This is the first meeting between the teams, and it should be a great test for both of them. Barrington is coming off of its fourth consecutive playoff trip and finished with a 9-2 record a year ago. Barrington, which scored 420 points a year ago, looks to get its high-scoring offense in synch right from the start behind the play of quarterback Ray Niro, who ran and threw for a better than 2,600 combined yards last year. Warren just missed the playoffs a year ago and is led by Notre-bound wide receiver Micah Jones, who is rated by some experts as one the top wide receiver in the area.
Warren opens with two Class 8A heavyweights in Barrington and New Trier in back-to-back weeks. This is the first time Warren has played Barrington since 2013 and the Blue Devils are looking forward to the test. "Barrington is always a strong program and we have to go there, too," Warren coach Bryan McNulty said. "And they have one of the strongest quarterbacks in the area."
Elk Grove at Hoffman EstatesWhen: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last year's result: Did not play
Outlook: Hoffman Estates looks ready to start a promising season. "We have had six good days of practices in a row," said Hawks coach Tim Heyse, who is making his head coaching debut. His team has 18 starters back, including nearly all of its offense which averaged nearly 30 points last year. Miles Osei is also making his head coaching debut for Elk Grove, which was winless last season. But the Grens have a new outlook and are looking to get the 2017 campaign off to a solid start.
Lake Zurich at FremdWhen: Friday, 7:30 PM
Last year's result: Lake Zurich 19, Fremd 15
Outlook: This is the 10th consecutive year these neighbors will battle, with Lake Zurich leading the series 6-3 after winning on a last second touchdown last year. Fremd will be looking to get back on track with a solid offensive line and quarterback Alex Harmon taking over the offense. The Vikings, who have played a 4-2 defense for years, will get a new look thanks to the hiring of Brent Pearlman and an attacking 4-3 defense. They will need to be on the attack against a Lake Zurich team that many consider to be one of the favorites in 7A. Lake Zurich new head coach Luke Mertens will look to shake the cloud of the hazing incidents from last year.
Fremd has made 21 straight IHSA playoff appearances, and Lake Zurich has made the playoffs in 14 of the last 16 years with a state championship in 2007 and three second-place finishes since 2006. "Fremd has been one of the top teams in the state for years," Mertens said. "We're going to be walking into a very tough game." Last year, Lake Zurich pulled out a 19-15 victory in its season opener against Fremd.
Stevenson at PalatineWhen: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last year's result: Palatine 28, Stevenson 20
Outlook: It will be a battle of rookie head coaches, with Stevenson's Josh Hjorth taking over for the Patriots and Corey Olson grabbing the reins at Palatine. These teams have had three epic battles in the series thus far, and the expectation here is for a fourth. Palatine has 5 potential D-I players on its roster and looks to show that the last two years of advancement to the state semifinals was not a fluke. This is a start of a brutal schedule for Palatine, which has seven state playoff qualifiers from last season on its schedule, including defending state champ Maine South.
Palatine put the only blemish on Stevenson's regular season in 2016. The Pirates dealt Stevenson a 28-20 loss in the season opener. Then Stevenson went on to win eight straight games before being stunned by Huntley in the first round of the playoffs 21-20. "We will be challenged right away by Palatine again," Hjorth said. "It was our only loss last season and that was tough for us. We were also down in the red zone four times in that game and we never punched it in. We learned a lot from that game that helped us the rest of the season. We have a lot of respect for Palatine. It's a great program and they've gotten to the semifinals two years in a row now."
St. Charles North at SchaumburgWhen: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last year's result: St. Charles North 42, Schaumburg 10
Outlook: This game will be a huge measuring stick for Schaumburg. The Saxons, who hope to contend in the MSL West, will find out what strides they have made from last year's 4-5 campaign. Schaumburg boasts a veteran offensive line and a solid running back in Jordan Salgado, who gained 910 yards last season. The question is how well Deontae Arnold can take over at quarterback and run the read-option. St. Charles North was 9-2 last year and the North Stars feel that this year's squad is even better.