Palatine (7-5) at Montini (12-2)
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Last year's opener: Palatine lost to Lake Forest 28-21; Montini lost to Joliet Catholic 21-7
Outlook: Montini coach Chris Andriano hosts his alma mater (all-area WR in 1969 at Palatine) in what figures to be an excellent test for both teams. "I know they're going to be loaded and ready to go," said Palatine coach Tyler Donnelly of the two-time defending 5A state champs. "The kids know the standard they're playing against. It's nothing against Lake Forest, because it's not like we had a stellar record against them (2-5), but the kids are excited about playing Montini." The Broncos feature a pair of Division I recruits in Iowa-bound DT Jaleel Johnson, a transfer from St. Joseph, and WR Jordan Westerkamp (89 catches, 1,631 yards, 21 TDs). But they took a hit when Marian Central Catholic transfer QB John Rhode broke his thumb on his throwing hand in the preseason scrimmage and is out until Week 4. Mark Gorogianias, last year's sophomore starter, replaces Rhode. Their only returning defensive starter is LB Franklin Bruscianelli.
Lake Zurich (12-2) at Fremd (6-5)
When: 7:30 p.m. today at Hale Hildebrandt Field
Last year's opener: Lake Zurich d. Fremd 20-10
Outlook: Two of the premier programs in the Northwest suburbs hook up for the fifth time in a season opener as Class 7A runnerup Lake Zurich rallied from a 10-0 fourth-quarter deficit to even the series at 2-2. The Bears graduated all-time rushing leader Jacob Brinlee but return QB Zach Till (718 yards passing; 433 rushing and 8 TDs), who now has former Prospect coach Brent Pearlman as his offensive coordinator. Another Mid-Suburban League coaching fixture, Steve Polley, is coaching the Bears' offensive linemen. Mike Shield returns at RB and Minnesota-bound LB Jack Lynn fuels a defense that had 4 shutouts last year. Fremd will be looking to make the playoffs for the 17th straight time in the 19th and final year for retiring head coach Mike Donatucci. Senior DT Anthony Cassara is out (knee) but Donatucci hopes he'll be back in time for MSL West play. "It's a bad one because he's one of those kids who did a good job of putting himself in position to play," Donatucci said.
Barrington (7-3) at Libertyville (3-6)
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Last year's opener: Barrington d. Libertyville 41-28
Outlook: A traditionally competitive opener since the series resumed in 2005 will have Barrington facing a Libertyville team looking to rebound from its worst season since 1990 and give a nice send-off to retiring head coach Randy Kuceyeski, who has been battling cancer. "They're going to have a lot of emotion on their side," said Barrington coach Joe Sanchez. "It will be a great challenge for us. I have great respect for 'Kuz' and consider him a friend. I love playing them because you're going to know where you're at right away." Barrington's win last year was only the second in 14 tries in a series that dates to 1928. Libertyville will look different offensively as shotgun spread QB A.J. Schurr is now at Army and senior Hutch Herchenbach moves from RB to QB to lead a more ground-oriented attack. "It doesn't matter who is good or who has what, every year that game comes down to the fourth quarter," Sanchez said of a series he wants to continue after Kuceyeski's retirement. "You have to grind it out and keep the ball away from them. That's where our defense has to step up."
York (9-2) at Rolling Meadows (4-5)
When: 7:30 p.m. today at Robert A. Hoese Athletic Field
Last year's opener: York d. Prospect 34-21; Meadows d. Fort Wayne Wayne 25-6
Outlook: Facing the reigning West Suburban Silver co-champs is arguably the toughest opener in a long time for a Rolling Meadows team that has won 12 of them in a row and 16 of the last 17. "They were pretty darn good last year and I expect them to be really good," said first-year Meadows coach Matt Mishler. "I told our guys it will be a good litmus test for us to figure out where we're at." The Dukes have a pair of big targets in 6-3 David Byerly and 6-5 Jordan Preuss, who combined for 54 catches for 1,100 yards and 12 TDs, to test Meadows' veterans in the secondary. Only three defensive starters return but LB-DL Nick Skuteris (6-4, 240) enters his fourth season on the varsity. "We're excited for the challenge," Mishler said.
Prospect (9-2) at Glenbrook South (6-5)
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Last year's opener: Prospect lost to York 26-7;
Outlook: It's the renewal of an opener Glenbrook South dominated from 1979-92 at 12-3 with a playoff win in 1986. The Titans are also facing their third straight MSL opponent after beating Barrington and losing to Palatine in their school-record tying sixth straight playoff appearance under Mike Noll. "We're going to find out really quickly what type of team we are and that's good," said Prospect coach Mike Sebestyen. "Glenbrook South is a good football program and they always have been." The Titans return all-CSL South two-way linemen Mike Demos (6-4, 245) and Matt Powers but have to replace standout RB John Strickland.
Lake Park (2-7) at Conant (2-7)
When: 7:30 p.m. today at Charles O. Feutz Field
Last year's opener: Conant d. Lake Park 27-14
Outlook: Conant will try to break the trend where no one has been able to put together consecutive wins in a series that dates to 1968 and Lake Park leads 5-4-1. The big change for the Lancers is at the top where former offensive coordinator Chris Roll replaced Andy Livingston, who retired after 17 years, and has RBs Ronnie Castaldo and LaCurt Evans and junior QB Zach Gehant back. Former Elk Grove assistant J.P. Moore now runs the defense that returns all-conference LB Matt Mysliwiec (6-0, 215). "I think offensively they'll be pretty similar," said Conant coach Bill Modelski. "I'm expecting it to be pretty competitive for us."
Schaumburg (8-3) at New Trier (5-5)
When: 7:30 p.m. today at West Campus, Northfield
Last year's opener: Schaumburg d. Maine South 29-17; New Trier d. Warren 10-7
Outlook: It's not the same as facing perennial state title contender Maine South but taking on New Trier is still a solid, quality test for Schaumburg. "They've got some pretty talented kids back," said Schaumburg coach Mark Stilling. "In my mind they're always up there with Fremd and Barrington in size. It's a good matchup for us." Jack Nykaza moves from TB to QB for New Trier and RB-DB Josh Perlmutter is healthy after going through two bouts with mono last year. New Trier also promoted three sophomore linemen to the varsity while Schaumburg will also have plenty of youth on the field. "It's not easy," Stilling said. "We have as much work to do with these kids as any group because of their inexperience." It's the first meeting between the two schools.
Elk Grove (7-3) at Highland Park (5-5)
When: 7 p.m. today at Wolters Field
Last year's opener: Elk Grove d. Niles North 41-0; Highland Park lost to Stevenson 42-7
Outlook: Elk Grove has won all four openers from Highland Park but they haven't met since 1990 in an opener that appears to be a nice middle ground for both programs. "(Giants coach) Hal Chiodo does a great job and he's taken over after Kurt (Weinberg) left and kept them in position," Elk Grove coach Brian Doll said of a Giants' program that has made eight straight playoff trips. "I feel very confident going into the first game. If we play our game we should be in good shape." Both teams suffered major graduation losses but Highland Park returns 6-4 WR-MLB Ross Chukerman and RT Mike Beauchamp (6-5, 275) for senior QB Max Mordini. Elk Grove beat Niles North by a combined 80-7 the last two years.
Lake Forest (7-4) at Buffalo Grove (4-5)
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Last year's opener: Lake Forest d. Palatine 28-21; BG d. Mundelein 41-7
Outlook: BG coach Jim Farrell got a good look at Lake Forest in its two playoff games last year and it will be a good test after beating Mundelein by a combined 89-17 the last three years. "I like the matchup and I'm excited to play a quality opponent right out of the gate," Farrell said. "We're excited. It's a good test for us before we go up against a strong (MSL) West side." Lake Forest returns standout RB Owen Williams (1,350 yards, 22 TDs) and senior Jordan Beck split time at QB last year. "Playing Lake Forest, we'll know who we are pretty quickly," Farrell said.
Hersey (3-6) at Glenbrook North (8-2)
When: 7:30 p.m. today at William Lutz Stadium
Last year's opener: Hersey d. Oak Lawn 47-14; Glenbrook North d. Waukegan 14-13
Outlook: This is the beginning of a home-and-home schedule after Hersey played Oak Lawn for just one game. It certainly won't be easy for the Huskies to face the reigning Central Suburban North champs. "It exposes all of your weaknesses and will be a great challenge," said Hersey coach Dragan Teonic, whose team also faces Barrington in Week 3. "They're a great opponent. It's only going to help us and there aren't too many negatives to it." The Spartans are led by CSL North offensive player of the year and RB Grant Rushing (1,162 yards, 17 TDs) and senior LT and CSL North offensive lineman of the year Mike Ermel (6-4, 275). They have a big target in WR Trevor Ponticelli (14 catches, 248 yards, 2 TDs) and LBs Jason Scholl and Alex Griffin combined for 159 tackles last year.
Wheeling (3-6) at Mundelein (1-8)
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Last year's opener: Wheeling d. Maine West 19-13; Mundelein lost to Buffalo Grove 41-7
Outlook: Wheeling takes a streak of five opening-night victories north to face a Mundelein team which avoided a winless finish by beating Zion-Benton 14-13 in the season finale. "They came on strong at the end of the year and things were starting to click for them," said Wheeling coach Dave Dunbar. "I know they've been working hard in the weight room and they should be improved." Mundelein scored only 84 points last year and is 4-23 under Bob Stone, who won a state title in 1990 at Joliet Catholic, but will have QB Gable Leppert running and option offense. Leppert is also key at LB in the Mustangs' blitzing defense that will get tested by third-year Wheeling QB Tyler Brady.
Hoffman Estates (1-8) at Streamwood (2-7)
When: 7:30 p.m. today at Millennium Field
Last year's opener: Hoffman lost to Bartlett 25-3; Streamwood lost to Antioch 47-14
Outlook: Hoffman is back where it played last year's opener but the opponent is different as it faces Streamwood for the first time since 1988. Hoffman was 4-2 with a playoff win in 1988 and a forfeit win in 1981 in the series. "I like the matchup," said Hoffman coach Bill Helzer. "We need to get off to a good start and that's what we've talked about." Although LB Sebastian Myers is out this week with an injury and will be replaced by sophomore David Baureis, this is the healthiest the Hawks have gone into an opener. Streamwood's wins last year were against winless Dundee-Crown and East Aurora but sixth-year coach Cal Cummins, who led Freeport to 11 playoffs in 17 years, believes this could be a turnaround year. The Sabres have a diverse offense with RB Alex Morrow (748 yards, 7 TDs), who played only 5½ games before suffering an ankle injury but had a school-record 300 yards against D-C. Senior QB Dalton Lundeen (1,345 yards, 7 TDs, 11 INTs) has junior speed threats in 6-2 Blake Holder (16 catches, 224 yards), Austin Mugnai and Sean Patterson. "They're comparable to us with their numbers, size and the offense they run (spread with some option)," Helzer said. "Our thing will be slowing down (Morrow)."
Chicago Urban Prep (5-4) at Maine West (2-7)
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Last year's opener: Maine West lost to Wheeling 19-13; Urban Prep lost to Marist 48-6
Outlook: It's a one-time opener for Maine West after it lost five straight openers to Wheeling. Urban Prep also lost 56-6 to Thornton and had a forfeit loss to Gage Park in Week 3 last year. "They're going to be an athletic team," Maine West coach Chris Hare said of the relatively new Chicago Public League program. "It will be a challenge for us." But it should be a good way for the young Warriors to get used to varsity competition before facing Fenton and Niles West. "We definitely have an opportunity to compete in our first three games," Hare said.
Fenton (6-4) at Leyden (4-5)
When: 7:30 p.m. today at West Campus, Northlake
Last year's opener: Leyden d. Fenton 9-7
Outlook: This shouldn't be the defensive struggle of last year as Leyden returns QB Joe DiFronzo and expects to have a much better running game. Two-time defending Metro Suburban champ Fenton has offensive player of the year QB-RB Alan Geneva (800 total yards, 9 TDs) and QB Sean Havlovic (650 yards passing) back to work with new offensive coordinator Otto Zeman, who produced some of the most prolific passing offenses in state history at Riverside-Brookfield. "It will probably be a 3½-hour game," joked Leyden coach Tom Cerasani. "It will be one of those games where we'll have to make some adjustments on the fly." Fenton also returns 6-4 DB Adam Kadlec (8 INTs) to the neighborhood rivalry. "It's a fun game because all of the kids know each other," Cerasani said.
EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC
St. Viator (4-5, 2-5) at Marian Catholic (7-3, 5-1)
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Last year's opener: St. Viator d. Sullivan 63-0; Marian lost to Homewood-Flossmoor 33-14
Outlook: The ESCC's round-robin, eight-game schedule has Viator starting out with one of its longest road trips to where its season ended last year with a 45-21 loss in Chicago Heights. The Lions look to end a four-game losing streak to start what coach Chris Kirkpatrick called "the toughest schedule we've had" in his 10-year tenure. Viator junior OG Roy Pettingill, who started last year, is out with an injured shoulder and Kirkpatrick said he could miss the second game with St. Patrick. Marian returns the ESCC Most Valuable Offensive Player in senior RB Jereul Taylor, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year and had 172 and a TD in last year's meeting as the Spartans took a 13-4 lead in a series that dates to 1966.
Christian Liberty (1-8, 1-8) at Luther N. (0-9, 0-9)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Last year: Christian Liberty d. Luther North 13-8
Outlook: Christian Liberty is back where it finished last season where it won its first game in program history. Now the Chargers would like to start streaking in an upward direction against a Luther North program where Randy Ludwig has moved up from assistant to head coach. "He's very upbeat and he believes his team will be much better this year," said Christian Liberty coach Jim Calkins. "We have to show up. I know our guys are motivated and I don't want any overconfidence."