Above: Fremd took a big step forward by beating Conant last week, but coach Mike Donatucci's team faces another tough test this week against Schaumburg. Below: Today's game against visiting Barrington will help define the MSL West race, but coach Tyler Donnelly knows this is a division that probably won't be decided until Week 9
Mark Welsh photos | Staff Photographer
Today's game against visiting Barrington will help define the MSL West race, but coach Tyler Donnelly knows this is a division that probably won't be decided until Week 9.
Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer
Above: Elk Grove coach Brian Doll saw his team win under difficult circumstances at BG last Friday; he hopes the Grens can maintain momentum against an explosive Rolling Meadows squad. Below: Rolling Meadows coach Matt Mishler's directions are clear: The Mustangs aim to improve every week, including tonight at Elk Grove in an MSL East Division where evenly matched games are the norm.
Bill Zars | Staff Photographer
Below: Rolling Meadows coach Matt Mishler's directions are clear: The Mustangs aim to improve every week, including tonight at Elk Grove in an MSL East Division where evenly matched games are the norm.
Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer
The Mid-Suburban League football division title pictures may be a little clearer tonight after a pair of matchups involving 4-1 teams.
But the winners when Barrington visits Palatine in the West and Rolling Meadows heads to Elk Grove in the East will hardly be in the clear in a year where no one in the MSL has displayed any clear dominance after five weeks.
There are some years where matchups such as these would basically determine the division champions. By this time last year in the East, everyone was looking ahead to a Week 8 matchup between Prospect and Elk Grove.
Looking ahead this year could leave teams behind the division leaders.
"I think anyone, any week, can win in our conference," said Palatine coach Tyler Donnelly, whose team overcame three deficits to elude Schaumburg 22-19 in their West opener.
"It's funny how the conference is right now," said Elk Grove coach Brian Doll, whose team overcame injury-filled adversity and a 10-point deficit to beat Buffalo Grove 17-10 in their East opener.
Just look at last week and two of the MSL's most successful programs.
Conant was the final unbeaten team left in the MSL going into last week. But Fremd's 24-20 victory displayed once again why it is looking to extend its league record of eight straight division titles.
But Fremd can't afford a letdown against Schaumburg, which has beaten New Trier and nearly knocked off Palatine with sophomore Stacy Smith starting at quarterback for injured Nick Anzelmo.
"It's a big one for both of us," said Fremd coach Mike Donatucci of the playoff stakes also involved.
And Conant will try to bounce back by avenging a Mayor's Cup loss to Hoffman Estates last year.
"We have to keep getting better," said Conant coach Bill Modelski. "If we do that, things will take care of themselves."
Defending East champion Prospect came in at 1-3 but left Hersey, one of the preseason title favorites, with a 35-20 victory. Now the challenge is a facing a Wheeling team that has lost four straight but to teams with a combined 16-4 record.
"What we saw (last) Friday in all three games is this is anybody's ballgame," said Prospect coach Mike Sebestyen. "Everybody in our division has a shot at the division title.
"I think we're all pretty much on an equal par and equal footing. Every week you have to come ready to play."
That shouldn't be difficult in tonight's matchups of 1-loss teams. One features the area's top two rushers in Barrington's Chase Murdock (749 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Palatine's John Serio (551 yards, 8 TDs) and solid offensive lines.
"The reality is it's the stretch time to compete for an MSL West championship," said Barrington coach Joe Sanchez. "The kids are excited for the opportunity. We know we have our work cut out for us with Palatine and they're playing well. It should be a fun week."
The same is true where Meadows junior quarterback Jack Milas (1,468 yards, 19 TDs) and his deep crew of skill players take on an Elk Grove defense that has allowed an MSL -low 64 points and has been anchored by two-way linemen Greg Johnsen and Dan Egan.
"Meadows to me looks the best on film (in the East)," Doll said. "Of everybody I've seen they have the most dynamic offense.
"They can score fast so we have to find a way to slow them down and keep ourselves in the game. If we keep it within seven, I feel like our kids are playing well in close games."
And Meadows showed it has the kind of resilience needed for races like these in its wild 50-49 opening win over York.
"We've been telling them all along the East will be a dogfight, no doubt about it," said Meadows coach Matt Mishler. "We've taken it upon ourselves to understand all we can control is what we do.
"They've taken it to heart and tried to get better at what we do every week."
And plenty of teams go into the next four weeks still believing they control their own MSL division title destiny.
"It's an interesting year," Sebestyen said.