Scouting the Upstate Eight Conference football season
Bartlett2019 record: 8-2, Class 8A first round
Coach: Matt Erlenbaugh
Worth noting: The 2019 UEC co-champions are loaded in the experience department with 7 starters back on offense and 9 on defense ... Key returnees include seniors Alec Palella (6-5, 240, TE-DE), Nick Bucaro (6-1, 180, DB-WR), Brenden Gran (5-10, 185, LB), Dan Angelone (6-1, 225, OL-DE) and junior Bubba Hubbard (6-5, 260, OL). Palella, Bucaro and Gran all are returning Daily Herald All-Area picks, while Angelone and Xander Salyars are returning all-UEC performers ... Bartlett also is flush in the college signee department with Palella (Central Michigan), Angell (Wisconsin-Whitewater), Mangoni (Augustana), Angelone (Illinois Wesleyan), Alex Becque (Illinois Wesleyan) and Michael Kmiecik (Carthage), plus Erlenbaugh says four more are in the still-making-decision queue ... Junior quarterback Jacob Scearce (6-2, 195) is a key newcomer ... "Our offensive line is the heart of the team with four returning starters," Erlenbaugh said. "They are a big, physical and athletic group complemented by a veteran group of wide receivers that are long, have great hands and get after it blocking the perimeter." Erlenbaugh labels the Bartlett defense, which surrendered only 146 points in 10 games last year, as solid at every position. "There is no weak link on this unit," he said. "The goal is not just take-aways, but this defensive unit is looking to score points."
Elgin2019 record: 5-5, Class 8A first round
Coach: Anthony Mason
Worth noting: The Maroons are flush with returning key senior talent in Northern Illinois University-bound quarterback Jeffery Lomax (6-4, 210), defensive back Noah Mack (6-0, 185, University of Kentucky), Alex West (5-11, 180), and linemen Colin Williamson (5-11, 230) and Shannon Williams (6-1, 250) ... Elgin has seven all-UEC players back, including Lomax, West, Darien Jackson, Mack, Gino Farace, Gio Griffin and Williams. "We have a quarterback who can do it all with a lot more weapons this year, and an experienced offensive line," Mason said. "We expect to control the ball and score points often. We have a lot of returners on offense and we want to be sure they get the best out of this year." ... Mason said this year's group is at another level. "This is the most talent we have had in my time at Elgin High," he said. "Not only are they talented, but they are smart as well. If we can get them to take the next step, they can be one of the best teams Elgin High or District U-46 have ever seen, but we still have a lot of work to do to make that happen."
Glenbard East2019 record: 8-2
Coach: John Walters
Worth noting: The Rams have experienced a renaissance the last two seasons, making their first playoff appearance since 1999 in 2018 and making it two straight postseasons last season -- a first in Glenbard East program history. The pieces are in place for more success, with six returning starters, four of them along the line, on offense and seven back on defense. Matt Schager, Sean Banks and Danny Quirk are returning linebackers. Also back is all-conference quarterback Connor Cerkas and all-league wide receiver LaDonus Rogers. Other top players include lineman offensive/defensive tackle Marc Koumoundouros, defensive end Gabe Jamieson and defensive back Dan Schager.
Glenbard SouthCoach: Ryan Crissy
2019 record: 6-4
Worth noting: The Raiders have been a consistently solid program with nine straight playoff appearances, reaching the postseason all but once since 2007. Graduated all-state quarterback Nick Plaso, who set program for passing yards and touchdown passes in 2019, leaves a significant void. Junior running back Trevor Burnett, who had over 1,000 all-purpose yards with 25 tackles and two interceptions as a sophomore, holds offers from Army, Air Force, Eastern Illinois, Kent State and South Dakota State. Senior linebacker Jeremy Gelino, an Eastern Illinois recruit, is an anchor defensively. Junior defensive end Connor Murphy is another player to watch.
Larkin2019 record: 1-8
Coach: Matt Gehrig
Worth noting: All-conference performers Jamarion Stubbs (5-8, 150) and Trevor Matison (6-0, 185, TE-LB), along with Wisconsin-Eau Claire recruit Adam Maloy (6-4, 295, OT-DT) are back, as is quarterback-safety Dontrell Maxie (6-1, 205) and junior running back-defensive end Michael Hibbler (5-10, 225). Gehrig is encouraged by the Royals' offensive ability. "Offensively we want to continue to improve the run game behind an improved offensive line and experienced players in the backfield, and maximize our ability and experience at quarterback," he said ... Keys on defense include maximizing speed and ability to tackle as a team and linebacker leadership. "We have leaders emerging and a belief in the team concept," Gehrig said. "Our goals are to be consistent and show improvement."
South Elgin2019 record: 9-2, Class 8A second round
Coach: Dragan Teonic
Worth noting: Like the team it shared the UEC title with last year (Bartlett), has experience and talent back, but Teonic cautions line play will be the wild card due to graduations. "We return some firepower from last season's team, but lost some key linemen and will need to reload at that position," Teonic noted. "We have capable players there, so it will be a matter of how quickly can they gel as a unit." Senior Davion Cherwin (5-10, 200) averaged 14.7 yards per carry and scored 7 TDs as a junior, while senior Alex Noworol (5-11, 165) averaged 15 yards per touch and scored five times in 2019. Junior quarterback Ben Karpowicz (6-0, 205) averaged nearly 5 yards a carry as a junior, ran for 11 scores and passed for 13 more against only 2 picks ... Also back are senior linemen Michael Roath (6-2, 250) and Jess Mize (6-0, 210) ... Teonic calls Roath "the most dominant lineman in the UEC."… Cherwin (Drake), Noworol and Roath (Olivet Nazarene) were all-UEC picks. Payton Dennis (6-5, 250, DE-TE) also is headed to Olivet, while Anthony Cirrincione will play at Missouri Western ... South Elgin has its entire secondary back, "and we have several difference-makers back there," Teonic said, who added defensive line play will be strong and linebackers are experience, but none are returning starters. "It's a very fun group to coach," Teonic added. "We want to make this a memorable season for the seniors who have invested so much into this program."
Streamwood2019 record: 2-7
Coach: Keith McMaster
Worth noting: McMaster has been at the helm for about a month and inherits a team that won a pair of games in 2019 ... "While we have only worked together for about a month, I am really excited about this group," he said. "The kids have bought into the philosophy and the work ethic it takes to change the future at Streamwood. This is a group of kids with character. They have fought through adversity in their personal and athletic lives with the effects of COVID. This team is hungry to make changes in Sabre football." Key returnees for McMaster are Nick Larak, Terrance Ray III, Kevin Lunz, Benjamin Feliciano and Noah Strickland ... Larak is headed to North Central to continue his career ... "We are looking to improve on the basics," McMaster said. "No matter how prolific the offense is, without blocking it is ineffective. We are concentrating on doing the little things right, eliminating mistakes and creating a fanatical dedication to perfection." ... McMaster is playing the long game with the Sabres. "I really hope the seniors create awesome memories that they will never forget," he said. "Personally, I am coaching to not only make great football players, but great men going forward. It is this group of kids that can make the change and make a difference in Sabre football, the Streamwood community and in the lives of others they will interact with in the future."
West Chicago2019 record: 1-8
Coach: Tyler Belding
Worth noting: Things are looking up for West Chicago with 15 starters back total, including 10 who started as sophomores ... Belding has 3 starting offensive linemen back and a large group of skill position players competing for playing time ... Junior wideout Mason Wright (6-1, 190) caught 22 balls for 322 yards in 2019, while senior returning all-UEC performer Marco Calderon (5-9, 170, LB) has 99 career tackles, 12 tackles for loss and a pair of picks. Senior running back Jordan Garcia (5-3, 130) has 895 career yards from scrimmage and 7 TDs. He's committed to Concordia University. Senior Ryan Hannah (6-0, 280, RB) and junior Dejon Davis (5-9, 220, OL-DL) also are back ... Senior Alex Resendiz, and juniors Wright and Dylan Krupp are competing for the starting quarterback position ... Brothers Alex and David Resendiz are the team's returning leading tacklers ... Belding added newcomers Pedro Vazquez (junior) and Wheaton Academy senior transfer Alex Ventimilla look to be potential defensive difference-makers ... "We are thankful for this opportunity to play and are looking to improve our record from 2019," Belding said.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jeffery Lomax, Elgin, QB, sr.: This all-UEC selection will move on to Northern Illinois University next season.
Adam Maloy, Larkin, OT-DT, sr.: The 6-4, 295-pound Maloy is the cornerstone of an improved offensive line. Headed to Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Alex Palella, Bartlett, TE-DE, sr.: A returning All-Area and all-UEC selection headed to Central Michigan.
Davion Cherwin, South Elgin, RB-DB, sr.: Drake-bound senior averaged way more than a first down per carry and scored 7 touchdowns as a junior.
Connor Cerkas. Glenbard East, QB, sr: The all-conference QB returns to lead the Rams' recent resurgence.
FIVE CAN'T MISS MATCHUPS
Week 1 -- Glenbard South at Bartlett: Week 1 out of the gates features this strong matchup of 2019 playoff teams.
Week 2 -- Bartlett at Streamwood: Another District U-46 rivalry renews at Millennium Field in Streamwood.
Week 6 -- Glenbard East at Glenbard South: The battle of Glenbards occurs in the season-finale for both teams in Glen Ellyn. East won 22-19 in 2019.
Week 6 -- Bartlett at South Elgin: A rematch of last year's co-UEC champions takes place during the final week of the season.
Week 6 -- Elgin at Larkin: One of the area's most storied rivalries takes center stage on a Friday night to wrap up the 2021 spring season.
-- Joshua Welge, Shaw Media Illinois, contributed