Week 1: Scouting the North Suburban
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 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 sync 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, a Notre Dame recruit 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."
Lake Zurich at FremdWhen: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
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," Luke 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.
Larkin Royals (4-5) at Mundelein Mustangs (2-7)When: 7:30 p.m., today
Skinny: Bragging rights are on the line for these two programs. "This is the rubber match," Mundelein coach Larry Calhoun said. "This is the third year we're playing Larkin and we beat them two years ago, but they beat us last year." Last year's game came down to the very end. Mundelein was at the Larkin 1-yard line in the final moments and needed a touchdown to win the game but fumbled the snap and Larkin held on for the win. "We know that Larkin is well coached and very athletic," Calhoun said. "It will be a very competitive opener for both teams."
Libertyville Wildcats (5-5) at Highland Park Giants (7-3)When: 7 p.m., today
Skinny: This is a new series for Libertyville, at least as far as head coach Mike Jones can recall. "We really don't know a whole lot about Highland Park other than they've been pretty good in their conference the last few years," Jones said. "It's a 7A team around here that we haven't played, so that will be fun." Libertyville's schedule isn't so fun. The Wildcats start with their first four games on the road and don't play at their own stadium, which is sporting new turf, until their Sept. 22 home opener against Lake Forest.