Week 1: Scouting the Northern Lake
Grayslake North at WillowbrookGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: We know running back Jack Jessen is capable of carrying the offensive load for Willowbrook, but it'll be interesting to see the Warriors develop their passing game around first-year starting quarterback John Taylor and receiver Sikander Zafar. For the first time since its varsity program started in 2006, Grayslake North will play a game without Steve Wood as its head coach. Wood stepped down following last season to watch his two young sons play sports. Sam Baker takes over a team that seeks to make the playoffs for the sixth year in a row. The 29-year-old Baker, who was previously the head coach at Waconia High in Minnesota, inherits a group that includes QB Austin Martineau and WR Bubba Hochstein on offense and LB Zach Carter, LB Will Bauman and S Adam George on a defense that should play fast. The defense should have its hands full with Willowbrook RB Jessen, who will wrestle for Northwestern. Last season, Jessen rushed for 1,671 yards and 21 touchdowns. The linebacker also notched 138 tackles on defense, helping the Warriors reach the Class 7A state quarterfinals.
Grayslake Central Rams (1-8) at Vernon Hills Cougars (10-4)When: 7:30 p.m., today
Skinny: Vernon Hills started last year's march to the Class 5A state championship on the right foot with a 39-16 drubbing of Grayslake Central, which won just one game and has struggled in recent seasons. "But each year, Grayslake Central has gotten better and that's a community that really wants to be successful in football," Vernon Hills coach Bill Bellecomo said. "We know it will be a hard-fought game and it's important for us because that first game can give you a lot of confidence for the rest of the season if you play well."
Antioch (10-1) at Kenosha Tremper (9-2)When: 7:30 p.m. today
Skinny: Tremper's renovation of Ameche Field is not completed so the game will be played at Jaskwhich Stadium at Kenosha Indian Trail High School and Academy (6800 60th Street). This is the fifth year in a row Antioch and Tremper have played each other to open the season. Antioch has piled up the points in each of the last two meetings, winning 59-33 last season and 52-20 in 2015. Tremper edged the Sequoits 14-12 in 2014 and 29-26 in 2013. Antioch's offense returns QB Branden Gallimore, RB Hunter Price and OL Jared Strohman. All three players along with DB Andrew Hare were all-conference selections last year. The Sequoits run an triple-option offense but will look to be more diversified this season as coach Brian Glashagel says his team has ample playmakers.
Crystal Lake Central (2-7) at Grant (2-7)When: 7 p.m. today
Skinny: Grant alumnus Chris Robinson makes his head-coaching debut and looks to get the Bulldogs on the right track after they won just 7 games in three seasons under Vito Andriola. Grant will look to avenge last year's 42-7 loss. The Tigers boast Northwestern-bound OL/DL Wyatt Blake (6-4, 308), who's a four-year varsity starter, and QB Jake Staples (1,766 passing yards last season), who's beginning his third year on varsity. Grant junior QB Matt McGraw begins his second season as the varsity starter. After scoring just 114 points last season, the Bulldogs have switched from a Wing-T attack to a spread. McGraw's weapons include three-year varsity running back Kenyon Jones, sophomore newcomer Noah Lautner and junior tight end Klaus Kathrein.
Lakes (6-4) at Deerfield (5-5)When: 7 p.m. today
Skinny: Jordan Eder makes his debut on Lakes' sideline after Luke Mertens, the only head coach in program history, left to take the job at Lake Zurich. Eder, 28, spent the last two years at Antioch as an assistant after serving as Round Lake's head coach for two years. He inherits a group that includes Western Michigan-bound LB/WR Ryan Selig, DL J.T. Lorian, RB Ethan Greenfield and WR DeAngelo Hardy. Longtime Deerfield head coach Steve Winiecki brings back QB Jonah Silverglade, RB/LB Kenny Kerstein and WR/CB Ari Nadler from a team that bowed to eventual state champ Prairie Ridge in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs last fall.
Wauconda (5-5) at Richmond-Burton (6-4)When: 7:15 p.m. today
Skinny: The Bulldogs and Rockets open the season against each other for the third year in a row, with the former trying to make it two straight wins. Richmond-Burton beat Wauconda 28-21 two years ago, before the Bulldogs captured a 21-7 decision last season. Wauconda brings back QB Andrew Saccameno, LB/TE Matthew Nolan and DE/TE Andre Nolan. Like the Bulldogs, the Rockets went to the state playoffs last year. They return four starting linebackers, including Shane Byrne, who also rushed for 11 touchdowns last season.
Round Lake (1-8) at Proviso East (0-9)When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Skinny: Round Lake is looking to get off to a good start under third-year head coach Cristo Garza, whose Panthers have won 1 game in each of the last two seasons. Their opponent, the Pirates, went winless last season for the second year in a row, stretching their losing streak to 26 games. Since 2010, the Pirates have endured five 0-9 campaigns. Round Lake counts nearly two dozen seniors.