Week 1: Scouting the Upstate Eight River
Lemont (11-1) at Batavia (8-3)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Outlook: Two playoff teams from a year ago square off. South Suburban Blue champion Lemont went undefeated until a 27-20 Class 6A quarterfinal loss to St. Laurence. Batavia made it to the second round in Class 7A. The Bulldogs return junior quarterback Riley Cooper and 1,000-yard rusher Reggie Phillips. IHSFCA hall-of-fame coach Bret Kooi's team returns seven starters on defense and six on offense, including three offensive linemen. "They won a lot of games and they have a lot back," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said of the Indians.
Next week: Lemont at Bartlett; Libertyville at Batavia
Rock Island (9-3) at St. Charles East (11-1)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Norris Stadium
Outlook: Upstate Eight River champion St. Charles East advanced to a Class 8A quarterfinal last year. The Saints return Nick Garlisch and Justin Jett to the triple-option backfield and Clayton Isbell takes over at quarterback. Six all-UEC River players return on defense. Western Big 6 runner-up Rock Island reached a Class 6A quarterfinal last year under coach Bryan Stortz, now at Conant. Ben Hammer is the new man in charge. "They have a new coach so we don't know what they're going to bring, but they return some experienced kids so it'll be a good matchup," Saints coach Bryce Farquhar said.
Next week: Rock Island at Thornwood; St. Charles East at Glenbard East
St. Charles North at SchaumburgGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: The North Stars defeated Schaumburg 42-10 in last year's season opener and went on to win a program-best 9 games. The Saxons missed the playoffs at 4-5, but they return 900-yard rusher Jordan Salgado and four offensive linemen.
This game will be a huge measuring stick for Schaumburg. The Saxons, who hope to contend in the MSL West, will find out what strides they have made from last year's 4-5 campaign. Schaumburg boasts a veteran offensive line and a solid running back in Salgado, who gained 910 yards last season. The question is how well Deontae Arnold can take over at quarterback and run the read-option. St. Charles North was 9-2 last year and the North Stars feel that this year's squad is even better.
East Aurora at Elgin Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Memorial Field
The quick hit: This one came down to the wire a year ago. Elgin was about to put the game on ice with 21 seconds left when the Tomcats' Nasir Phillips stripped a ball carrier and raced 96 yards for the winning score. Elgin last won a season opener in 2011.
Larkin at Mundelein Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Larkin's quest for its first winning season since 2009 and its first playoff berth since 2006 begins on the road against a team the Royals defeated 32-26 last year. Senior quarterback Anthony Norris (6-4, 220) returns for the Mustangs. 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."
Joliet Catholic at Geneva Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Senior quarterback Bobby Murray gets his chance to direct the Geneva offense. "It's an interesting first game," Geneva coach Rob Wicinski said. "We both have a lot of players who haven't played much, so it might come down to whoever handles a punch to the face and keeps moving forward."
Streamwood at Maine West
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Streamwood attacks with 6-foot-5 quarterback Brendon Marton, a three-year starter. The Warriors are young and athletic. Coach Jason Kradman's team could have as many as seven sophomores and one freshman in the starting lineup. Maine West comes into this season with great expectations, and the Warriors need to get off to a good start to achieve them. The Warriors, who were 4-5 a year ago are looking to make their first playoff appearance since 2002. George Markakis returns to start at quarterback and will look to target 6-foot-4 tight end Matt Kentgen.