Scouting Chicago Catholic League Blue football
By Dave Oberhelman
Chicago Catholic League Blue
Teams: Brother Rice, Loyola, Montini, Providence, St. Rita.
Key games: Providence at St. Rita, Sept. 14; St. Rita at Montini, Sept. 21; St. Rita at Brother Rice, Sept. 28; Loyola at St. Rita, Oct. 12; Montini at Providence, Oct. 12; Brother Rice at Montini, Oct. 19.
Top players: Rory Boos, WR, Loyola; Jackson Bruscianelli, LB, Montini; Quinn Coghlan, OL-DL, St. Rita; Armoni Dixon, LB, Loyola; Hayden Ekern, QB, St. Rita; Nick Fedanzo, RB, Montini; Joe Fitzgerald, LB, Brother Rice; T.J. Galligani, OL-DL, Providence; DeWhon Gavin, RB, Providence; Jake Gonzalez, DB, Loyola; Noah Jones, WR, Loyola; Christopher Kelly, OL, Loyola; Evan Kirts, OL, Brother Rice; Mike McNicholas, OL, Montini; Jayshon Means, DB, Brother Rice; Gavin Mottl, K-P, St. Rita; David O'Keefe, TE, Brother Rice; Max Pignotti, DB, Providence; Jake Renfro, OL, Providence; Matt Ross, WR-DB, Montini; Kempton Shine, DB, St. Rita; Jake Stefanski, WR, St. Rita.
Outlook: Annually vying for the unofficial title of Illinois' top prep football conference, after biennial adjustments the Chicago Catholic League swapped Montini in to the Blue for Mt. Carmel, which takes the Broncos' place in the CCL Green. A six-time state champion, Montini had either shared or owned outright the CCL Green title three of four seasons since the Suburban Christian Conference dissolved. The CCL Blue is a tougher nut to crack. Montini earned the Blue promotion primarily based on its crossover record, .500 against Blue foes. If the Broncos can go .500 against this crew it'd be a success. Loyola has reached title games each of the last three seasons and five of the last six, and despite Brother Rice coming off a 2-7 record each program is a household name. But Montini brings speed to the skill positions on both offense and defense, size up front, and sterling linebacker Franklin Bruscianelli. The Broncos must sort out the quarterback position among several candidates, but except for St. Rita's Hayden Ekern, who over took late in the Mustangs' 9-3 season, new starting quarterbacks are common. That includes Jack Fallon at Loyola, whose coach, John Holecek, called the Ramblers' 7-on-7 results "pedestrian" and doesn't quite agree with those high rankings. Loyola, 12-2 last year, still has some experience on either side of the line and college recruits such as receiver Noah Jones, safety-linebacker Jake Gonzalez and linebacker Armoni Dixon. Ramblers returning all-CCL Blue receiver Rory Boos caught 45 passes for 827 yards, 11 touchdowns as a junior. Providence returns only six starters from an 8-5 team, but St. Rita has six back on either side of the ball, heavy on offensive linemen and defensive backs including Kempton Shine, a three-year starter with 5 interceptions last season. Though Montini has several early-season breaks in its schedule, playing crossover rivals Fenwick and Marmion in addition to the CCL Blue grinder means any missteps could jeopardize the Broncos' 25-year playoff streak.
Quotable: "I think it's quite an honor to play in the Catholic League Blue division this year. You're talking about a lot of tradition, a lot of success, a lot of championships won by teams in that division, so it's quite an honor for us to be deemed worthy to play in that division this year," said Montini coach Mike Bukovsky.
-- Dave Oberhelman