Scouting this weekend's DuPage County football games
Benet vs. St. Laurence
Game time: 3 p.m. Saturday at Northern Illinois University.
Last year: Benet 49, St. Laurence 28.
Outlook: A back-and-forth rivalry continues in the Kick-Off Classic as the middle of three games Saturday in DeKalb. St. Laurence is 1-2 in the series, but the Vikings come in as the fifth-ranked team in the Associated Press Class 5A poll. St. Laurence graduated all-state running back Tori Clinton but returns key elements of that ground game with linemen Jerrell Carey and Kyle Ecker. That feeds directly into Benet's strength, however. Defensive linemen Jack Benish, Jacob Snell and Jackson Stephens lead six returning starters to the unit. Benish last season had 13 sacks while the trio combined for 180 tackles. Linebacker Mike Wymer notched 91 tackles and the secondary remains a strength with Jack Cooney and Billy Lawler returning. Redwings junior quarterback Colin Gillespie took the offensive reins due to injury last season, but he's now a seasoned veteran. With Ben Hickey also returning to the backfield, the Redwings' offense hopes to hit the ground running.
Next week: Benet at Moline; St. Laurence at St. Joseph.
Glenbard North at Neuqua Valley Nonconference
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Last year: Glenbard North 24, Neuqua Valley 14.
Outlook: Last Oct. 20 these teams met as DuPage Valley Conference foes with a playoff berth on the line. Glenbard North now is in the DuKane Conference, but Neuqua returning defensive aces Kyle Borske, Jake Boumans and Matt Quinn, and running back Will Chevalier -- out injured that night -- will recall the loss that ended their season despite the same 5-4 record. Glenbard North's defense allowed but 18 yards rushing in that game and forced 5 turnovers, including 2 interceptions and a fumble recovery by returner Kobie Jamison. The defensive back is among few returners for the Panthers, who nonetheless are long on potential. One returner, linebacker Mike Wellman, is poised for a strong senior year after being either out or less than 100 percent most of his junior season. This will also be a test for both teams' new starting quarterbacks -- Glenbard North junior Mike Vazquez and Neuqua junior Mark Gronowski, a commanding 6-foot-3, 200 pounds.
Next week: Warren at Glenbard North; Stevenson at Neuqua Valley.
Glenbard West at Maine South
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday.
Last year: Maine South 62, Glenbard West 34.
Outlook: See last year's score? Don't expect a repeat. The teams return about 15 defensive starters combined, including seven for the Hilltoppers. They were humbled in last year's loss, but that led to some key personnel changes that'll benefit the unit this year. Marky Winters and Dave Lanciloti return up front while the linebacking corps brings back Jayden Rodgers, Kyle Dell, Sean Michel and Otis Nevins. With Greyson Metz in the secondary again, it's a group capable of containing another potent Maine South offense despite the graduation of running back Fotis Kokosioulis, the program's all-time leading rusher now at Northern Illinois. Junior lineman Peter Skoronski boasts offers from most of the Big Ten and Notre Dame. Glenbard West's offense doesn't have as much experience as the defense, but it does bring back 1,000-yard rusher Tyquan Cox, lineman Hank Knez and quarterback Tommy Bleker, who saw significant playing time at the end of last season.
Next week: Glenbard West at Proviso East; Maine South at Mt. Carmel.
IC Catholic Prep vs. Belleville Althoff
Game time: 7:15 p.m. Friday at Illinois Wesleyan University.
Last year: Did not play.
Outlook: Bumped to Class 4A for the playoffs, two-time defending Class 3A champion IC Catholic dives right in against an Althoff team with two state runner-up finishes since 2012 (2A that season). The Knights are deep and experienced at nearly every spot on both offense and defense and feature Purdue-bound senior Khali Saunders, who returns 645 yards receiving and 96 tackles at linebacker. The quarterback spot, however, is relatively fresh. Junior Tommy Ryan completed 7 of 13 passes for 29 yards in reserve last season; Khalil Saunders, Khali's twin, competed for the spot after completing 27 of 38 for 440 yards in a couple 2017 games. Whomever gets the call must spy Althoff defensive back Dylan Appleton, who intercepted 6 passes as a sophomore. The Crusaders, 9-2 last season to ICCP's 13-1, ran for 3,395 yards and threw for 836 with returning quarterbacks Hayes Taylor and Connor Sheehan on a rotation. Bloomington was chosen for its location midway between the schools.
Next week: Joliet Catholic at IC Catholic; Vianney (Missouri) at Althoff.
Hinsdale Central at Naperville Central
Game time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Last year: Did not play.
Outlook: Two historic programs go head-to-head at the perfect time. Both enter the season state-ranked in Class 8A, and both have high expectations for the playoffs if they survive tough regular seasons. Hinsdale Central's fast-paced offense returns quarterback Matt Rush, who missed much of last season due to injury. The Red Devils should be balanced thanks to three-sport standout Luke Skokna, who last season rushed for 1,200 yards. That's a tough matchup for Naperville Central's defense that doesn't have much experience in its front two levels. The secondary, though, should be outstanding with the return of Jack Jopes and Justin Agema and the transfer from Waubonsie Valley by Jamarri Moore. The Redhawks bring back one of the state's elite quarterbacks in Western Michigan-bound Payton Thorne, who last season threw for 2,294 yards and 25 touchdowns. The offense also returns Air Force-bound lineman Luke Hallstrom, who's shifting to center this season.
Next week: Hinsdale Central at Willowbrook; Naperville Central at Lincoln-Way East.
Argo at St. FrancisGame time: 7 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: St. Francis defensive back Noah Salinas recorded his team-high 2 interceptions in this game last season; quarterback Mike Baffa threw for 1 touchdown and ran for another. The Spartans' 27-7 victory in the opener was their only win of 2017.
Buffalo Grove at Downers Grove NorthGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: With Joe Horeni now coaching the Trojans, everyone's anxious to see their new offense. Especially with junior Drew Cassens shifting from defense back to play quarterback. Early on they may lean on a defense that returns six starters.
Conant at Addison TrailGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Between running backs Pablo Mosely, J'Lan Williams, Kevin Catano and quarterback Nick Daudelin, the Blazers have multiple options for pounding the ball behind returning offensive linemen Alex Sakleh, J.T. Daniels and Jake Zaborowski.
Curie at WillowbrookGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: The Warriors start the season ranked 10th in the AP Class 6A poll. Again they have an abundance of athletes, it's just a matter of where they play. Scott and Sam Tumilty will be key two-way players, as will Franshun Jordan and D'onte Gholston.
DeKalb at Lake ParkGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: An amazing turnaround continues at DeKalb, which last year earned a fifth straight playoff berth. It's become a nice rivalry game for the Lancers, who bring strength to both lines with Patrick Panasiuk, Isaac Moore, Kyle Holliday and DeMarco Lee.
Downers Grove South at BolingbrookGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: If the Mustangs are ready to compete for the WSC Gold title, now's the time to show it. With George Ross settled in at quarterback and junior Jayden Lambert energizing the offense, they'll try to challenge the ninth-ranked team in Class 8A.
Elgin at Glenbard EastGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: This Upstate Eight Conference opener gives Glenbard East a good opportunity to establish its ground game. Four Rams offensive linemen are back to lead the way for new running back Jake Netchin and third-year quarterback Bret Bushka.
Fenton at Maine EastGame time: 7 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Fenton's seven returning defensive starters will remember allowing Leyden 42 points in the 2017 opener. Offensively quarterback Kyle Cacioppo will connect with receiver Diamon King, but Fenton must also keep Maine East honest with a rushing threat.
Glenbard South at StreamwoodGame time: 7 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Glenbard South makes its UEC debut and quarterback Nick Plaso makes his varsity debut. He'll try to avoid Streamwood's North Dakota-bound defensive lineman Elijah Beach, 6-3 and 260 pounds. It's a challenge for Abe Nuño and the Raiders line.
Hyde Park at MontiniGame time: 7 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Returning Montini running back Nick Fedanzo opened last season with 2 touchdowns in a 51-8 Broncos win over Hyde Park. There may be a couple more Friday, but of main interest is which of Montini's several quarterback candidates fares well.
Kaneland at Hinsdale SouthGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: This is a new opener for Hinsdale South. The Hornets have enjoyed some terrific quarterback-receiver combinations in recent years. They're hoping for a similar chemistry between quarterback Marquese Garrett and receiver Terrill McCray.
Metea Valley at Wheaton Warrenville SouthGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Metea Valley quarterback Patrick Straub closed out the 2017 season as an injury replacement. Now the job is all his. He'll try avoiding a terrific WW South defensive front headed by Isiah Brown-Dietzman, Chase Keating and Jack Kelly.
Lisle at HarvardGame time: 7 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Past playoff perennial Harvard has fallen on hard times, 0-9 and 1-8 the last two seasons. Lisle looks to keep the Hornets mad with its quick-hitting ground game anchored by returning offensive tackles Charlie Waldusky and Zach Zikuda.
New Trier at YorkGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: The Mike Fitzgerald era begins at York with great anticipation. All eyes will be on the offense but Dukes fans might be just as impressed by the defense. Linebacker Zane Heemsoth and linemen Bo Thomas and Ben Melion lead an experienced crew.
Simeon at Naperville NorthGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Naperville North's offense was gutted by graduation but playmakers remain. While the Huskies settle in at quarterback, keep an eye on running back Ameir Wilbourn and receiver Matt Heinz in front an offensive line led by Sammy Caldarazzo.
Thornridge at Wheaton AcademyGame time: 7:15 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Wheaton Academy opens against a larger, unfamiliar foe. Should the Warriors' new lines hold they're poised to strike quickly with Ben Thorson, Noah Jones, Cristian Carstens and others back in key skill spots on both sides of the ball.
Waubonsie Valley at Oak ParkGame time: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Oak Park, out of the West Suburban Silver, is a strong opener on Waubonsie's tough schedule. Warriors new full-time starters, quarterback Jack Drow and tailback Bryce Logan, aim to stretch the Huskies' defense far and wide.
West Chicago at South ElginGame time: 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
The quick hit: West Chicago's Jack Rustman makes his coaching debut against Dragan Teonic, late of Larkin. South Elgin always brings quickness, so Wildcats linebackers Jeremy Grant and Mike Wagner must keep the Storm within the hash marks.
Westmont at SenecaGame time: 7 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Michael Thompson's 39-yard touchdown catch gave Westmont a 7-0 halftime lead last year in Week 4. Seneca then scored 30 points unanswered. New Sentinels quarterback Troy Schlicher would like to strike early and keep it going.
Wheaton North at EvanstonGame time: 7 p.m. Friday.
The quick hit: Another tough nonconference opponent for the Falcons, who face an Evanston team that's made seven playoff appearances in eight years. Wheaton North will reload its powerful ground game with returning running back Antowon Tolbert.