Scouting CCL/ESCC football
Teams: Blue Division: Brother Rice, Loyola, Marist, Mt. Carmel. Green Division: Montini, Notre Dame, Providence, St. Rita. Orange Division: Benet, De La Salle, Nazareth, St. Laurence. Purple Division: Carmel, Marian Central, St. Patrick, St. Viator. Red Division: DePaul, Leo, Marian Catholic, St. Joseph. White Division: Fenwick, Joliet Catholic, Marmion, St. Ignatius.
Key games: St. Rita at Montini, Sept. 20; Benet at St. Laurence, Oct. 4; Montini at Notre Dame, Oct. 4; Marmion at Fenwick, Oct. 4; Brother Rice at Loyola, Oct. 5; Brother Rice at Mt. Carmel, Oct. 25; Joliet Catholic at Marmion, Oct. 25; Providence at Montini, Oct. 25; Marist at Loyola, Oct. 26; Nazareth at Benet, Oct. 26.
Top players: Jeremiah Banks-Wall, Montini, OL; Colin Bohanek, Marist, LB; Kaleb Brown, St. Rita, WR; Brandon Bryan, Marmion, OL-DL; Joey Bueno, Joliet Catholic, LB; C.J. Bufkin, Montini, RB-DB; Trevor Cabanban, Loyola, RB; Declan Callahan, St. Ignatius, LB; Sean Carpenter, Fenwick, OL-DL; Pat Coogan, Marist, OL; Joe Fanning, St. Patrick, OL; Jameson Geers, Providence, TE; Colin Gillespie, Benet, QB; Jalen Grant, Mt. Carmel, OL; Marcus Griffin, Nazareth, LB; Major Haas, Marmion, RB-LB; Giacomo Iraci, Brother Rice, DB; Justin Jefferson, Brother Rice, DL; Ryan Keeler, Nazareth, OL-DL; Christo Kelly, Loyola, OL; J.J. McCarthy, Nazareth, QB; Landon Morris, Nazareth, WR; Tyler Morris, Nazareth, WR-DB; Nate Muersch, Montini, WR; Anthony Ranallo, Notre Dame, LB; Jake Renfro, Providence, OL; Jacob Snell, Benet, DL; Nate Thomas, St. Laurence, RB; Denver Warren, Brother Rice, DL; C.J. West, Nazareth, DL; Kenyetta Williams, Joliet Catholic, RB.
Outlook: A merger of the Chicago Catholic League and the East Suburban Catholic Conference, the 24 teams are separated equally into six divisions by a formula of past conference success, male enrollment and football program size. Three defending state champions -- Class 8A Loyola, Class 7A Nazareth and Class 5A Joliet Catholic -- are involved as well as 2018 runners-up Class 8A Brother Rice and Class 5A Montini. Benet coach Pat New calls this new conference "by far" the best in the state, which makes sense given the CCL already vied for that title and the ESCC was in the conversation. Many high-caliber teams playing limited divisional games means "key games" could apply to most of them, and the same with top players. Like Nazareth's lineup. Roadrunners coach Tim Racki, now with three state titles at Nazareth and four with Driscoll, has USA Today's fourth-ranked team in the Midwest (Loyola is No. 10) and one of the top recruits in the Class of 2021 nationally, Michigan-bound quarterback J.J. McCarthy. The 6-foot-2 junior passed for 3,289 yards and 36 touchdowns to 4 interceptions as a sophomore and has a wealth of college recruits around him. Benet and three-year starters Jacob Snell and Colin Gillespie host Nazareth in Week 9, capping a grueling stretch for the Redwings after playing Loyola and St. Rita. Loyola returns one defensive starter but reloads on the offensive line; Brother Rice graduated 17 starters, but coach Brian Badke believes his defense could be one of the Crusaders' best. Montini, seeking another title bid, is strong up front and flush in skill positions, including Miami (Ohio)-bound receiver Nate Muersch. In the division the Broncos play 2018 Prep Bowl champ St. Rita, a Notre Dame squad coming off a 10-3 season and Providence, reloading with eight starters back on each side of the ball including 300-pound lineman Jake Renfro, a Cincinnati commit. In the CCL/ESCC White, Marmion center Brandon Bryan is among few Cadets with line experience. Hosting a rejuvenated Joliet Catholic program in Week 9 may determine whether the Cadets reach the playoffs.
Quotable: "It'll be fun playing new teams. I don't know if I should use 'fun' when we're playing Loyola (Oct. 12 in Wilmette), but it'll be interesting." -- Benet coach Pat New.