Scouting Upstate Eight Conference football
Teams: Bartlett, East Aurora, Elgin, Fenton, Glenbard East, Glenbard South, Larkin, South Elgin, Streamwood, West Chicago.
Key games: Bartlett at Glenbard East, Sept. 6; West Chicago at Fenton, Sept. 6; Bartlett at Glenbard South, Sept. 13; Fenton at Streamwood, Sept. 13; South Elgin at Glenbard East, Sept. 27; Glenbard South at Glenbard East, Oct. 18; Larkin at Elgin, Oct. 18; South Elgin at Bartlett, Oct. 18.
Top players: Dylan Bernal, South Elgin, DL; Xavier Bonds, Elgin, WR-DB; Kaydin Clark, Larkin, RB-LB; Vince Clinite, South Elgin, LB; Deon Cook, WR-DB, Glenbard East; Ethan Doliente, Fenton, RB-LB; Julian Giles, Fenton, OL; Brendan Gran, Bartlett, RB-LB; Luke Krogh, West Chicago, QB; Josh Leathers, Streamwood, OL; Shiking Marshall, South Elgin, WR-DB; Connor Murphy, Glenbard South, OL-DL; Alec Palella, Bartlett, TE-LB; Connor Peterson, Glenbard East, OL; Nick Plaso, Glenbard South, QB; Michael Roath, South Elgin, OL; Miguel Rodriguez, West Chicago, DL; Jason Torrevillas, Glenbard East, DB; Alex West, Elgin, WR-LB; Kimani Williams, East Aurora, DB; Matt Young, Bartlett, WR-DB.
Outlook: The departure of 2018 UEC runner-up West Aurora to the Southwest Prairie Conference opens room at the top of this single-division group of 10 teams, which brings in Fenton from the Metro Suburban Conference. It's hard to call a true favorite between South Elgin, Bartlett and Glenbard East, which last season swept through 9-0 for its first conference title since 1965 but returns only three full-time starters. Glenbard South, a fifth 2018 UEC playoff qualifier despite having the lowest enrollment team in the league, will also be a player behind senior quarterback Nick Plaso. South Elgin coach Dragan Teonic respectfully gives Glenbard East the nod as defending conference champion. The Rams graduated 11 all-conference players but field an offensive line that averages 270 pounds and a defense, particularly in the secondary, that will fly to the football. Rams sophomore quarterback Connor Cerkus may get his varsity feet wet utilizing that line with the run game. South Elgin and Bartlett are about the opposite of Glenbard East concerning experience. Exceedingly deep on the lines, South Elgin returns at least eight starters on either side of the ball, including the Storm's defensive MVP, Vince Clinite, at linebacker and great speed out of Shiking Marshall and Davion Cherwin at the skill positions. The Storm also will get a boost playing on Friday nights at home for the first time. Bartlett returns 12 starters and several returning all-conference players. Yet Hawks coach Matt Erlenbaugh sounds just as pumped about new impact players like quarterback Mike Priami and running back Tyler Rivelli. What may be just as interesting as the battle for the conference title is who will break through from the lower half of the league. Streamwood's numbers and depth are the best they've been in years, and few opponents will out-athlete 2018 Elgin MVP Xavier Bonds, who caught 40 passes for 663 yards as a junior. Larkin, 4-5 last year, needs a win over a front-runner to gain confidence. Fenton is a wild card with 16 returning starters from the smallest school in the UEC.
Quotable: "You've got the big three at the top with Bartlett, South Elgin and Glenbard East that are just very tough teams. Well-coached, good athletes, tough kids. I expect Glenbard South along with the big three to be fighting it out for a conference championship." -- Glenbard South coach Ryan Crissey.