Scouting DuPage Valley Conference football
Teams: DeKalb, Metea Valley, Naperville Central, Naperville North, Neuqua Valley, Waubonsie Valley.
Key games: Naperville North vs. Naperville Central, Sept. 27; Neuqua Valley at Waubonsie Valley, Sept. 27; Naperville Central at Neuqua Valley, Oct. 4; Naperville Central at Waubonsie Valley, Oct. 11; Metea Valley at Waubonsie Valley, Oct. 18.
Top players: LB Jack Belskis, Neuqua Valley, sr.; DB Nico Cegles, Naperville North, sr.; WR Reggie Fleurima, Naperville Central, so.; TE-LB Austin Frederick, Metea Valley, sr.; QB Mark Gronowski, Neuqua Valley, sr.; WR-DB Patrick Hoffmann, Neuqua Valley, sr.; QB Sam Jackson, Naperville Central, jr.; DB Donovan Lacey, DeKalb, sr.; WR-DB Sean Larkin, Neuqua Valley, sr.; RB Bryce Logan, Waubonsie Valley, sr.; WR-DB Matt Maschmeier, Naperville North, sr.; DB Jamarri Moore, Naperville Central, sr.; LB Ryan Mutz, Waubonsie Valley, sr.; DL J.J. Robertson, Neuqua Valley, sr.; OL Sam Skuja, Waubonsie Valley, sr.; WR Jadon Thompson, Naperville Central, sr.; RB-LB C.J. Wilcox, Metea Valley, sr. DL-TE Demari Wilson, Waubonsie Valley, sr.; RB-LB Elijah Wright, Metea Valley, sr.
Outlook: DeKalb has joined the DVC, making it six strong instead of five. Before anyone thinks Naperville Central will run away with the title again, keep in mind the talent returning at Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley. But first, the Redhawks. Sam Jackson, committed to Minnesota, shifts from receiver to quarterback to lead an explosive passing game. Illinois-bound Jadon Thompson, a Marist transfer, Naperville North transfer Reggie Fleurima and an abundance of receiving talent is on hand for a unit that seeks balance with an inexperienced run game. Don't discount Neuqua Valley's passing game, though, and an offense returning nine starters. Quarterback Mark Gronowski, who last year threw for 1,200 yards, returns with receivers Sean Larkin, committed to Southern Illinois, Patrick Hoffmann and Garrett Stare. Waubonsie Valley's ground game is ready to roll again with Bryce Logan, who rushed for 1,148 yards, and returning linemen Sam Skuja and Charlie Millington. Naperville North is inexperienced in most spots, but Matt Maschmeier is back to anchor the receiving corps and the secondary. First-year Metea Valley coach John Parpet will try to turn around a program that never has finished above .500. Despite the transfer of linebacker Jack Belskis, their leading tackler, to Neuqua Valley, the Mustangs still have hope with two-way standout Austin Frederick and the running back tandem of C.J. Wilcox and Elijah Wright. DeKalb faces a big step up in competition. The Barbs, who welcome a new coach, Keith Snyder, reached the playoffs the last six years in Class 6A and 7A.
Quotable: "We know how good this conference is and we have to be ready," said Naperville Central coach Mike Stine. "DeKalb just makes it more interesting."