Scouting the West Suburban Conference for the 2021 football season
Here's a look at the 2021 football season in the West Suburban Conference.
Addison Trail2019 record: 3-6
Coach: Chris Bazant
Worth noting: For the first time since 1981, a Parpet will not be the Blazers' head coach. Bazant was hired in January 2020 to replace Paul Parpet Jr., who stepped down after 10 seasons. Bazant is no stranger. He's taught and has been a varsity assistant at Addison Trail since 2012. He played linebacker at Andrew and collegiately at North Central before coaching stops at York and Mattoon. The Blazers, whose last playoff appearance was in 2014, return four of their offensive linemen and three -- juniors Nathanial Figueroa, Jason Houser and John Voinea -- started as sophomores. It's a young team in general dominated by juniors. Seniors Victor Gutierrez in the secondary and Raul Villarreal on the line will lead a young defense. Senior Eric Reed is a returning starter at running back and linebacker.
Downers Grove South2019 record: 5-5
Coach: Mark Molinari
Worth noting: The Mustangs in 2019 took a step in the right direction with their first playoff appearance since 2014, and their 5-5 record was perhaps deceiving as Downers Grove South lost two games at the end and led at halftime in two other losses. Junior receiver Eli Reed, who runs a 4.4 40 and has offers from Northern Illinois and Western Michigan, leads seven returning starters on offense. Senior Max Molinari and 6-foot-4 sophomore Ryan Dawson will vie for the quarterback job after incumbent starter Cole Warehime chose to focus this spring on baseball. Rashon Murff had his junior season cut short with nagging leg issues, but with his 215-pound frame runs hard. Molinari thinks sophomore tight end/linebacker Mack O'Halloran has a chance to be a big-time recruit and will play a huge role in the offense that also returns junior receivers Patrick O'Neil and Jerry Eaton, with Nick Schmidt and Jaylen Welch back on the offensive line. The defense is less experienced after graduating eight seniors, but does return Nathan Gustafson on the defensive line, Ethan Monaco at linebacker and Drey McGrew in the defensive backfield.
Hinsdale South2019 record: 3-6
Coach: Mike Barry
Worth noting: The Hornets hope for a rebound. Hinsdale South last season dropped its last four games, the three wins the program's fewest since 2010. Dual-threat quarterback Marquese Garrett graduated, but Barry said there's plenty of speed and big-play potential in the program. Senior Jaylon Smith was Hinsdale South's leading receiver with 29 catches for 518 yards and six touchdowns, and tight end Lucas Kozak and receiver Juke Terrell also return. Also back are linebacker/running back Jesse Villegas, two-way lineman OJ Jackson, linebacker Logan Bryant, defensive end Brandon Landfair, two-way lineman Michael Houltrom and linebacker Emmanuel Williams. Senior Donny Lowdermilk, who threw for 322 yards as a junior playing behind Garrett, is at quarterback.
Leyden2019 record: 4-5
Coach: Tom Cerasani
Worth noting: The Eagles, whose last winning season under 16th-year head coach Cerasani came in 2016, have a smaller roster than usual because of the pandemic -- but Cerasani characterizes it as a tough and gritty group that looks to be as competitive as possible. Leyden's top players back include senior receiver/defensive back Elijah Diblich, senior running back/defensive back Nico Venezia, junior tight end/linebacker Colin O'Neil, senior offensive lineman Julian Mendoza, senior fullback/linebacker Jason O'Donnell and senior running back/linebacker Joel Gonzalez.
Morton2019 record: 1-8
Coach: Bob Organ
Worth noting: The Mustangs have won either one or two games in every season since 2013, so a modest goal is to go out and compete every game in the gauntlet of the Gold. Organ is hoping for great things at wide receiver from Allen Miramontes, a 6-foot-3 senior and returning starter. Place-kicker Matthew Noguez is a returning starter committed to Illinois Wesleyan. Organ anticipates a big year from senior two-way lineman and returning starter Edwin Herrera, and junior receiver/defensive back Jaysohn Lemon. Other returning starters include senior tight end/defensive lineman Joshua Suarez and junior running back/linebacker Mason Bryant. Aaron Miramontes, brother of Allen, is a 6-foot-4, 240-pound sophomore tight end/defensive lineman who is one to watch.
Proviso East2019 record: 2-7
Coach: Aaron Peppers
Worth noting: The Pirates are turning a new page with a familiar face from the past. Peppers, a retired Maywood police officer who previously coached the Proviso East varsity from 2005-2010, was hired in May. That followed a controversial end to the 2019 season. Proviso East, which appeared to have made the playoffs for the first time since 2008, had to forfeit four games and was disqualified for the postseason due to allegations that the team fielded ineligible players. Peppers was 23-33 in his previous tenure. He said the Pirates will forge an identity as a power running team, and defensively will have speed with 11 guys flying to the ball. Junior defensive back/wide receiver Jokwan Cherry, senior linebacker Kendall Brown, junior wide receiver/quarterback/defensive back Tyler Thomas, senior wide receiver/defensive back Kelby James, senior quarterback/defensive back Mikhi Evans, senior running back/defensive back Lamaris Smith and senior defensive back Armourian Griffin lead the returning starters.
Willowbrook2019 record: 11-2
Coach: Nick Hildreth
Worth noting: The Warriors have established themselves as one of the upper-echelon Class 7A programs with four straight quarterfinal appearances and last season reached the semifinals for the first time since 1975. Do-all quarterback Sam Tumilty, who accounted for over 4,000 yards of total offense as a senior, is graduated, but Willowbrook does return a core group of four starters on offense and seven on defense. Left tackle Enrique Cruz, a Syracuse recruit, is one of the top players in Illinois' senior class. Moe Ayesh, who led Willowbrook in tackles as a sophomore at linebacker and moved to safety last year, will probably pencil in at linebacker with the Warriors graduating two of their three inside linebackers. He'll also play more offense as well. Sergio Ayala is a third three-year starter at linebacker and offensive line. Lineman Elijah Brockie would have been a fourth, but he blew out his knee at a wrestling tournament. Freshman AJ Palicki will compete for the quarterback job with junior Nick Mabutas, who started at safety and wide receiver as a freshman and was the sophomore team's starting quarterback as a freshman. Josh Brown, who started on the defensive line last year, will play running back.
Downers Grove North2019 record: 6-5
Coach: Joe Horeni
Worth noting: A senior-laden group led by two-way starter Drew Cassens (now at NIU) last season led the Trojans to their most wins since 2013, progress Horeni hopes a much younger team can maintain in his third season. Drew Bielawski, a three-year starter and all-conference linebacker who was Downers Grove North's leading tackler as a junior, leads the players back. He'll contribute on both sides of the ball, as will senior defensive end Brendan Truett, a two-year starter who had four sacks as a junior. Danny Bancoro is a two-year starter at defensive back and junior Will Janka is a returning starter on the offensive line.
Glenbard West2019 record: 10-1
Coach: Chad Hetlet
Worth noting: Hetlet said this could be one of his best teams in the last 10 years, and that's saying something. Glenbard West has double-digit wins in 10 of Hetlet's 12 seasons, eight or more wins in every season. In a normal season the Hilltoppers would be well-equipped to clear the playoff's second round where they've been tripped up the last three seasons. Running backs Jalen Moore, committed to St. Thomas, and Samson Zander, committed to Indiana Wesleyan, combined for over 2,700 rushing yards as juniors in a deep backfield and along with Syracuse-bound tackle Wes Hoeh lead seven starters back on offense. Tight end Denin Limouris is committed to Iowa as a preferred walk-on. Linebacker Caleb Moorhead, a Brown recruit, leads five starters back on defense.
Hinsdale Central2019 record: 8-2
Coach: Brian Griffin
Worth noting: Griffin, in his first season as head coach, kept Hinsdale Central's sustained excellence going in 2019, a fourth straight year with eight or more wins. A good senior class left holes to fill on both sides of the ball, but there's plenty of talent returning. Senior Michael Brescia, last year's conference MVP and a Colgate recruit, is one of the area's better quarterbacks and mobile at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. Miami (Ohio) commit Ryan Orput is his favorite target, with Jaylon Laws returning in the backfield and Chris Robinson and Luke Gatewood on the line. Five starters also return on defense, led by Division III Washington University recruit Jack Costello at outside linebacker and Rochester University commit Nyme Hussain at defensive back. Charlie Sessa, a 6-foot-5 receiver committed to Columbia, is among others to watch. Junior linebacker JT Pyle comes from a stellar three-generation family tradition at Hinsdale Central.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Michael Brescia, Hinsdale Central, QB, sr.: Colgate commit whose dad played at Yale established himself as one of the western suburbs' better quarterbacks as a junior. Brescia has good size at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, an accurate arm, is mobile and can throw on the run. It doesn't hurt to have quality receivers with size like 6-4 Miami-Ohio commit Ryan Orput and 6-5 Columbia recruit Charlie Sessa.
Jalen Moore, Glenbard West, RB, sr.: Part of a three-headed attack last year out of the Hilltoppers' backfield, Moore stands out with his blend of power and speed. Moore, committed to St. Thomas, ran for 1,600 yards as a junior. In the cold spring weather count on Glenbard West going to the ground plenty and hitching its wagon to this strong lead back.
Naahlyee Bryant, Oak Park-Forest, LB, sr.: Athletic outside linebacker with great straight-line speed ideal for the position. Bryant, a Western Michigan recruit and three-star prospect, will be counted on to lead a fairly young Huskies' roster.
Eli Reed, Downers Grove South, WR/DB, jr.: With Jayden Lambert graduated, Reed clearly will step forward as Mustangs' No. 1 receiver in his second varsity season. Burner who has offers from NIU and Western Michigan has added 20 pounds and posted a blazing 3.9 pro-agility time.
Enrique Cruz, Willowbrook, sr., OL/DL: Versatile 6-foot-6, 250-pound left tackle committed to Syracuse is Willowbrook's first Division I recruit in over a decade. A great frame and athletic, Cruz is well-suited for offenses that do run-pass options and the spread, but can also down block and pull.
FIVE CAN'T MISS MATCHUPS
Week 2: Hinsdale Central at Downers Grove North: Charter members of the West Suburban Conference have been playing for the "Old Oaken Bucket" since 1935, with Hinsdale leading the series 51-31 with four ties. The Red Devils have won the last 16 meetings going back to 2004, but least season's 35-26 score was the closest in six years.
Week 4: Willowbrook at York: Willowbrook has won 18 straight games in the Gold, and doesn't play Downers Grove South -- probably its closest competitor -- in an abbreviated season, so this crossover game could be the Warriors' biggest test. York, which is taking steps forward under third-year coach Mike Fitzgerald, last year lost 35-21 at Willowbrook.
Week 5: Glenbard West at Hinsdale Central: The two best teams in the Silver over the last decade figure to continue that preeminence into this spring, which makes this the game of the year in the league. Glenbard West last season won a 20-17 overtime classic at Duchon Field. Hinsdale has talented skill guys like quarterback Michael Brescia, but can the Red Devils match the power of players like Jalen Moore and Wes Hoeh?
Week 6: Downers Grove North at Downers Grove South: The Trojans have won the last five meetings with their crosstown rivals, but it's usually close like last year's 14-7 affair. Downers Grove North's win last season clinched a playoff berth, but with no postseason this spring district bragging rights will have to suffice for motivation.
Week 6: Oak Park-River Forest at Glenbard West: Hopefully Duchon Field's grass track is thawed out by this mid-April matinee season finale. The Hilltoppers have lorded over the Silver since Chad Hetlet arrived over a decade ago, but they probably haven't forgotten their last home meeting with OPRF. In 2018 the Huskies handed Glenbard West only its third loss at Duchon in the Silver since 2007, a 10-7 game on a last-second field goal.