Scouting the Fox Valley Conference football season
Burlington Central2019 record: 3-6, 3-6 FVC.
Coach: Brian Melvin (fifth season).
Worth noting: While a 3-6 record may not catch attention, it is noteworthy because the Rockets were in their first year in the FVC, where they were the smallest school by far. ... RB-LB Gavin Sarvis led Burlington with 711 rushing yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore. Sarvis also had 38 tackles and one sack on defense. ... QB Mark Ganziano is a third-year starter and completed 61% of his passes for 822 yards and five touchdowns. ... OL Jake Borman is another three-year starter and juniors Matt Eshoo and Zach Schultz also return on the line. ... LB Sean Adkerson had 41 tackles and six QB pressures and returns, as does DB Zach Lawrence, who had two interceptions. ... LB Ryan Gillette is another returning starter.
Cary-Grove2019 record: 8-3, 7-2 FVC.
Coach: Brad Seaburg (10th season).
Worth noting: Seaburg is 92-20 in his nine seasons as coach. ... The Trojans lost to Prairie Ridge, 42-7, in Week 8 last season, then nearly knocked the Wolves out of the playoffs, falling 14-13 in the Class 6A quarterfinals. ... C-G will sorely miss FB Blake Skol (1,266 yards, 20 touchdowns), a three-year varsity starter and a workhorse. The rest of the backfield, junior RBs Wade Abrams and Arik Mistak, return. QB Jameson Sheehan has taken some varsity snaps the last two seasons, so he is a new starter, but one with experience. ... TE Noah Riley and OL Nathan Gamez, Zach Stolz and Joe Swanson are all back up front. ... LB Johnny Gagliano has started since his freshman season. DL Zach Petko and DBs Gyanni Kanellakis, Anthony Lamantia, Nathan Splitt and Toby Splitt return on defense. ... Seaburg sees Sheehan, DB Ben Hurt Haller, RB Drew Magel, FB Nick Hissong, WR Zac Labrec, TE Niko Neckopolous, OL Max Katsenos and OL David Villareal and some of the key players stepping into starting roles. ..."We have good experience across the board," Seaburg said. "In the quarterfinal, we had 17 players who played significant time. Like everyone else, we relied heavily on our kids working hard during the coronavirus pandemic. After a couple of weeks of workouts, it's apparent that our kids have definitely put in the work with many improving significantly." ... Seaburg said the junior class is deep and talented.
Crystal Lake Central2019 record: 6-4, 6-3 FVC.
Coach: Jon McLaughlin (12th season).
Worth noting: The Tigers return 13 starters, seven on defense, six on offense, from a playoff team in 2019. ... Central has good size on its offensive line with Al Zukowski (6-2, 255), Jacob Pollack (5-11, 220) and Buzz Macke (6-2, 235) coming back. WR Connor Bartesch (6-4, 190) was second on the team with 22 receptions for 322 yards; RB Jake Coss tied for third with 20 catches. ... Junior Colton Madura takes over at quarterback for graduated Aidan Ellinger, who led the area with 1,583 passing yards. ... The defense returns seven starters. DL Andew Hudec (6-3, 240), Caleb Moskiewicz (6-4, 225) and Tyler Julitz (6-4, 215) are back, along with LB Jayden Alvarez (6-2, 225), LB Gavin Boos (6-0, 185) and Will Martin (6-2, 210) and DB Peyton Falco (5-10, 180). ... "I am excited for our seniors and the chance for them to play this year," McLaughlin said. "These kids have worked incredibly hard over the past few years, especially this offseason."
Crystal Lake South2019 record: 5-5, 5-4 FVC.
Coach: Rob Fontana (fourth season).
Worth noting: The Gators put together back-to-back playoff seasons in 2018 and 2019. ... QB Justin Kowalak (6-0, 180), a junior lefty, threw for 1,486 yards and 12 touchdowns and will lead South's offense. He has WR Brock Jewson (6-1, 175, 29 receptions) and WR Gavin Giejda (6-0, ‚175, 19 receptions) back as two of Kowalak's top three targets last season. ... Sophomore RB Nathan Van Witzenburg (5-10, 170) saw some action last season and takes over as the main back. ... Sophomore OL Nate Compere (6-3, 255) is the lone returning starter on the line. ... LB Shane Moran (5-11, 180), LB Ian Burke (5-10, 190), DL Gabe Wisler (6-1, 190), LB Joey Mikulec (5-11, 180) and Jewson all return as defensive starters. ... New players who Fontana sees helping out are WR-LB Eddie Avila, WR-DB Brandon Haning, WR-LB Connor Hamm, K Kevin Landa, Athl-DB Marcus Smith, LB Kyle Kuffel, WR-DB Cooper LePage, WR-DB Joe Ready and WR-DB Brady Schroeder. ... "With this unique offseason, we are going to have to rely on guys that don't have much varsity experience," Fontana said. "This is a hardworking group that has a high football IQ and a willingness to do what they are asked and are selfless in their day-to-day."
Dundee-Crown2019 record: 0-9, 0-9 FVC.
Coach: Mike Steinhaus (seventh season).
Worth noting: The Chargers struggled offensively last season, scoring a total of 57 points and being shut out three times. They reached double-digit points in two games. ... RB-LB Jhalon Reese (5-10, 210) is a returning All-FVC selection from last season. RB Lajuan Gaines also had carries in the backfield. Both are seniors. ... Steinhaus will rely on other seniors, CB Drew Smith (5-11, 170), OT-DL Oscar Ulloa (6-3 255), WR-LB Caden Chlopek (6-2, 170) and OT Graham Carlson (6-1, 210) on offense. ... TE-DL Hunter Guyon (6-4, 210) and QB-DB Drew Randl (6-2, 170) are juniors expected to make key contributions. ... RB-DB Keegan Otte (5-8, 175), WR-DB Henry Kennedy (5-10, 160) and LB-DL Porter Leith (6-0, 200) are sophomores who will play key roles.
Hampshire2019 record: 2-7, 2-7 FVC.
Coach: Jake Brosman (third season).
Worth noting: Hampshire starts this season with a new streak, a two-game winning streak, after beating Dundee-Crown and McHenry to finish last season. The Whip-Purs had lost 24 in a row before that. ... Hampshire has great size on its offensive line with returning starters Eli Andresen (sr., 6-5, 270), Patryk Barnas (Jr, 6-3, 285), Ryan Miedema (Jr, 5-10, 270) and Avery James (Jr, 6-1, 210). ... TE Will Pflederer (sr., 6-1, 190), FB Neil Sakolari (sr., 5-10, 220), RB Alex Corbett (sr., 5-11, 170) and WR Jake Wilcox (sr., 6-1, 190) are returning starters on offense. ... Pflederer, Sakolari and Corbett also start on defense. NT August Russow (Jr, 5-10, 250), LB Daniel Chojnowski (Jr, 5-11, 160), DB Jack Rummell (Jr, 5-11, 160) and DB Nathan Strumilo (sr., 6-0, 200) are other returning defensive starters.
Huntley2019 record: 9-2, 8-1 FVC (co-champion).
Coach: Matt Zimolzak (fifth season).
Worth noting: The Red Raiders shared the FVC title with Prairie Ridge. After falling to Jacobs in Week 2, Huntley bounced back to beat Prairie Ridge in Week 3 and did not lose again until the second round of the Class 8A playoffs, at Marist, 14-7. ... The Red Raiders return QB Bruno Bosman, who rushed for 914 yards and threw for 1,032 and nine touchdowns. ... Two-year starting RB Ryder Havens (970 yards rushing) did not come back for his senior year, so Alex Janke will pull double duty at running back and linebacker. Janke's freshman brother Haiden will be his backup at running back. ... WR Alex Denniston (22 receptions, four TDs) will be one of Bosman's top targets. ... DL Brad Walker (6-1, 270) returns to lead what should be another standout defense. He also will play on the offensive line. ... David Gehl (5-11, 275) and Jack Krelle III (6-1, 230) return on the offensive line. WRs Jacob Freitag (5-10, 160) and Carter Knutsen (5-10, 160) also saw playing time as slot receivers. ... Along with Janke and Walker, LB Tristan Carone (5-9, 175), DB Eddie Wall (5-10, 165), LB Boston Bower (6-0, 200), DL Ben Wiley (6-1, 195) and DB Chris Medina (5-7, 155) return as starters on defense.
Jacobs2019 record: 3-6, 3-6 FVC.
Coach: Brian Zimmerman (first season).
Worth noting: Zimmerman takes over for Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bill Mitz, who resigned last month. Mitz was 63-48 in 11 seasons at Jacobs, the most wins in school history. ... WR Max Stec tied for the area lead with 37 receptions last season, averaging 19.9 a catch. ... RB-DE Nasir Canty (6-2, 210) is a sophomore who ran for 470 yards and seven touchdowns. ... TE-LB Ryan Golnick (6-2, 215) was the Golden Eagles' leading tackler last season and narrowly missed a medal in the Class 3A Wrestling State Tournament at 220 pounds. He was 39-6. ... OL Joe Volenec (6-2, 255), OT-DE Ben Lubely (6-5, 235), OL-DL Kyle Koziel (5-11, 230), WR-DB Jaiden LaRoss (6-0, 160), OT-NT Antonio Carlos (6-3, 315), DT Dylan Martinez (5-8, 185) and LB Aidan Roberts (5-7 190) are other returning starters. ... Sophomore Sam Deligio will take over at quarterback. Some of the other key new players will be FB-CB Keegan Connors (5-7, 155), TE-OT Will Siebert (6-2, 230), RB-DB Ben Ludlum (5-11, 175), TE-DE Grant Stec (6-6, 225), RB-LB Paulie Rudolph (5-11, 197), RB-LB Joe Scrivani (6-0, 170), TE-S Will Prendergast, OL-DL Luke Shannon and TE-DE Dominic Rocha (6-1, 205).
McHenry2019 record: 3-6, 3-6 FVC.
Coach: Jon Niemic (third season).
Worth noting: Junior RB Brody Hallin (5-8, 160) rushed for 520 yards and five touchdowns and was the Warriors' best offensive playmaker. ... WR Adam Benton (6-3, 180, 13 receptions) and WR Matt Gallimore (6-2, 175, 10 receptions) return as McHenry's top receivers. ... LB Paul Zunkel (5-11, 205) and OL-DL Luke Zunkel (6-0, 225) were two of the Warriors' best defenders last season and return. ... DL Ayden Watson (6-3, 280) is a returning starter on defense, along with DB Dom Lorenzo (6-1, 170) and Kyle Kaempf (6-1, 160). ... Junior Andrew Hoffman (6-1 185), who competed for the starting job last season, takes over at quarterback. ... Junior DL Tyler Groves (6-1, 290) and sophomore OL Elijah Nothdorf (6-2, 270) are two other new starters who will help. ... "We are just pumped to have the opportunity to play this season," Niemic said. "We are grateful that our 19 seniors will be able to put on the orange and black a few more times this spring. We fully expect our guys to take advantage of this shortened season and, hopefully, we can earn some wins in the ever-competitive FVC."
Prairie Ridge2019 record: 12-2, 8-1 FVC (co-champion).
Coach: Chris Schremp (19th season).
Worth noting: The Wolves have played in three of the last four Class 6A state championship games, winning titles in 2016 and 2017. They lost to East St. Louis, 43-21, last season. ... Schremp is 154-55 in his 18 seasons at Prairie Ridge. ... The Wolves return two of the area's top players in FB-LB Carter Evans (6-4, 240) and QB Taidhgin Trost (6-1 190). Evans is headed to NCAA Division I Eastern Michigan; Trost will play at D-III Washington University in St. Louis. Evans ran for 922 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Trost, at running back, scored 24 touchdowns while rushing 57 times and catching 17 passes. ... The Wolves return three starting offensive linemen: Ryan Pearson (6-2, 265), Jack Schnoor (6-3, 285) and Andrew Renteria (6-2, 280). ... Prairie Ridge's defense was tough last season as well. DBs Matt Fryer (5-10, 185), Mason Loucks (5-8, 160) and Ty Baker (5-9, 180) are back, along with LB Tyler Crawford (6-0, 185) and DL Patrick Gartner (5-10, 190). Schnoor and Evans also will play defense. ... Schremp has modest goals for the abbreviated season. "First off, I want to play six games," he said. "That's my big hope. They're giving us six games, and you see basketball teams canceling games, I just want these guys to get six in. Above and beyond that, I want our seniors to have a good experience here. All the other kids may be coming back to a little more normalcy in a few months. We're going to hope our seniors leave on a good note and have a good experience with their six games."
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Carter Evans, Prairie Ridge, senior, FB-LB: Evans (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) suffered a broken left fibula in the Wolves' Class 6A playoff opener against Grayslake North that ended his season. He rushed for 922 yards and 15 touchdowns and could have more of a role on defense this season. Evans signed with NCAA Division I Eastern Michigan and will join his brother Samson, a running back for the Eagles. Carter Evans was a Northwest Herald All-Area second-team pick at running back.
Alex Janke, Huntley, senior, RB-LB: Janke was an All-Area first-team pick at defensive back after leading the Red Raiders with 79 tackles, grabbing five interceptions and forcing four fumbles. He also played some offense as receiver and running back. Now, Janke will also play running back where his speed will make him dangerous. Raiders coach Matt Zimolzak calls him "our best athlete."
Max Stec, Jacobs, senior, WR: Stec (6-2, 195) offers a big target for sophomore quarterback Sam Deligio after switching from safety as a sophomore to wide receiver last season. Stec tied Marengo's Cole Davis for the area lead in receptions (37) and had 738 yards receiving and four touchdowns.
Taidhgin Trost, Prairie Ridge, senior, QB: Trost (6-1, 190) did it all for the Wolves last season, scoring 24 touchdowns on 74 touches from scrimmage. Of his 17 receptions, 14 went for touchdowns. He rushed 57 times for 637 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Wolves missed him in the Class 6A state championship game against East St. Louis when he suffered a torn left ACL in the first half. Trost is back now and will touch the ball on every down.
Brad Walker, Huntley, senior, DL: Walker (6-1, 275) is a two-time Northwest Herald All-Area first-team pick on the defensive line, where he had 28 tackles and four sacks for a stout Red Raiders' defense. He was a disruptive player for offensive lines, often making an impact by moving opponents into the offensive backfield more than making tackles. Walker was an Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Class 8A All-Stater. He will play at NCAA Division II Concordia-St. Paul next year.
FIVE CAN'T MISS MATCHUPS
Week 1 -- Jacobs at Huntley: A year ago the Golden Eagles shocked Huntley with a loss in Week 2. The Red Raiders did not lose again until the second round of the Class 8A playoffs.
Week 1 -- Crystal Lake Central at Crystal Lake South: Both teams made the playoffs last season and return several key players. This should be a strong matchup for an opener.
Week 4 -- Prairie Ridge at Cary-Grove: Prairie Ridge won, 42-7, in their first meeting last year, but the Trojans nearly ended the Wolves' season in the Class 6A playoff quarterfinals, losing 14-13 on a sloppy field at Prairie Ridge.
Week 4 -- Burlington Central at Jacobs: The Rockets defeated Jacobs, 31-30, last season, which was the second of six consecutive losses for the Golden Eagles.
Week 6 -- FVC championship game: Huntley is the favorite from its division, while Prairie Ridge and Cary-Grove look like the top teams on the other side. With no playoffs this season, this will be as good as it gets.