Scouting the football season in the DuKane Conference
Here's a look at the football season in the DuKane Conference.
Batavia2019 record: 9-3, reached Class 7A quarterfinals
Coach: Dennis Piron (10th season)
Worth Noting: Batavia is loaded once again this season after coming off a quarterfinals loss to Nazareth, the buzz saw the Bulldogs have run into in consecutive seasons. Offensively, the Bulldogs return a number of key starters, including quarterback Kyle Oroni (1,451 passing yards, 19 TDs), Northern Illinois commit wideout Trey Urwiler (880 rec. yards, 8 TDs), 6-foot-7 tackle Jackson Heeringa and 6-foot-5 tight end Jack Valente. Defensively, they project to have one of the more productive linebacking units headlined by Arizona commit Matt Weerts (86 tackles), Ethan Ethridge (42 tackles) and Drew Bartels. Sophomore Tyler Jansey is likely to push for serious playing time in that unit as well. Overall, Batavia has lost just 15 games in the last decade -- with 94 wins and two state titles alongside that. That's top of the resume material, even in a shortened season.
Geneva2019 record: 0-9
Coach: Rob Wicinski (21st season)
Worth Noting: The Vikings are aspiring for significant improvement after a difficult season last year. They'll be featuring a younger roster on both sides of the ball by just returning one starter on defense and five on offense. Caden Naselli (22 tackles in 2019) is a senior captain, and is likely slated to start on both the offensive and defensive lines for the Vikings. Wicinski noted "his first step and speed has improved exponentially." Konner Mickelsen (64 carries, 219 yards in 2019) is likely expected to be a focal point offensively and will be flanked by wideout Michael Ignoffo (6 receptions, 98 yards) who battled injuries last season.
Glenbard North2019 record: 7-4, reached second round of Class 7A postseason.
Coach: Ryan Wilkens (15 seasons)
Worth Noting: The Panthers resurged in a big way last season and hope to continue the upward trajectory. Glenbard North is returning 6-foot-5 tight end Jake Cicero who started every game for them there, but will now also get rotation minutes on the defensive line. Brandon Smiley is expected to start in the defensive backfield but also handle kick/punt return duties and be a weapon at wide receiver. Shea Gaffney will be another key name to watch as well. Paulie Robertson, a 6-foot-1 offensive lineman, will be seeing action at both offensive and defensive tackle.
Lake Park2019 record: 3-6
Coach: Jason Kradman (first season)
Worth Noting: Kradman enters his first season as head coach for the Lancers after serving at Maine West. Lake Park is returning three starters on offense, headlined by quarterback Nathaneal Merchant, running back Micah Flagg and wideout Alex Fitzpatrick. Defensively, the Lancers will be anchored by lineman Cooper Cerese and linebackers Ryan Riser and Jack Boesen. Newcomers on the offensive line, Alfonso Munaco and Antony Pitello, are expected to bey key contributors and leaders for the Lancers on the line of scrimmage.
St. Charles East2019 record: 7-3, lost in Class 8A first round to Edwardsville
Coach: Bryce Farquhar (6th season)
Worth Noting: Perhaps the most intriguing quarterback in the conference in junior Nathan Hayes returns after a standout sophomore campaign to lead the Saints to the postseason. At 6-foot-5, Hayes already has offers from Indiana State and Eastern Illinois. The Saints return just three starters this season, which includes offensive tackle Ty Risberg and defensive lineman Logan Flesch. Perhaps the most intriguing newcomer is Austin Barrett, a 6-foot-6 lineman, that is already generating Big 10 interest at the University of Illinois. Coupled with Risberg, Hayes can expect top-tier protection.
St. Charles North2019 record: 4-5
Coach: Rob Pomazak (9th season)
Worth Noting: The North Stars have some key pieces to replace this season headlined by the graduation of two-year starting quarterback Kyler Brown (1,072 yards, 6 TDs) and standout senior running back Nick DeMarco (804 rush yards, 15 TDs) opting not to play football this season. Bartlett transfer and senior Michael Priami figures to be the leading candidate to replace Brown, but Sam DeDobbelaere is in the mix. The North offensive line returns four starters, headlined by Northwestern walk-on Carmine Bastone. A big loss defensively to fill is Purdue walk-on linebacker Ben Furtney, but the North Stars are returning 2019s leading tackler Zach McClure (63 tackles) and Dan Kowaleski (27 tackles) both at linebacker. Look for defensive back Jordan Nubin (26 tackles) to have a breakout senior season.
Wheaton North2019 record: 4-5
Coach: Joe Wardynski (12th season)
Worth Noting: The Falcons have a good basis of returners on offense, as they bring back six -- two offensive linemen (Mason Shroff and Aidan Olsen), quarterback (Mark Forcucci), two tailbacks (Hugh Werner and Brayton Maske) and wideout Kaiden Libby. Defensively, the Falcons bring back three starters in the secondary: Riley Dravet, Jackson Moore and Joe Swaray. Perhaps their biggest challenge is maintaining production lost at linebacker, as they graduated three starters headlined by Northwestern recruit Xander Mueller. Wheaton North added six juniors who did not play at the sophomore level last season. La'Juan Hill, a 6-foot-5 defensive end, could be a breakout player.
Wheaton Warrenville South2019 record: 8-4, reached Class 7A quarterfinals
Coach: Ron Muhitch (18th season)
Worth Noting: The Tigers return four starters on offense in quarterback Parker Brown, wideout Kaleb Clousing and linemen Nick Walker and Max Jablonski. How quickly the offensive line gels with three new starters will be an early season aspect to watch. Defensively, they're well-positioned for a solid start as seven starters return, three on the defensive line in Jaylen Brown, Micah Roberts and Connor Kelty. The Tigers do have to replace kicker Jack Olsen, who went on to Michigan State after an incredibly standout high school career.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCHMatt Weerts, Batavia, senior, linebacker: Already committed to Arizona, Weerts is probably the top linebacker in the Conference and is the engine for the Batavia defense
Austin Barrett, St. Charles East, junior, offensive lineman: Barrett is already highly-touted given his size and potential and one could expect a big jump from him this season.
Jordan Nubin, St. Charles North, senior, defensive back: Nubin completely reshaped his body this offseason and turned that into a walk-on opportunity at Minnesota. He'll anchor the secondary for the North Stars
Tyler Jansey, Batavia, sophomore, linebacker: Talk out of Batavia has been high on Jansey for months and he'll benefit playing alongside Weerts to back that up.
Tyler Fawcett, Wheaton South, junior, tight end: This is a gut feel based on the athleticism Fawcett showed on the court the last few months. At 6-foot-5, he won't be hard to miss for Parker Brown.
FIVE CAN'T MISS MATCHUPS Week 1 -- Batavia at St. Charles East: Batavia probably hasn't forgotten Nathan Hayes' dramatic fourth quarter comeback to lead the Saints over the Bulldogs last year. This matchup features a top flight QB in Hayes against a dynamic defensive front-seven led by Matt Weerts.
Week 2 -- St. Charles North vs. Batavia: The last two meetings have come down to the final minutes (even seconds) of the fourth quarter, with Batavia gaining the upper-hand in both. Batavia's pass rush against a tough offensive line like North's is fit for those who love football won in the trenches.
Week 3 -- Wheaton South at Glenbard North: The Panthers took a decisive 23-7 victory over the Tigers last season. Tigers QB Parker Brown vs. the pass-rush is a fun matchup to consider.
Week 3 -- St. Charles East at St. Charles North: The Saints secondary feasted on Kyler Brown last year; the Saints later enjoyed a postseason, while the North Stars narrowly missed a trip there. It's a crosstown rivalry game -- anything can happen.
Week 3 -- Wheaton South at Wheaton North: Wheaton South outlasted Wheaton North in a 17-6 slug fest last season. Like in St. Charles, this crosstown is a great place to be.