2021 fall preview: Scouting the DuKane Conference
2021 spring record: 4-2
Coach: Dennis Piron (11th season)
Worth noting: The Bulldogs appear poised for another strong season, led by their defense. Matt Weerts has graduated, but fellow linebacker Tyler Jansey returns after an impressive sophomore spring season and will be a force. The secondary also returns plenty of of experience, led by Anthony Roberts, Jalen Buckley and Vincent Solano. Offensively, how the quarterback competition between Ryan Boe and JP Chaney shakes out will be interesting, given their lack of varsity experience. AJ Sanders, Buckley and Josh Dornink will stabilize a deep running back stable.
2020 spring record: 2-4
Coach: Boone Thorgesen (1st season)
Worth noting: Thorgesen has brought a lot of buzz to the Vikings since taking over for Rob Wicinski, who retired after an incredible 20-year run at the helm. Offensively, quarterback Alex Porter figures to retain his starting role after splitting reps with Jackson Reyes in the spring. The Vikings also bring back considerable experience on the offensive line, headlined by Victor Starkov. The Vikings will have to figure out how to replace the production left by the vast majority of their skill positions that graduated. Defensively, Mason Pawelko and Blake Stempowski should have big seasons.
2020 spring record: 3-3
Coach: Ryan Wilkens (13th season)
Worth noting: The Panthers graduated arguably their top playmaker in running back Denhim Betney, so however his production is replaced will be critical for the offense to figure out. Graduated seniors Angelo Maucieri and Dylan Detloff are also a pair of big losses. Quarterback Justin Bland is projected to build upon a solid season and offers plenty of athleticism and speed.
2020 spring record: 0-5
Coach: Jason Kradman (2nd season)
Worth noting: The Lancers were implementing a new coaching staff, which in part could have led to their struggles in the spring. At points last spring, Lake Park started as many as five freshmen, including three on the offensive line. However, the Lancers are hoping that the experience gained can lead to wins and more competitive matchups. Cooper Cerese, after his four-sack and 24-tackle spring season, will be one of the more touted two-way linemen to keep an eye on for the Lancers. Linebacker Lucah Jones is a physical playmaker, while wideout/defensive back Desmond Horton offers a lot in the secondary, while quarterback Frank Moorman will be handed the keys to the offense in his first year starting.
St. Charles East
2020 spring record: 0-5
Coach: Bryce Farquhar (7th season)
Worth noting: The Saints return three-year starting quarterback Nathan Hayes, a North Dakota State commit, headlining an offense that also features fellow NDSU commit wideout Kelton McCaslin and tackle Austin Barrett. The Saints have three returning starters on the offensive line in Ty Risberg, Logan Hammer and Barrett. Defensively, safety Griffin Desalvo, linebacker AJ Gaca and linebacker Mike Weaver are expected to have huge roles.
St. Charles North
2020 spring record: 5-1
Coach: Robert Pomazak
Worth noting: The North Stars are really intriguing entering this season. While they graduated a lot of production on both sides of the ball -- Carmine Bastone, Jordan Nubin, Jimmy Durocher, among others -- they still have plenty of talent to contend atop the conference. George Litgen is a wildly talented linebacker that will only get more offers as the season progresses and will be flanked by Drew Surges as a top duo. Paolo Gennarelli and Lucas Sharkey return on the line. Freshman Ethan Plumb has generated a lot of buzz as a potential starter at quarterback.
2020 spring record: 5-1
Coach: Joe Wardynski
Worth noting: After an extremely successful spring, the Falcons are well-positioned for another strong showing. Led by three-year starting quarterback Mark Forcucci, Wheaton North has seven starters returning on offense. Brayton Maske is one of the more talented running backs in the conference. Defensively, the Falcons have four starters returning, headlined by the defensive back duo of Kaiden Libby and Jackson Moore. Defensive lineman Marques Boddie, defensive back Jake Kapel and linebacker Fred Elftmann are top newcomers to keep an eye on.
Wheaton Warrenville South
2020 spring record: 4-2
Coach: Sean Norris (1st season)
Worth noting: After a nearly 40-year coaching career, Ron Muhitch retired as Wheaton Warrenville South's head coach following the spring season with offensive coordinator Norris taking the reins. The Tigers return eight starters on offense, including four offensive linemen: Matt Paver, Max Jablonski, Michael Amen and Jimmy Hohnstein. Tyler Fawcett will remain a prime candidate for lots of targets as a big tight end. Defensively, the Tigers have three starters coming back, headlined by athletic corners Danny Healy and Reece Young. Kael Poulsen and Louis Bellocchio are two big pieces up front.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCHTyler Fawcett, Wheaton Warrenville South, senior, tight end: Fawcett is a highly athletic option that figures to be generating a lot of offense for the Tigers this season. Coupled with Brandon Bell, they will be difficult matchups for opposing defenses to contain.
Mark Forcucci, Wheaton North, senior, quarterback: Forcucci, recently committed to Holy Cross, is a high-caliber athlete and gives the Falcons a lot of flexibility with what they want to do offensively, whether attacking through the air or letting Forcucci make things happen with his legs. He's arguably among the top two quarterbacks in the conference.
Paolo Gennarelli, St. Charles North, senior, lineman: A second team All-State selection in the spring, Gennarelli is expected to be a force for the North Stars this year. Already committed to Army, he's returning to the defense as the fourth-leading tackler. Paired with Lucas Sharkey up front, the North Stars might retain one of the best lines in the conference.
Nathan Hayes, St. Charles East, senior, quarterback: Don't let the Saints' 0-5 spring season sour on Hayes' talent and ability as a quarterback. With top-notch arm strength, solid pocket awareness and extensive starting experience, expect a big bounce-back season for the North Dakota State commit.
Tyler Jansey, Batavia, junior, linebacker: If Jansey isn't on the radar for a breakout season, then he should be. Jansey returns to headline the linebacking corps after being the team's third-leading tackler in the spring. Jansey is an elite athlete with excellent awareness and speed.
FIVE CAN'T MISS MATCHUPSWeek 1 -- Batavia vs. Chicago Phillips: The Bulldogs have a knack of starting seasons off with a bang (East St. Louis in 2019 and had Montini originally scheduled for 2020). This year again is no exception. The Bulldogs, one of the best teams in the state over the last decade, vs. Phillips -- a two-time state champion in recent years? Sign us up.
Week 6 -- Wheaton Warrenville South vs. Batavia. The Tigers nearly shut out the Bulldogs on their own turf in the spring and dominated in all phases. Can they do it again? Batavia might have something to say about that, but this should be a highly-anticipated rematch months after the surprising result.
Week 7 -- St. Charles East vs. St. Charles North. As cross-river rivals, there isn't a bigger matchup talked about in St. Charles than this one. Besides the spring season, this is usually a very close game. We're looking forward to another one.
Week 7 -- Wheaton Warrenville South vs. Wheaton North. The Falcons defeated the Tigers by a field goal in the spring, which the Tigers used as fuel to upset Batavia the following week. This crosstown classic is a matchup that needs little introduction.
Week 9 -- St. Charles North vs. Batavia. The North Stars and Bulldogs figure to be jockeying for at least a share of the conference crown every season, and we expect this one to be no different. The North Stars were perhaps a turnover away from beating the Bulldogs on the road in the spring. Might this time be different?