2021 fall preview: Scouting the Fox Valley Conference

  • Jacobs' Ben Ludlum, left, defends Huntley's Alex Dennison last year. Ludlum ran for 4 touchdowns in back-to-back games in the spring and is a player to watch in the FVC this fall.

    Jacobs' Ben Ludlum, left, defends Huntley's Alex Dennison last year. Ludlum ran for 4 touchdowns in back-to-back games in the spring and is a player to watch in the FVC this fall. Matthew Apgar/mapgar@shawmedia.com

 
 
Updated 8/20/2021 12:18 PM

Burlington Central2021 spring record: 1-4

Coach: Brian Melvin (sixth season)

 

Worth noting: The Rockets return several third-year varsity starters, led by RB-LB Gavin Sarvis, one of the FVC's top backs over the last two years, who finished with 521 yards rushing and an FVC-best 105 carries. … WR-SS Nate Majewski tied for the team lead with 12 receptions and DB Shawn Adkerson was pressed into QB duty after Mark Ganziano was lost with an injury. Adkerson threw for 359 yards in three games. … OL Nick Nuno (6-1, 265), Matt Eshoo (5-10, 210), M.J. Hansen (6-4, 280), Zach Schultz (6-4, 250) and James Muetterties (6-2, 225) all started on the line last season. … Sarvis, Majewski, Adkerson and WR-DB Zach Lawrence are all back to start on the defense. … "We have a nice group of three-year starting seniors and a nice group of underclassmen," Melvin said. "Leadership from the seniors will need to be prevalent for us to be successful. I am positive we can have major success this year."

Cary-Grove2021 spring record: 4-0

Coach: Brad Seaburg (11th season)

Worth noting: The Trojans are looking to make the playoffs for the 19th consecutive season (not counting the 2021 spring season when there were no playoffs because of the COVID-19 pandemic). C-G won its spring opener, 28-20, over Burlington Central, then was quarantined for COVID-19 and missed Weeks 2 and 3 games. The Trojans came back blazing, beating Prairie Ridge, Crystal Lake Central and Oswego East in their final three games by a combined score of 108-21. … FB Nick Hissong (6-2, 225) ran for 479 yards and eight touchdowns. RB Wade Abrams and QB Jameson Sheehan also return in the backfield. Sheehan did not throw a lot, but had his most productive passing game when the Trojans defeated Crystal Lake Central to win their division. … Michael Dec, Nick Wojcik and Thomas Burton all return on the defensive line. LB Zach Petko and DB Toby Splitt also return on defense. … TE Noah Riley and OL Max Katsenos are returning offensive starters. … Other players who saw action and will step into larger roles are DB Ben Hurt Haller, RB Drew Magel, FB-LB Colin Desmet and DB Drew Borzych.

Crystal Lake Central2021 spring record: 3-3

Coach: Jon McLaughlin (13th season)

Worth noting: Central started the spring season 3-0 and defeated Prairie Ridge, 14-13, in overtime, the Tigers' first win over their rival since 2012, but stumbled in their final three games against McHenry, Cary-Grove and Hampshire. … Most of the offense returns , led by QB Colton Madura, who was fourth in area passing yards (1,007) and also rushed for 230 yards. RB Brent Blitek led the Tigers in rushing (304) and returns in the backfield.

Crystal Lake South2021 spring record: 1-5

Coach: Rob Fontana (fifth season)

Worth noting: It all starts with QB Justin Kowalak, who had 1,608 passing yards and 12 touchdowns in their six spring games. … RB Nate VanWitzenburg returns after rushing for 450 yards on 100 carries as a sophomore. … Nate Compere and Andy Burburija are back to lead the offensive line. … LB Shane Moran was one of the state's top Class 2A wrestlers at 170 pounds and is starting for a third season. LB Ian Burke, DB Brandon Haning and WR-DB Michael Prokos are other returning starters.

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Dundee-Crown2021 spring record: 1-4

Coach: Mike Steinhaus (eighth season)

Worth noting: The Chargers finished their spring season at 1-4 with a victory in their final game over Crystal Lake South. … TE-DL Hunter Guyon (6-3, 220) led D-C with 12 receptions in the spring. WR-DB Drew Randl (6-1, 170) was another one of their top players. … OL-LB Porter Leith (6-1, 215) had a standout wrestling season and returns. RB Keegan Otte (5-8, 175), WR-DB Henry Kennedy (5-10, 160) and OL-DL Jimmy Stewart (6-1, 210) are other starters returning. … Steinhaus will look to sophomore QB Zach Randl (5-10, 147) to lead the offense and RB-LB Alek Ledezma (6-0, 180) is another new player who should contribute.

Hampshire2021 spring record: 4-1

Coach: Jake Brosman (fourth season)

Worth noting: The Whip-Purs ended a 24-game losing streak in the final two weeks of the 2019 season and stretched their winning streak to five games with the first three games of 2020. Their only loss in the 4-1 spring season was to unbeaten Huntley. … QB Tyler Fikis threw for 871 yards and ran for 317 and returns to lead the offense. OL Patryk Barnas (6-3, 285), Ryan Miedema (5-10, 260) and Mike Freeman (6-2, 205) return to pave the way for the offense. … Brosman is excited about an expanded offensive role for TE-LB Devin Yeats, who has size and speed and played mostly defense in the spring. … FB Ray Hill returns and RB Tristan Villarreal is one of the fastest Whips and should get some carries in the backfield. … "We had a great winning atmosphere around us (in the spring)," Brosman said. "Positivity was lifted. We have a lot coming back."

Huntley2021 spring record: 5-0

Coach: Matt Zimolzak (sixth season)

Worth noting: Huntley rolled through its FVC Division for the spring season and eagerly awaited an FVC Super Bowl matchup against C-G, but a COVID-19 quarantine knocked the Red Raiders out of that game. … Huntley tied Prairie Ridge for the FVC championship in 2019. … RB-LB Chris Medina (5-10, 195) switches from safety on defense and will get some carries at RB, along with starter Ryder Hunkins (6-0, 205). … WR Christian Brown (6-2, 195), DB Nick Martino (5-10, 170), DL Boston Bower (6-2, 240), OL-DL Ben Wiley (6-2, 220), OL Luke Griskey (6-5 270), WR Chase Jetel (6-3, 185) and WR Carter Knutsen (5-11, 160) are other returning starters. … QB Sam Deligio (5-10, 175) transferred from Jacobs, where he started in the spring season as a sophomore. … Zimolzak feels Huntley has the players to again be strong on both lines. "In order to be successful, we have to dominate up front," Zimolzak said. "The key to our success the past few years has been a dominant offensive and defensive line."

Jacobs2021 spring record: 2-2

Coach: Brian Zimmerman (second season)

Worth noting: The Golden Eagles have RB Ben Ludlum (549 yards) and RB Nasir Canty (247) back to lead their running attack. Ludlum suffered an injury or likely would have qualified for the Class 3A track and field state meet in the 4x200 relay. … QB Max Benner steps in to replace Sam Deligio, who started in the spring and transferred to Huntley. Benner has two big targets in TE Grant Stec (6-6, 225) and WR Nick True (6-4, 205). … Will Seibert (6-3, 240), Joe Volenec (6-2, 255), Kyle Koziel (6-1, 230) and Luke Shannon (5-10, 220) return on the offensive line. … Sophomores Paulie Rudolph and Joey Scrivani return at linebacker, while DB Jack Bonkoski and S Eli Vasquez also return for the defense. … "Having 15 guys who all started or saw legitimate playing time will be a big confidence booster," Zimmerman said. "We will rely on our running attack with two veterans in Ben Ludlum and Nasir Canty. I like the way Max Benner has looked stepping into the starting role this summer throwing the football."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

McHenry2021 spring record: 2-2

Coach: Jon Niemic (fourth season)

Worth noting: The Warriors beat Crystal Lake Central and Crystal Lake South to make it to 2-2 and were quarantined the day of what would have been their final game, against Burlington Central. … RB Brody Hallin (5-8, 160) ran for 374 yards and QB Andrew Hoffman (6-0, 180) threw for 645.

Prairie Ridge2021 spring record: 3-3

Coach: Chris Schremp (20th season)

Worth noting: Prairie Ridge has played in three of the last four Class 6A state championship games, winning in 2016 and 2017 and losing to East St. Louis in 2019. … OL-DL Jack Schnoor, who will play at NCAA Division II Minnesota State, DB Mason Loucks and LB Matt Fryer are third-year starters coming back for the Wolves. … QB Tyler Vasey showed great speed in two games at running back in the spring before suffering a broken collarbone. FB Nathan Greetham, RB Zach Bentsen and RB Drake Tomasiewicz will join Vasey in the backfield. … Sam Schultz and Matt Nygren return as starters on the offensive line. … S Dom Creatore and LB Zach Lindquist are other returning starters on defense. … The Wolves have been to the playoffs for seven straight years (not counting this spring's season). … "It will be interesting to see how this teams comes together as the season goes on," Schremp said. "We have some talented guys in Schnoor, Loucks, Schultz and Vasey, who all can be game-changers."

FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCHNick Hissong, fullback, Cary-Grove: Hissong (6-1, 226) is one of the Trojans' biggest fullbacks they have had in their option offense. He was troublesome for defenses in the spring, as they just struggled to bring him down. He ran for 479 yards and eight touchdowns as C-G finished 4-0. He will play a huge role for another tough offensive unit this fall.

Kyle Kaempf, wide receiver/defensive back, McHenry: Kaempf (5-11, 145) was one of the top defensive backs in the spring, grabbing four interceptions for the Warriors (2-2). He also had a key punt return touchdown in a victory over Crystal Lake Central. Kaempf will have an expanded role on offense at wide receiver, as well as playing a big part in the Warriors' defensive backfield.

Ben Ludlum, running back, Jacobs: Ludlum (5-10, 180) had back-to-back four-touchdown games in the spring, running for 124 yards in a 47-12 victory over Dundee-Crown and for 220 in a 46-26 win over Burlington Central. The Golden Eagles were under COVID-19 quarantine and missed their last two games. Look for Ludlum, who finished with 549 rushing yards, to be a force again running behind an experienced Jacobs offensive line.

Chris Medina, running back/linebacker, Huntley: Medina (5-11, 195) made big contributions on a strong defense as a sophomore. Since then he has added almost 40 pounds and remains one of the fastest Red Raiders. He will move to linebacker this season and also see time at running back. Huntley has Ryder Hunkins as its starter, Medina will offer a change-of-pace look and also could be in some passing packages.

Gavin Sarvis, running back/linebacker, Burlington Central: Sarvis (6-1, 195) has been a two-year standout for the Rockets on offense and defense. He finished eighth in area rushing and was durable, rushing for an area-high 105 attempts in five games. Sarvis ran for 521 yards in the spring season and had 59 tackles, with nine tackles for losses on defense.

FIVE CAN'T MISS MATCHUPSWeek 1 -- McHenry at Prairie Ridge: The Warriors return a lot from a 2-2 team that was improving in the spring season. It's a great measuring-stick game for both teams right away.

Week 2 -- Jacobs at Crystal Lake Central: Jacobs (2-2 in the spring) was just starting to roll with back-to-back wins when a COVID-19 quarantine ended its season. The Golden Eagles return a lot of experienced players. Central started 3-0 and finished at 3-3, but the Tigers have a lot back on offense.

Week 4 -- Hampshire at Crystal Lake Central: Hampshire is one of the most intriguing FVC teams after going 4-1 in the spring. The Whip-Purs beat Central, 33-21, in their final game and return a lot of key players, led by QB Tyler Fikis. Central QB Colton Madura returns with a lot of other starters on offense, which could make the Tigers a formidable unit.

Week 5 -- Prairie Ridge at Cary-Grove: This game is an automatic pick for the top game every season after the recent history of these two FVC powerhouses. C-G won in the spring, 20-7, and finished 4-0. Prairie Ridge battled numerous injuries and was 3-3.

Week 6 -- Cary-Grove at Huntley: The two five-team divisions for the spring schedule worked nicely and there were plans for an FVC Super Bowl, which would have been C-G vs. Huntley. The Red Raiders were knocked out of the game with a COVID-19 quarantine and C-G finished its season with a big win at Oswego East. Neither team lost in the spring.

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