2021 fall preview: Scouting the West Suburban Conference

  • Downers Grove South's Eli Reed has committed to playing college football at NIU.

    Downers Grove South's Eli Reed has committed to playing college football at NIU. Mike Mantucca/For Shaw Media

 
 
Updated 8/20/2021 12:13 PM

Gold Division

Addison Trail2021 spring record: 1-5

 

Coach: Chris Bazant

Worth noting: The Blazers and second-year coach Bazant are still searching for a return to the program's winning ways. Addison Trail has had six straight losing seasons since 2014. Addison Trail struggled to stop people in the spring, allowing 40.7 points per game. "Defensively, we are looking to compete at a higher level and improve from last year," Bazant said. At running back, there is some competition to replace Eric Reed, who ran for 798 yards and eight touchdowns in the spring. Whoever it is will be running behind three-year linemen Jason Houser, John Voinea and Nathaniel Figueroa. The Blazers are looking for a productive year out of returning starters Sammy Renc at quarterback, who threw for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns with nine interceptions in the spring, and Uzair Ahmed at wide receiver, who caught 20 passes for 270 yards. Keying the defense will be senior linebacker Dylan Cummans and returning starter Nathan Johnson at defensive end.

Downers Grove South2021 spring record: 3-2

Coach: Mark Molinari

Worth noting: NIU recruit Eli Reed, a senior receiver/defensive back, is one of the most electric talents around and leads a deep group at the skill positions. Reed, who contributes in all three phases of the game, averaged just over 160 yards of total offense per game in the spring season and was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player in the Gold. Mack O'Halloran, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound junior, has been to several Big Ten camps and is looking to improve as a blocker at tight end and be a dominant force at outside linebacker. Quarterback Ryan Dawson showed the ability to throw the ball downfield as a sophomore; the Mustangs look forward to his continued development in a full season. Besides Reed, targets include third-year starter Patrick O'Neil and 6-foot-5 Brandon Amenionpong. Charlie Adams and Eric Rosas return on the offensive line. A young defense from the spring returns all four linebackers -- O'Halloran, Alex Kuranty, Alex Rapinchuk and Keandre Miles -- and three of four defensive backs.

Hinsdale South2021 spring record: 1-3

Coach: Mike Barry

Worth noting: The Hornets are looking to reverse a recent trend down. Hinsdale South has had two successive losing seasons after making the playoffs in four of five seasons. The Hornets won their last game of the spring, but defensively gave up over 36 points per game. All-conference offensive tackle Joshua Sander, 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds, holds an offer from Grand Valley State and Barry said could be poised for a breakout season. Michael Urbanski, the third-rated kicker in Illinois, is a recent commit to Wisconsin-Platteville. Jaylon Smith leaves big shoes to fill at receiver and defensive back. Other key returners for the Hornets included defensive end Griffin Carr, running back Jaylon Steel, lineman Peter Halpin, WR/DB Khamani Willimas, WR/DB Cassidy Whitaker, outside linebacker Logan Bryant, and OLB/RB Anthony Montez.

Willowbrook2021 spring record: 5-1

Coach: Nick Hildreth

Worth noting: The Warriors have owned the West Suburban Gold of late, going 22-0 in divisional games since 2017 and doing so in dominating fashion. All the while they have emerged as a state power with four straight quarterfinal appearances and a semifinal in 2019, so Willowbrook will look to restart that run after the abridged spring. Josh Brown, a starting defensive end as a sophomore, opened eyes in the spring at running back, putting up video game-like numbers of 1,750 yards and 23 touchdowns in six games, with a school record 12 yards a carry. What will he do for an encore? Brown will have to do it in front of a rebuilt offensive line, with star left tackle Enrique Cruz now at Syracuse. Willowbrook also has big holes to fill at linebacker with Moe Ayesh and Sergio Ayala, pillars of the defense the last three years, graduated. Nick Mabutas, returning at receiver and defensive back, had 38 tackles and six passes defensed as a junior. Others back include receiver/defensive back Jaylon White, running back/defensive back Max Manning and offensive/defensive lineman Lucas Kusmierz. Interesting to see will be the development of sophomore quarterback AJ Palicki, who threw for 407 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions as a freshman starter.

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Silver Division

Downers Grove North2021 spring record: 2-2

Coach: Joe Horeni

Worth noting: The Trojans ended the shortened spring season in style, beating crosstown rival Downers Grove South for the sixth consecutive time. Now they look for their second consecutive playoff appearance after going 6-5 in 2019 in Horeni's second season. Two big voids need to be filled defensively with three-year starter and all-conference linebacker Drew Bielawski and two-year starting defensive end Brendan Truett, both two-way starters, graduating. The Trojans do return all of their skill-position players with a nice mix of receivers and several defensive players. Junior Ethan Thulin is a playmaker in all three phases; he slotted at receiver and defensive back as a sophomore on varsity and also returned kicks and punts. Josh Lambert, who played linebacker on varsity as a sophomore, is returning to his roots offensively, slated to play H-back and tight end. Also back for Downers Grove North is junior quarterback Sam Reichert, junior wide receiver Josh Miller, senior defensive back Timmy Ryan, junior defensive back Joe Chiarelli, senior defensive back/running back Khali Copeland, senior linebacker Matt McCormick, senior tight end Timmy Galligan, junior offensive lineman Henry Wilson, senior offensive lineman Connor Moore and senior offensive lineman Will Janka. "We played a lot of young guys this spring who have gained a bunch of experience," Horeni said.

Glenbard West2021 spring record: 3-1

Coach: Chad Hetlet

Worth noting: The Hilltoppers, a team with legitimate state title aspirations before the pandemic hit, were reduced to four games played because of the shortened season and COVID-19 issues. Glenbard West has been a model of excellence under Hetlet, with playoff appearances in all 13 full seasons and 12 straight with at least eight wins, not counting the spring season. The Hilltoppers graduated some rather significant pieces like offensive lineman Wes Hoeh and running backs Jalen Moore and Samson Zander, so it remains to be seen how they retool -- but don't bet against them reloading. Chris Terek, a 6-foot-6, 295-pound junior offensive tackle, is a big-time prospect. He's one of two returning starters offensively, sophomore receiver Julius Ellens the other. Senior Pat Shadid is the lone returner from a deep, fast linebacking corps. Senior defensive end Philip Dozier and junior defensive back Joey Pope are other starters back defensively. Hetlet lists newcomers to watch as junior running back Joey Pope, senior fullback Jason Thomas, junior guard Brady Cavan, junior center Jack Baer and junior offensive tackler Luke Gadomski. Defensively, keep an eye on newcomers Justin Thomas, a senior linebacker, junior linebacker Jack Oberhofer, senior defensive back Jackson Tomaro, sophomore defensive lineman Danny Coffey and senior defensive back Egan Foley.

Hinsdale Central2021 spring record: 6-0

Coach: Brian Griffin

Worth noting: The Red Devils made the most of the spring season, riding the talents of quarterback Michael Brescia and a stingy defense that allowed just 31 points for an unbeaten run in the Silver, wresting the title from Glenbard West. Brescia is at Colgate now, and only eight starters -- five on offense, three on defense -- return for a young and inexperienced team. The end game is for Hinsdale Central to be playing its best football in October once the youngsters cut their teeth. Sean Allison and JT Pyle provide a solid base to build a defense around. Allison played a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive back as a junior and recorded 48 tackles, four for loss, with two sacks and two interceptions. Pyle, carrying on a stellar three-generation family legacy with Hinsdale Central football, had 36 tackles, six for loss and two sacks as a junior. Micah McCurry, a 6-foot-4, 260-pound tackle, is a third returning starter up front. Offensively, junior Reese Kolke and sophomore Carter Contreras are poised to fill the big shoes left by a talented receiving corps. Starters back on the offensive side include senior running back Nick Fahy, senior slot Thomas Skokna and three linemen -- McGarry, Josh Narcisse and Hunter Tonn. The schedule is neatly bookended with measuring stick games Naperville Central and Glenbard West in Weeks 1 and 9. "I think the conference will be very good across the board which will make for a difficult season week to week," Griffin said. "There will be competitive battles for positions all across the board with some young players ready to emerge."

York2021 spring record: 4-2

Coach: Mike Fitzgerald

Worth noting: The Dukes continued their steady progress under the tutelage of fourth-year coach Fitzgerald last spring, the 4-2 finish York's first winning season in a decade. The next step is returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2011. York had a winning record at every level last year, so there is definite momentum. Headlining the returners is all-conference linebacker Jeff Coglianese, who had 53 tackles, two sacks ad two forced fumbles as a junior, and fellow linebacker David Koch, who impressed as a sophomore with 57 tackles and two interceptions. Senior offensive linemen Rowan Dagres and Luke D'Agostino anchor a large group of returners on the line with senior Nolan Korzeniowski, who had 26 tackles, on the defensive front. Fitzgerald said he believes team speed should be very good. The skill positions are led by Mark Schneider and Kelly Watson at running back and receivers Jack Wagner, Kal Harris, with Mntesi Mndzebele at defensive back. The back end of the schedule is very difficult with Glenbard West, Hinsdale Central, Willowbrook and Oak Park-River Forest, making a fast start a high priority.

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