Scouting the KRC/I8 White
2022 record: 5-5
Coach: Patrick Ryan
Worth noting: The Knights have made it to the playoffs every year since Ryan took over in 2017. … Junior QB Troyer Carlson, who was an IHSFCA Class 5A All-Stater, threw for 2,790 yards and completed 64.3% of his passes with 36 touchdowns and seven interceptions. … Junior Aric Johnson, a Daily-Chronicle All-Area first-team pick, is the team's top returner at receiver after catching 37 passes for 711 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore. Kaneland's leading receiver, graduate Sam Gagne, had 61 catches for 1,146 yards and 15 TDs. … … Austin Lilly is someone to look out for on both sides of the the line, Ryan said. "He plays with a super high motor," Ryan said. "I'm looking forward to see our kids playing faster than they did last year." … Long snapper Ryan Algrim is going to play for Kaneland alum PJ Fleck at Minnesota. ... "With returning QB Troyer Carlson and a strong group of receivers, we should be able to put up some big offensive production this year," Ryan said. "We're excited about our backfield. ... Our offensive line will be key to our success this year."
2022 record: 5-5
Coach: Jose Medina
Worth noting: Medina is excited about his offensive line, anchored by Nik Belski and Creed McCormick. The team's offensive line won the OL Challenge in Princeton over the summer. First-year player Connor Lorden and Warren Mrowicki will anchor the defensive line. … Brendan Boudreau, a junior, will take over as starting quarterback. His dad, Nathan, is La Salle-Peru's offensive coordinator. … L-P is looking to extend its best stretch of success in the past decade after finishing its third consecutive season at .500 or better -- the first time doing so since 1996-98. … The biggest loss to graduation was All-State LB Chris Swayne, who had 87 tackles (60 solo) with nine tackles for loss, two sacks, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and one interception. … Returning at the skill positions are running backs Billy Mini and Mason Lynch and receivers Tommy Hartman and Maalik Madrigal. … "We look to continue to build on running the ball in triple-option attack," Medina said. "I am excited to see what first-year QB starter Brendan Boudreau can do as the leader of the offense. I look forward to seeing how the running game will open the passing game to create more scoring opportunities."
2022 record: 10-1
Coach: Alan Thorson
Worth noting: Morris ended its season with a 28-24 loss to Morton in the Class 5A second round. Morris will have to replace quarterback Zach Romak, a Herald-News All-Area first-team selection, who was a threat with both his arm and his legs. Romak threw for 1,630 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also just missed cracking the 1,000-yard rushing barrier, finishing with 990 rushing and 13 scores. Junior Carter Button will take over for Romak. "We are excited for what we think Carter can do, and I think we have some good young talent at the WR position," Thorson said. "Both Carter our wide receivers have looked impressive this summer in 7-on-7s." … RB Ashton Yard ran for over 1,000 yards last season as a junior. … RB-LB Sam Reddinger is a Northern Iowa commit. … The offensive line is led by Justin Hemmersbach, Nick Perry, Aiden King and Justin Newman. … Three away games (Antioch, Richmond-Burton and Woodstock) are about two-hour bus rides. … "Last year we finished with a record of 10-1, but it ended with a disappointing loss," Thorson said. "I definitely think this group learned from that loss and it has motivated them throughout the offseason."
2022 record: 2-7
Coach: Chad Gross
Worth noting: The Pirates lost starting quarterback Braiden Miller to graduation, a dynamic player who completed 113 of his 200 attempts for 1,480 yards and nine touchdowns. Ottawa's offense averaged more yards through the air (164.4 per game) than on the ground (115.1). Replacing Miller will be junior Colby Mortenson, who has showed solid arm strength during the summer. … WR Levi Sheehan, a Times All-Area first team pick, returns after catching 43 passes for 667 yards and six touchdowns. … Safety Ryder Miller, another All-Area first-teamer, was a playmaker on defense with 81 tackles (nine for loss), a sack, a forced fumble and three fumble recoveries. … Ottawa also graduated its top running back, Javarius Whitfield, who ran for 898 yards and 11 scores and caught 24 passes for 242 yards. … Michael Mills and Tanner Coglianese both return on the offensive line. … "We must improve on finishing strong in the second half of games," Gross said. "We lost numerous close contests at the end of the game last season. Competition daily in practice will help push the players to be ready to finish strong this season.
2022 record: 9-3
Coach: Joe Ryan
Worth noting: The Spartans are coming off a Class 5A state semifinals appearance, losing to eventual champion Fenwick, 17-6. It was the fewest points Fenwick scored all year. … Ryan will have nine three-year starters back, a number he's never reached before in 30 years of coaching. … OL-DL Lincoln Cooley (6-1, 280) was an IHSFCA Class 5A All-Stater and named the Fall 2021 Daily Chronicle Football Player of the Year. He had 42 tackles, including 12 against Fenwick in the state semifinals, as a junior and helped lead the way for Sycamore's running game. … Senior Eli Meier returns at QB for the third year in a row, along with three of five offensive linemen: Cooley, Brady Hollendoner and Gable Carrick. … Meier threw for 1,679 yards with 17 TDs and six interceptions, completing 64% of his passes. He also had 85 carries for 594 yards and eight TDs. … Sycamore is loaded at linebacker with Kiefer Tarnoki and Ethan Bode, both seniors, coming back. Tarnoki had 82 tackles, including 17 for a loss, despite missing three games, also adding four sacks and an INT. Bode had 109 tackles (17 for a loss) and four sacks. Dawson Alexander is one of the team's defensive leaders at safety. … Sycamore will have a few options at running back. Zack Crawford ran for almost 500 yards, while Alexander, Joey Puleo and Diego Garcia could see time in the backfield. … "We have a really good running back and receiver group," Ryan said. "We should be as multidimensional on offense as we have been in a long time."
2022 record: 4-5
Coach: Mike Brasile
Worth noting: Woodstock returns 28 seniors this year, a big step up from eight last season. Brasile said there is a renewed sense of commitment at all levels of the program. "Kids are hungry to take another run at the top teams in the Interstate 8," he said. … Linebackers Jack Raymond, Noah Maurer and Kaden Sandoval and CB Xander Thomson are all working their way back from torn ACLs. Raymond led the team last season with 93 tackles and two forced fumbles. … The Streaks return five on the defensive line: Jakob Remot, Brandon Carroll, Cooper Pajich, Steven Colvin and Chris Sostre. … Jackson Lyons will step in at QB for graduate Liam Mickle, who threw for 1,641 yards and 14 touchdowns. … Woodstock brings back two running backs (Adrian Perry and Aiden Johnson) who saw significant varsity time, as well as four of their five starting offensive lineman (Remot, Carroll, Andrew Ryan, Lucas Albertson, Tyler Moon). WRs Caden Monti (595 yards, four TDs) and Jared Kniola (205 yards) both return.
2022 record: 0-9
Coach: Matt Polnow
Worth noting: Polnow, an assistant under Jeff Schroeder for 12 seasons, will take over for Woodstock North. Schroeder started the program when the school opened in 2009 and stepped down after last season, going 52-77 in his 13 seasons as head coach. Polnow graduated from Woodstock High School in 2000. … Jay Zinnen (QB-LB), Kyle Freeman (C-DT), Kaden Combs (FB, LB), Scott Bauer (G/DE), Riley Colwell (G/DT) all return for the Thunder. Zinnen was second on the team with 403 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Graduate Henry Goetz led them with 850 yards and five scores. … Last year was the second time North went 0-9. ... North hasn't had a winning season since 2016, two times finishing at 5-5 (2017, 2018) and once at 4-5 (2019). … "We are hoping to add some new things to mesh with our old, so I'm excited to see how that plays out," Polnow said. Kyle Freeman, Riley Colwell, and Scott Bauer are all returning starters on the defensive line.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Troyer Carlson, Kaneland, jr., QB: Carlson enjoyed a big sophomore season for the Knights and enters his third season on varsity. Carlson (6-2, 190) made 64% of his passes for 2,780 yards and 36 touchdowns, leading a Kaneland offense that averaged more than 37 points a game during the regular season.
Lincoln Cooley, Sycamore, sr., OL-DL: Cooley, the Daily Chronicle 2021 Fall Football Player of the Year, had 42 tackles, including 12 in a season-ending loss to state champion Fenwick in a Class 5A semifinal. Sycamore rans most of its attack behind Cooley (6-1, 280), who paved the way for four players to average almost 6 yards per carry.
Justin Hemmersbach, Morris, sr., OL-DL: Hemmersbach (6-2, 260) is one of four offensive linemen -- along with Nick Perry, Aiden King and Justin Newman -- returning for a team that ran over its opponents last season with an average of 250-plus yards a game. Hemmersbach is entering his fourth year as a starter.
Eli Meier, Sycamore, sr., QB: Meier (6-1, 185) passed for 1,679 yards, 17 touchdowns and six interceptions, also completing 64% of his passes. He added 85 carries for 594 yards and eight TDs.
Ryder Miller, Ottawa, jr., RB-DB: Miller, who coach Chad Gross calls his team's "Swiss Army knife" because he plays so many positions, will mostly be used at secondary or linebacker. Last year, Miller (5-11, 190) was a Times All-Area first-team pick, leading the Pirates with 81 tackles (nine for loss), a sack, a forced fumble and three fumble recoveries.
FIVE CAN'T MISS MATCHUPS
Week 3 -- Kaneland at Morris, 7 p.m. Sept. 9
Kaneland will start its conference schedule by trying to end a two-game losing skid against Morris. Morris was one of two teams to give Kaneland a conference loss last season.
Week 5 -- Woodstock North at Woodstock, 7 p.m. Sept. 23
The crosstown rivals square off in an always entertaining showdown. The Blue Streaks defeated the Thunder, 27-14, in their Week 9 game last year.
Week 6 -- Kaneland at Sycamore, 7 p.m. Sept. 30
The Knights and Spartans face off in a key game for positioning in the KRC/I8 White Division. Sycamore finished second and Kaneland third last fall.
Week 7 -- La Salle-Peru at Ottawa, 7 p.m. Oct. 7
It will mark the 123rd recorded meeting of the La Salle County arch rivals, this one with L-P coming off a playoff run and Ottawa coming off its first multi-win season since 2015. The Cavaliers have won the past seven meetings, including a 28-0 victory in Week 3 last season.
Week 9 -- Morris at Sycamore, 7 p.m. Oct. 21
This game could be for the conference title. If both teams enter their Week 9 matchup undefeated, this finale would crown a champion just like last season's finale did when Morris beat Sycamore, 28-21.