Football previews 2023: Scouting the FVC
2022 record: 4-5, 4-5 FVC (tied for fifth place)
Coach: Brian Iossi (second season)
Worth noting: The Rockets almost reached the playoffs for the first time since 2014, but McHenry beat them 28-13 in Week 9 to keep them out. Still, it was Central's best season since joining the FVC four years ago. ... Junior QB Jackson Alcorn started most of the season and threw for 1,132 yards and 10 touchdowns. His top receivers were Michael Person (28 receptions, six TDs), LJ Kerr (25, four) and Caden West (21, three). ... The Rockets are led on their offensive and defensive lines by Porter Mihelich (6-1, 260). MJ Hansen (6-4, 290), Trey Pearson (6-4, 300) and Sammy Wirstrom (6-1, 230) also are back. ... LB Mason Rosborough (6-0, 180) is back to lead the defense. ... RB Joey Kowall (6-0, 180), LB-TE Zach Adamo (6-2, 220), DE-TE Bryan McGladdery (6-3, 240) DBs Ryder Bergemann (5-9, 160) and Tyler Eshoo (5-9, 180) are some other returning players. ... "We have a veteran team with 18 returning starters from last season. Many of the seniors will be three-year starters for us," Iossi said. "This is one of the most talented teams we have had at Central, and I think has a chance to make some real noise in the Fox Valley this season. This team is hungry and looking to earn the area's respect. I think we can do that season and make the playoffs for the first time since 2014. The FVC is tough, but our guys are ready for the challenge."
Coach: Brad Seaburg (13th season).
Last year's record: 3-6, 3-6 FVC (seventh place).
Worth noting: C-G had its playoff streak stopped last season at 17 years. That came one season after the Trojans defeated East St. Louis 37-36 for the Class 6A state championship in one of the greatest games in IHSA history. ... C-G graduated most of the starters from the 2021 title team, then had many of its top players suffer season-ending injuries last year. ... The Trojans will have 17 starters back this season. QB Peyton Seaburg, RBs Andrew Prio and Brady Elbert, OLs Lucan Burton and Anthony Cruz, TEs Jake Hornok and Luca Vivadelli all return. Prio will be one of the fastest backs in the FVC. ... On defense, LB Connor Anderson is the lone returning starter from the 2021 champs. DBs Gavin Henriques, Jack Rocen, Corey Adams and PJ Weaver are back, along with LBs Will Barcy and Charlie Ciske and DL Ty Drayton and Logan Abrams. ... Abrams, a 6-3, 220-pound sophomore, was a starter on defense as a freshman and may wind up as the Trojans' fullback in their flexbone option. "He has the size, strength, speed, and ability to be a dominant player on offense and defense," Brad Seaburg said. ... Seaburg is 113-26 in his 13 seasons at C-G; his teams won the Class 6A state championships in 2018 and 2021. ... "Our team is very hungry to get back to our winning ways," Seaburg said. "Even with our injuries and youth last year, we were in every game but one, and we could have easily been 6-3 had it not been for some tough, close losses. We expect to be much-improved as a team, but the FVC also should be solid from top to bottom."
Crystal Lake Central
Coach: Dirk Stanger (second season)
Last year's record: 2-7, 2-7 FVC (tied for eighth place)
Worth noting: The Tigers' 2022 season turned late in the first half of the season opener when QB Jason Penza (6-2, 190) suffered a broken bone in his left (non-throwing) arm. Central's offense struggled without its leader. The 49 points in the season finale (with Penza back at quarterback) were 23.8% of the Tigers' points for the season. ... Penza (6-2 190) presents problems for defenses as a dual threat. He is fast and an accomplished thrower, having started two games as a sophomore when Colton Madura was injured. ... WR George Dimopoulos (6-3, 190) filled in for Penza but returns to receiver and is committed to Northern Illinois University. WR Griffin Buehler (5-8, 170) led Central with 25 receptions and averaged 21.2 yards a catch. ... OL Nick Kozlowski (6-3, 245), Tommy McNeil (6-1, 240) and Bryan Nagel (6-1, 230) return up front for the offense. Kozlowski and McNeil also will play defense. ... WR Drake Tomasiewicz (6-2, 180) transferred from Prairie Ridge and provides another target. He caught seven passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns last season. ... LBs Cayden Parks (6-0, 185) and Tony Morales (5-11, 215) and DB Rene Gaunaurd (5-10, 175) return for the defense. Gaunaurd may step in at running back, where Vince Honer ran for 818 yards last season. ... WR Tommy Hammond (5-11, 170), LB Connor Gibour (6-4, 185) and DL Ben Kolodziej (6-3, 220) also should be key contributors. ... "We only had 14 seniors on the 2022 team, so we have a good number of experienced players returning," Stanger said. "The return of QB Jason Penza will be a big help, as well."
Crystal Lake South
Coach: Rob Fontana (seventh season)
Last year's record: 5-5, 5-4 FVC (fourth place)
Worth noting: The Gators stuck with Prairie Ridge, which was the Class 6A state runner-up, in two high-scoring games last season -- 48-41 in Week 8 and 56-49 in the first round of the playoffs. That demonstrated what a prolific offense the Gators had. ... QB Caden Casimino (5-11, 185) had 2,658 passing yards and 21 touchdowns with six interceptions. ... WR Michael Prokos (6-0, 180) had 66 catches and eight touchdowns. Prokos has 120 receptions over the past two seasons. WR Colton Hess (32 catches, five TDs) also returns. ... RB Nate Van Witzenburg, South's career rushing leader with 3,304 yards, graduated, leaving a big hole in the backfield. He also caught 36 balls for five touchdowns. Jake Christensen, Daniel Zebrowski, Logan Miller and AJ Demirov were being considered for the running back position. ... The Gators also will miss OL-DL Nate Compere, a Class 6A all-stater. OL-DL Andy Burburija (6-2, 265) is one of the area's top linemen. Junior OL-DL JJ Alonge (6-4, 270) is a returning starter on offense. ... Zebrowski was one of the Gators' best defenders at linebacker. ... "We have a bunch of familiar faces and five All-FVC players," Fontana said. "We are going to have to rely on some guys that had limited varsity experience, but we also have 16 returning starters."
Coach: Mike Steinhaus (ninth season)
Last year's record: 2-7, 2-7 FVC (tied for eighth place)
Worth noting: The Chargers got off to a 2-1 start last season with tight wins over Hampshire and Burlington Central but were unable to get another win the rest of the way. ... D-C has not been to the playoffs since 2013. ... WR-DB Kali Freeman (6-1, 180) is one of the FVC's fastest players and caught 29 passes with five touchdowns last season. ... QB Zach Randl (5-9, 155) was fifth in the area with 1,580 passing yards, with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. ... WR Torrion Bell caught 24 passes and had four touchdowns. ... OL Anthony Rubio (6-2, 255) and Fernando Chaidez (5-11, 230) return on offense, while LB-TE Anthony Jobe (6-0, 200) and DE Max Del Rio (5-10, 185) also are back. ... QB-TE Hayden DeMarsh (6-0, 200), LB Isaiah Blake (6-0, 200), RB Terrion Spencer (5-11, 175) and DB Logan Gutierrez (5-9, 165) are new players expected to make significant contributions. ... "We have some pretty good skill players coming up, but we're very young and inexperienced in other areas," Steinhaus said. "We've had tremendous growth all summer and are excited to see how our team continues to improve this season. I believe the FVC will once again be one of the top conferences in the state, and we're excited to compete against all of them."
Coach: Shane Haak (first season)
Last year's record: 1-8, 1-8 FVC (10th place)
Worth noting: Hampshire played most of its opponents to close games last season, taking six of its eight losses by 13 or fewer points. The main problem was the Whip-Purs' 141 points scored were lowest in the FVC. ... Former coach Jake Brosman left for the head coaching job at Plainfield South, and Shane Haak steps in as head coach with his father, Tim, as an assistant. Shane Haak graduated from Harvard in 2008 and played for his father at that school. Tim Haak's career record at Harvard in 28 seasons was 173-108, and he is an Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Famer. ... Junior RB Cole Klawikowski (5-9, 190) is the second-leading ran for 1,261 yards and 10 touchdowns. He ran for 407 yards in last year's opener, which set the FVC single-game mark. ... TE-LB Gage Homola (6-4, 250) recently committed to Cornell in the Ivy League. TE-DE Colin Kallhoff (6-5, 230), FB-LB Alex Lazar (5-8, 180) and OT-DT Chris Abihudi (6-0, 290) are other returning starters. ... WR Avi Fivelson (6-2, 175), G-DT JJ Meyers (5-10, 250), TE-LB Titan Lloyd Gonzalez (6-2, 185) and RB-LB Nick Randall (5-10, 180) are new players who could make impacts. ... "We must continue to come together as a whole program and compete at our highest ability each week," Shane Haak said. "We return a group of experienced players along with some younger players. We have great leadership across our program."
Coach: Michael Naymola (second season)
Last year's record: 8-2, 8-1 FVC (tri-champion)
Worth noting: The Red Raiders had a six-year playoff streak stopped in 2021 and came back to finish 8-1 in the regular season and share the FVC title with Jacobs and Prairie Ridge. They lost in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs to Andrew 28-18. ... RB Haiden Janke (6-0, 210) is the leading returning rusher at 1,430 yards and 10 touchdowns. ... Jake Crudele (5-10, 215) returns as a leader on the offensive line, while WRs Bryce Walker (5-9, 150) and Jake Witt (6-4, 185) will be two of the Raiders' top receivers. Walker suffered a broken tibia and fibula last season and missed he last six games. He is a small, fast receiver, and Witt is a big target. ... LB Ari Fiebig (6-1, 180), DB Zack Garifo (5-11, 175) and DL Adam Tramuta (5-9, 200) are other returning starters. The Raiders allowed 17.7 points a game, best in the FVC last season. ... WR Omarre Segarra (6-0, 155) is one of the Raiders' fastest players and should help in the passing game. WR-DB Jack Laughlin (5-11, 170) also will see time at receiver. ... Junior Braylon Bower (5-11, 165) and senior Cole Coppersmet (6-1, 175) are the candidates for the quarterback job. ... "We need to be more balanced on offense this season," Naymola said. "We don't want any defense to target one aspect of our game like they were able to last year. Defensively, we will continue to be fast and as physical as possible each game. We open with Crystal Lake Central and they may be the most dangerous team in the FVC this year. They have an ultra-talented QB (Jason Penza) who may be the Player of the Year when the dust settles and they can score in bunches. We're excited about that opportunity to see them Week 1 at home."
Coach: Brian Zimmerman (fourth season)
Last year's record: 8-2, 8-1 FVC (tri-champion)
Worth noting: The Golden Eagles tied for the FVC title with Huntley and Prairie Ridge but had a tough first-round playoff draw with Brother Rice and lost 27-0. ... TE-DE Grant Stec (6-6, 247) is committed to Wisconsin as tight end. He led the Eagles with 24 receptions last season and three touchdowns. ... RBs Joey Scrivani (845 yards) and Paulie Rudolph (372) return in the backfield, Rudolph also is a standout on defense. ... Jacobs produced the area's Nos. 1 and 4 rushers two years ago (Ben Ludlum and Nasir Canty) and No. 3 last year (Antonio Brown). Scrivani steps into that role as the lead back this season. ... OL Tony Fetting (6-3, 235), Rocco Sauer (6-3, 267) and Matt Shannon (6-2, 220) are back to lead the way for Jacobs' run-heavy attack. ... Stec, Rudolph (6-0, 222), Scrivani (6-0, 190) and Shannon are four-year varsity players. ... DBs Tyvonn Boddie (5-10, 172), Nick Gallo (6-0, 190) and LB Luke Gormsen (5-10, 185). ... "The conference is going to be very tough this year," Zimmerman said. "Our kids will be battle-tested right out of the gate (Prairie Ridge, Hampshire, Huntley and Cary-Grove). We have talent, but we tell our kids that talent doesn't mean anything unless they work together. We need to reduce the mental mistakes this year and be great at all three phases of the game."
Coach: Jeff Schroeder (first season)
Last year's record: 4-5, 4-5 FVC (tied for fifth place)
Worth noting: The Warriors had their best season since 2017 as they finished one game from qualifying for the playoffs. They beat Burlington Central in Week 9 to keep the Rockets out of the Class 5A playoffs and tie them for fifth. ... Schroeder takes over as coach after coaching at Woodstock North in that program's first 13 seasons, taking the Thunder to a 47-72 record and five playoff appearances. North was in the FVC for seven years before joining the Kishwaukee River Conference. Schroeder was an assistant at Prairie Ridge last season. He also was hired at McHenry as a dean on the upper campus. ... RB-LB Kyle Boelkens (5-11, 205) and TE-DL Quentin Kinshofer (5-9, 185) are two of the Warriors' top returning players. ... RB Jacob Jones (5-10, 200), RB-LB Connor McLean (5-11, 205), OL-DL Jesse Saaverda (5-9, 240), LB Braydon Stebbins (5-10, 180), DB Lucas LaRose (6-2, 190) and OL Caiden Behrendt (6-0, 200) are expected to start. ... The Warriors threw the ball well last season, with QB Dom Caruso racking up 1,991 yards and WRs Jacob Zarek (48 receptions) and Zack Maness (41) leading the way, but they have all graduated. ... The defense will miss LB Evan Griffiths. ... "The team is young, but our kids are gritty," Schroeder said. "This group has worked hard all summer and has embraced our staff. They have been a joy to work with. Our success will ride on our ability to continue to learn the new systems, develop fundamentally and play for four quarters."
Coach: Chris Schremp (22nd season)
Last year's record: 12-2, 8-1 FVC (tri-champion)
Worth noting: Prairie Ridge played for the Class 6A state championship for the fifth time in school history last season. The Wolves lost to East St. Louis 57-7 in the title game. ... Prairie Ridge tied for the FVC title with Huntley and Jacobs and produced one of the most memorable seasons in state history as QB Tyler Vasey ran for 3,887 yards, an IHSA season record, with 53 touchdowns. ... Schremp is the longest-tenured coach in the FVC and has a 178-63 career record. ... The Wolves return three offensive linemen, led by John Fallaw (6-3, 240). Angel Rodriguez (6-2, 220) and Zachary Helland (6-2, 245) are the other returning starters up front. ... Senior Joey Vanderwiel (6-1, 185) will take over at quarterback after starting last season at linebacker. His sophomore brother, Luke Vanderwiel (5-8, 175), and junior Jack Finn (5-10, 170) will be in the backfield with him. Finn moves from running back to fullback. S Dom Creatore, one of Prairie Ridge's best defensive players, also will get some carries at running back. ... "Joey [Vanderwiel] started for us [at quarterback] as a freshman and sophomore," Schremp said. "He is a dual threat in our backfield. He is a solid passer, and we are excited to add that threat. It will be fun to see the Vanderwiel brothers executing our offense this year." ... Creatore is one of seven returning starters on defense, joined by Fallaw, DL Walter Pollack (6-1, 220) and Gavin Tinch (6-4, 285), LBs Landon Severson (5-9, 180) and Andy Koeppen (6-2, 190) and S Zander Severson (5-10, 165). ... Tinch, a junior, will be one of the biggest players in the FVC and could be a force up front. Schremp thinks he has NCAA Division I potential. ... "Last year was not a great year for us defensively, but our defense was young, and we are hoping last year's growing pains will pay off this season." ... Schremp sees Fallaw (offense) and Creatore (defense) as all-state-caliber players. "Those guys are our hardest workers in the weight room and should be a physical presence on both sides of the ball," Schremp said.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Dom Creatore, Prairie Ridge, RB-DB, sr.
Creatore (5-10, 185) was a Northwest Herald All-Area first-team player as a safety last season. He returns to lead an experienced defense and will get some carries out of the offensive backfield as well. Wolves coach Chris Schremp also expects Creatore to make an impact as a punt and kick returner.
Haiden Janke, Huntley, RB-LB, sr.
Janke (6-0, 210) rushed for 1,480 yards and 10 touchdowns, the most of any area player returning this season. He was the focal point of the Red Raiders' offense last season as they preferred to grind out drives. Janke will see some time in the defensive rotation at linebacker this season.
Jason Penza, Crystal Lake Central, QB, sr.
Penza (6-2, 190) played only 1 1/2 games at quarterback last season after suffering a broken bone in his non-throwing arm. He should be a dynamic player with a dangerous offense this season, both running and throwing the ball.
Michael Prokos, Crystal Lake South, WR-DB, sr.
Prokos (6-0, 180) led area receivers with 66 catches and had eight touchdowns last season. He has 120 receptions over the past two seasons. He is speedy and has great hands. Prokos and QB Caden Casimino will be one of the area's top QB-WR duos.
Grant Stec, Jacobs, TE-DE, sr.
Stec (6-6, 247) caught a team-high 24 passes with three touchdowns last season and also made an impact on defense. The Golden Eagles do not throw the ball a lot, but when they do, Stec's size and speed make him a difficult matchup.
FIVE CAN'T-MISS MATCHUPS
Jacobs at Prairie Ridge, 7 p.m., Aug. 25 -- Two of the three teams that shared the FVC title last season meet here in the season opener. Both figure to be near the top of the league again. Jacobs beat the Wolves last season.
Jacobs at Huntley, 7 p.m., Sept. 8 -- This is another meeting of two of the tri-champs from last season. Huntley gave the Golden Eagles their only regular-season loss last season.
Prairie Ridge at Cary-Grove, 7 p.m., Sept. 22 -- One of these two teams has played in the Class 6A state championship game in every season since 2016, so the winner usually has something to say about who wins the FVC title.
Crystal Lake Central at Crystal Lake South, 7 p.m., Sept. 22 -- There could be quite a few points on the scoreboard as these teams look like prolific scoring teams, with QBs Jason Penza (Central) and Caden Casimino (South) leading the way.
Crystal Lake Central at Prairie Ridge, 7 p.m., Oct. 13 -- These two combined for 105 points in Week 9 last season when Penza returned from an arm injury to play quarterback.