Football previews 2023: Scouting the KRC/I8 White
Kaneland2022 record: 7-4, 4-2 KRC/I8 White (third)
Coach: Michael Thorgesen
Worth noting: The Knights made the postseason for the fifth straight season. Kaneland lost to Class 6A state runner-up Prairie Ridge 57-22 in the second round. Thorgesen takes over for Pat Ryan, who coached Kaneland from 2017-2022. Thorgesen is entering his 13th year on the Knights' staff, the previous six as defensive coordinator. ... Senior Troyer Carlson is back at quarterback in his fourth year of varsity football. He threw for 2,179 yards and 23 touchdowns with seven interceptions last fall. Over the past two seasons, he's thrown for just less than 5,000 yards and 59 TDs. ... Aric Johnson, a four-year starter, is the team's top receiving threat and caught 44 passes for 868 yards and nine TDs as a junior. ... Other top returners for the Knights are senior RB-DL Josh Mauthe, senior OL-DL Nick Alstott, senior OL-DL Brett Larson, senior LB Damian Wilson, senior DB Tony DeBlasio and senior WR Dominick DeBlasio. ... Mauthe is a three-year starter on the defensive line, Alstott and Larson, a three-year starter, are leaders on the offensive line. Kaneland has placed third behind Sycamore and Morris in each of the past three nine-game regular seasons. ... Last year's team started 3-3 but won four straight, allowing only 30 total points during that winning streak.
2022 record: 5-5, 3-3 KRC/I8 White (fourth)
Coach: Jose Medina
Worth noting: The Cavaliers qualified for the playoffs for the third straight season and have five wins in each of their past four seasons, including the COVID-19-shortened season. ... The Cavs are moving away from their normal triple-option offense, with Medina taking over as the team's offensive coordinator. L-P scored 19.6 points a game last year and averaged 183.6 rushing yards 32.9 passing yards, but Medina expects those numbers to be more balanced this season. ... The Cavaliers lost multiple key players on defense, including Connor Lorden on the defensive line, Antonio Rodriguez at linebacker and Mason Lynch at defensive back. ... Top returners on the offense include senior QB Brendan Boudreau, senior OL Ty Terzick, senior OL Adam Lane and RB senior Brady Romagnoli. Top returners on defense include senior DL Nolan Glynn, senior DB Kaleb Kennedy, junior LB Danny Beavers and junior LB Andres Medina. ... Medina said Terzick has stood out at center this summer. He will call defensive fronts and pass protection plays in the new-look offense. ... "We have installed a new offensive system that will continue to build on a strong run game and look to get the ball out to our skilled players in space to make plays," Medina said.
2022 record: 10-3, 5-1 KRC/I8 White (second)
Coach: Alan Thorson
Worth noting: Morris was a Class 5A qualifier for the third straight season and won 10 games for the second year in a row. Morris lost to Peoria 76-56 in the state semifinals. ... Morris averaged almost 40 points a game. Its regular-season losses came against Richmond-Burton (31-7) and Sycamore (28-0). ... Carter Button returns at QB after completing 96 of 146 passes (65.7%) for 1,359 yards, 22 TDs and three INTs as a junior. ... Senior A.J. Zweeres (38 catches, 548 yards, 11 TDs) and junior Jack Wheeler will be Button's top pass-catching options. Jacob Swartz will be the primary running back after running for 700 yards and nine TDs as a backup last year. ... Senior Mason Stapleton is a top returner on the offensive line, which lost four starters to graduation, while the defense returns Zweeres, senior DB Sam Mateski, senior DL Vaughn Mills and senior DL Daniel Riley. Morris will have to make up for the production of grad Sam Reddinger, who had 115 tacks and five sacks to lead the defense. Thorson said this year's defense might be the fastest he's ever coached.
2022 record: 5-5, 2-4 KRC/I8 White (fifth)
Coach: Chad Gross
Worth noting: The Pirates made the playoffs for the first time since 2012 and had their most wins since that same season (12-1). Ottawa, which lost seven starters on defense, dropped its first-round game to Seymour 40-14. ... Ottawa returns three of five starting spots on the offensive line to make room for senior RB-DB Ryder Miller, who led the team in rushing yards (537) and touchdowns (11). He also was second in tackles (63, 3 1/2 for loss). ... Senior OL-DL Michael Mills is the team's top offensive lineman. Also back on the line are junior Payton Carretto and senior Ryan Wilson.
2022 record: 12-1, 6-0 KRC/I8 White (first)
Coach: Joe Ryan
Worth noting: The Spartans qualified for the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season and 12th time in 13 seasons. Last year's team reached the Class 5A semifinals for the second year in a row, where it lost to eventual state champion Nazareth 10-7 on a late score. The Spartans' 12 wins were tied for the most in program history (12-1 in 2013). ... Sycamore, which opens the season against DeKalb on August 25 at NIU's Huskie Stadium, lost nine three-year starters to graduation. ... Junior Burke Gautcher, a WR last season, will replace three-year starter Eli Meier at quarterback. Gautcher had 37 catches for 768 yards and 10 touchdowns last year. He has offers from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and NIU and will also play defensive back. ... Senior RB-DB Tyler Curtis ran for 783 yards last year and had 18 TDs, also getting two interceptions and 44 tackles. ... Other top returners include senior OL Gable Carrick; senior OL-DL Tristan Countryman, a three-year starter; and junior WR-DB Carter York. ... Sycamore only gave up 78 points in 13 games played last season. ... Top newcomers to look out for are RB-LB Diego Garcia, TE-LB Kyle Prebil, LB, Gabe Jovanovich, LB Miles Galindo, DL Joey Culotta and WR Teague Hallahan. ... Ryan feels this year's team has more depth than a year ago. ... "We will have the ability to be very balanced on offense," Ryan said. "I'm most excited about seeing what this group on defense can do to follow up from last year."
2022 record: 2-7, 1-5 KRC/I8 White (sixth)
Coach: Mike Brasile
Worth noting: The Blue Streaks have not made the postseason since 2009. ... Woodstock returns seven starters, which has led to a lot of competitive battles, Brasile said. He said the "heart and soul" of the Streaks lies on the offensive and defensive lines, with senior Tyler Moon, senior Bode Pedersen, senior Cooper Pajich, senior Andrew Ryan, senior Jack Flannigan, junior Everett Flannery, junior Jack Vidales, junior Trey Neuhart and senior Jamari Ross all expected to play key roles ... junior Landen Stoltz and senior Nolan Van Hoorn will get the majority of the carries for Woodstock after losing last year's top rusher Kaden Sandoval (398 yards) to graduation. Last year, Van Hoorn just missed qualifying for the Class 2A state track meet in the triple jump and long jump. ... Senior Charlie Gilmore is the team's top returning receiver (161 yards, 2 TDs). Senior Keaton Perkins will start at tight end. Senior Max Miller and senior Jack Simonton are top players at linebacker.
2022 record: 1-8, 0-6 KRC/I8 White (seventh)
Coach: Matt Pollnow
Worth noting: Pollnow enters his second season for the Thunder, who last qualified for the playoffs in 2018. North was winless in 2021. ... Senior Carter Brey and Senior Shane Buening are both returning starters and will help anchor the offensive and defensive lines. Buening will play tight end. Senior Landan Creighton, a three-time Class 2A state qualifier in the pole vault, takes over at quarterback for graduate Jay Zinnen (465 passing yards, 5 TDs). Zinnen was second on the team with 507 rushing yards and five scores. ... Senior RB Kaden Combs is back after leading the Thunder last year with 636 rushing yards and four TDs. Junior Max Dennison will also help at running back while senior Parker Menzel and junior Hunter Menzel will be top players to watch at defensive back. Top newcomers to look out for include TE Karson Boal, OL Kayden Bracken, OL Dillon Gavers, RB Parker Halihan, LB George Kingos, LB David Randecker, OL AJ Ringpis and OL Shane Wiedemann.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Troyer Carlson, Kaneland, sr., QB: Carlson returns for his fourth varsity season. Last fall, the standout QB threw for 2,179 yards, 23 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Over the past two seasons, he has thrown for just under 5,000 yards and 59 TDs.
Gable Carrick, Sycamore, sr., OL -- Carrick enters his third year on varsity and was a key member of the Spartans' offensive line last year. He was a unanimous first-team selection in the KRC/I8 White.
Tyler Curtis, Sycamore, sr., FB-DB: Curtis was in the end zone a lot as a junior, running for 783 yards and scoring 18 TDs. On defense, he tallied two interceptions and made 44 tackles.
Ryder Miller, Ottawa, sr., RB-DB: Miller was an impact player on both offense and defense last year, leading the team with 537 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
A.J. Zweeres, Morris, sr., WR-DB: Zweeres hauled in 38 catches for 548 yards and 11 touchdowns for Morris as a junior last fall.
He'll be the top target for returning QB Carter Button.
FIVE CAN'T-MISS MATCHUPS
Week 2 -- Streator at Ottawa, 7 p.m., Sept. 1: The Pirates and the Bulldogs will face off for the 99th time in the state's third-oldest high school football rivalry. The Pirates lead the all-time series 59-38-1.
Week 3 -- Morris at Kaneland, 7 p.m. Sept. 8: This was a close matchup last season, with Morris earning a 32-24 victory in the KRC/I8 crossover showdown.
Week 6 -- Kaneland at Sycamore, 7 p.m. Sept. 29: This will be one of the key KRC/I8 White games on the schedule with both teams expected to compete for the conference crown. Sycamore won 28-7 last year after the game was tied at 7 at halftime.
Week 7 -- Ottawa at La Salle-Peru, 7 p.m. Oct. 6: In another longtime rivalry, the playoff teams from last year will meet for the 123rd time. L-P has won the last eight matchups.
Week 9 -- Sycamore at Morris, 7 p.m. Oct. 20: For the past two years, this Week 9 showdown has determined the champion of the KCR-I8 White. Sycamore won last year 28-0.