Football previews 2023: Scouting the MSL West
By Dick Quagliano
Daily Herald Correspondent
Last year: 5-4
Coach: Joe Sanchez
Worth noting: The Broncos, who finished 4-5 but were credited with a forfeit win over Maine South, found themselves in an unusual spot last year. They finished under .500 for the first time since 2012. They also missed the playoffs for the first time since that same year. ... Last season, Barrington had just one starter returning. This year they are in much better shape with 12 starters back. ... Leading the way will be running back Dillon Fitzpatrick. The 5-foot-11 senior has bulked up to 195 pounds and looks to build on his performance from last year when he had 155 carries for 816 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns while adding 17 catches for 158 yards and a touchdown. ... Nick Peipert, who is a junior, steps into the quarterback role. He will have seniors Connor Fitzpatrick, Bryan Thoman, Ethan Steiner and Alec Schmidts along with junior Matt Kania as wide receivers. Connor Scott returns at tight end ... The offensive line has four seniors in Dylan Balsis, Joey Cheh, who started last season, along with Nathan Cook and Julian Saavedra. Junior Bryan Galovich will also start. ... Devan Van Ness, who had a solid season last year, returns to anchor the defensive line. Ian Marderosian, Justin Blasius, Soran Leahy and Jack Burzynski will also be upfront. ... Ayden Salley, Cole Slatter, Mac Leahy and Josh Peipert will be at linebacker. Will Nazha, Matt Marusich, Travis Soto and Hudson Matiyow will be in the defensive backfield.
Last year: 5-5, lost to Lincoln-Way East in first round of 8A playoffs
Coach: Anthony Donatucci
Worth noting: Donatucci takes over as head coach and has already made an impact as his program has increased in numbers by 33%. The expectation is that the offense will also see a change and will be more pass friendly. ... That type of offense should be more friendly to quarterback Matt Maize, who returns to guide the team this season. Maize, who is 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, is more of a dual-threat quarterback. ... Maize will have a plethora of wide receivers to throw to in Nathan Hahn and Caden Ryan along with returnees Connor Minogue and Lennon Johnson. ... Chad Futris, who saw action last year at running back, will have most of the load there this season. He will run behind Thomas Olszewski, Jash Patel and Harley Stary, who both played last season along with Charlie Kawalek and Robert Jarmulkowicz. ... The Cougar defense, which allowed 20 points per game last season, should be stout again this season. ... Kehinde Suarau and Isaiah Paredes return to the defensive line and will be joined by Jack and Mike Iannotti, and linebackers Brady Teschner, Josh Barnett and Cooper Hanson. Stary, who will play both sides of the ball, and Matthew Gomez give Conant some depth there. Johnson, Minogue and Caleb Christudhas all return on the back end to give the secondary its strength.
Last year: 1-8
Coach: Lou Sponsel
Worth noting: After a pair of consecutive 1-8 seasons, the Vikings believe they have turned the corner. The number of players in the program is way up from a year ago. There is also a back-to-basics approach from the coaching staff. ... Fremd brings back 9 starters from last season. That means they will have a young team with only two of the six starting skill positions on offense being seniors. ... Tight end Sam Tyska and wide receiver Jack Weinke are both seniors and played last season. Wide receivers Brennan Saxe and Davyn Kuhl, along with running back Luke McIlhon, are juniors, but all three saw significant time last season. ... Quarterback will also be an underclassman with junior Dylan Spedale, who saw some playing time last season, and sophomore Johnny O'Brien locked in a battle to start. ... The offensive line of Owen Jakubczak, Tyler Menis, Evan Carl, Michael Varon and Alex Miler has just one starter returning in Menis, who is a senior. ... Defensively, the Vikes will be in a 3-4 with Kolten Peterson, Richie Essien and Alex Foreman upfront and Tyska, Will Klimas, Troy Pepe and McIlhon at linebacker. ... Saxe, who has seven career interceptions, leads the secondary which includes Mason Messner, Jason Hardy and Weinke.
Last year: 7-4, lost to St. Charles North in 2nd round of 7A playoffs
Coach: Tim Heyse
Worth noting: Despite being the smallest school in the MSL West, Hoffman has been right at the top of the conference the last two seasons. They won the conference in 2021 and were second last season. Expect that trend to continue as the Hawks return key components to an offense that averaged 31 points per game a year ago. ... The Hawks are deep at the skill position and should be even more difficult to defend. Running back Quincy Williams rushed for 1,066 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Meanwhile Stephon Sellers caught 60 passes for 900 yards and had 9 touchdowns while Xavier Martinez had 411 receiving yards and tight end Oliver Wawrzyniak had 108 yards and two touchdowns. Jayden Hampton should also be a force on the receiving end. ... Nate Cleveland, who started at corner as a sophomore, will add quarterback to his duties. Cleveland has excellent athletic abilities and should excel. ... Zander Vanne-Teske, Adam Yaro, Josh Shemanskis, Anthony Elenz and Logan Fitch make up an offensive line that returns three starters ... Jonathan Mayfield, who was all-conference last season, anchors the defensive front. He will be joined by Anthony Ogunniyi and Eric McCollough. Will Carlson, Myles Mytch, Liam Patrick and Maurice Brown will be active at linebacker. The Hawks also will feature an athletic secondary in Ivan Rodriguez, Martinez, Cleveland and Trendell Whiting. ... Also look for Elgin transfer Matt Lawson (RB/DB), who is committed to Illinois State, and Grant transfer Mart Gallagehr (TE/DL) to have impacts as well.
Last year: 10-2, lost to York in 8A quarterfinals
Coach: Corey Olson
Worth noting: The Pirates are looking to have their opponents walk the plank in hopes of taking all the gold for themselves. And with 11 players back, four of which are D-1 football recruits and another D-1 basketball recruit, Palatine could have the chest of gold. ... The Pirates should have a ball on offense with Dominisk Ball, a four-year starter and Tulane commit, leading the offense. Also returning is wide receiver 6-foot-5 Connor May, who has at least 7 D-1 offers for basketball. Ryan Donnelly, who is a junior and made a strong run in the second half of the season, also is back. ... Tommy Elter, who stepped in at quarterback last year in the fourth week of the season, also returns. He led the Pirates to a conference title and a second-round playoff appearance. He will also have wide receivers Tyson Moorer and Kole Fager along with tight end Andrew Danielczyk to throw to. ... The offensive line will be anchored by Parker Brault, who has a pair of D-1 offers from MAC schools. Ryan Kick, Frank Stark, Evan Downer and sophomore Tony Balanganayi, who is attracting some interest from colleges, make up the rest of the line. ... Defensively, most eyes will be on 6-foot-6, 290-pound defensive end Jaylen Williams, who has garnered 21 D-1 offers from every Power Five conference. Filip Rolek, who is a three-year starter, has an offer from Western Illinois. Daevion Farrow also is a three-year starter, along with Jaylin Maiden. ... Trey Widlowski returns at linebacker and is joined by Christian Courtney and Jackson Brown. The secondary will be new and includes Jacob Stark, Detton Tietjens, Rufus Clark, Ethan Hunt and Julian Bey.
Last year: 3-6
Coach: Mark Stilling
Worth noting: The Saxons return 11 starters from last season. Their 3-6 mark is an improvement from the previous season and they now look to make the jump back into the playoffs for the first time since 2017. ... Senior running back Anthony Digioia, who is a three-year starter, will be the key cog in the offense again this season. He will have to navigate behind a new offensive line. ... Also watch juniors Jaden Buchanan, Jaiden Hernandez and Kendall Johnson and sophomores Matthias Zubcek and Zak Lane. ... Quarterback Lucas Wagener is also new to the varsity. He will have veterans at wide receiver in seniors Marcus Stewart and Andrew Kula, along with tight end Daniel Uczarczyk. Kile Gough, who is a sophomore, will also be a wide receiver. ... The defense could be the strength of the Saxons. They have 7 starters back along with new defensive coordinator Matt Zimolzak, who previously was the head coach at Huntley and coached at Fremd. ... Jimmy Zinchuk and Brandon Carver are back on the defensive line with juniors Borys Sepko and Sean Christoffel. Jimmy Frejd and Frankie Urso return at linebacker and are joined by Tre Teschner. ... Digioia will also be a key factor on defense as he anchors the defensive backfield. He should get plenty of help from returnees Javonte McCoy and Marcus Stewart along with newcomer Rafael Medeiros.
Five Players Worth Watching:
Dominik Ball, RB, Palatine -- Tulane commit
Dillon Fitzpatrick, RB, Barrington -- Rushed for 816 yards and 13 touchdowns
Stephon Sellers, WR/DB, Hoffman Estates, Sr. -- Caught 60 passes for 900 yards and 18 TDs
Jaylen Williams, DE, Palatine, Jr. -- Four-star recruit. Has 21 D1 offers
Quincy Williams, RB, Hoffman Estates -- Rushed for 1,066 yards and 18 touchdowns
Five Games Worth Seeing:
Week 1: Warren at Barrington; Week 3: Palatine at Maine South; Week 5: Palatine at Hoffman Estates, Week 7: Barrington at Hoffman Estates, Week 8: Palatine at Barrington