Football previews 2023: Scouting the DuPage Valley Conference
2022 record: 6-4
Coach: Derek Schneeman
Worth noting: The Barbs went 4-2 in the DVC last year before falling to Moline in the first round of the 7A state playoffs, but graduated 9 starters on offense and 9 more on defense. They'll need contributions from several varsity newcomers to make another run to the playoffs, but running back Talen Tate and linebacker and 3-year starter Daniel Roman-Johnson (5-9, 200) return to provide a pair of anchors. Tate, a senior, gained 824 yards last year on 112 carries (7.36 yards per carry) and scored 10 TDs. "Talen is really the total package at running back. He has exceptional speed and short area quickness, possesses great hands, and is an outstanding blocker both in pass protection and on the perimeter. I expect him to have a great year this year for us after splitting carries last year," Schneeman said. Roman-Johnson, a tough, physical leader both on and off the field for DeKalb, is joined by junior Demarrion Belue (5-11, 175) and sophomore Otto Eidsness (6-0, 195) at the backer position. Returning starter Jayden Wilson suffered a knee injury this summer and will be out for the season, but the secondary does include seniors Rahsheed Greer and Diego Roman-Johnson, and juniors Jauharie Wilson, Levi Andrews, and Billy Miller. The DL should be solid with juniors Xavier Anderson (6-4, 230), Pierre Cathina (6-2, 200) and Justin O'Neal (6-4, 200) at defensive end, and junior JJ Piniera (6-0, 225) and sophomore TJ Moore (5-11, 225) playing on the inside. Cole Latimer (6-3, 185) gets the nod at QB after the strong-armed sophomore excelled last season on the sophomore level. Top targets include speedy WR Xavier Dandridge and sophomore Davon Grant (6-4) and Derrion Straughter (6-2), a pair of big targets on the perimeter. The entire offensive line will be new in 2023 but sophomore Owen Sisson (6-0, 240) and senior Josh Jones (6-2, 260) look primed to claim two of the spots up front. "We will be very young but I'm excited about the guys we have stepping into key roles this year," Schneeman said. "The talent is there, but we will need several guys to become acclimated to varsity football in a hurry."
2022 record: 6-4
Coach: Mike Ulreich
Worth noting: Third-year head coach Ulreich is looking to make it 3-for-3 in terms of making the playoffs, and this year he expects the offense to play a bigger role than it did last fall when a stout defense led the way. New starting QB Jack Cook (6-1, 185) had an impressive offseason both in the weight room and on the practice field, and he'll have talented returning targets Chris Bern (sr., 5-10, 170) and Logan Devick (sr., 6-2, 185) back as wide outs, while speedy junior Nick Zbylut will transition from cornerback to the Redhawks' top ball carrier. "We're real excited about Jack. He didn't miss a weight session. He's a tough kid, he plays rugby and he can put the ball down field with accuracy. That's one of the things that has impressed us so far. Last year I felt like the defense was the strength of our team. Our offense, even in practice you could see it had a hard time competing with our defense in practice. It's been different this year and Jack's a big part of that," Ulreich said. Central does expect another solid defense and it will be led by Maverick Ohle (6-2, 250), a state champion discus thrower who was named the top defensive lineman in the DVC last year, and senior OLB/TE Christian Kuta (OLB/TE), whose goal-line stand sealed a win over the crosstown Huskies last fall. Junior linebacker Gaven Wade and left tackle Grant Ellinger (6-5, 270) are also back. "We played six sophomores last year so we have that corps group of six kids back and we had some juniors who had terrific seasons," said Ulreich, whose team lost to Lyons Township 26-17 in an 8A playoff opener in 2022. A nonconference slate that includes Hinsdale Central, Plainfield North and Lockport will prepare the squad for the DVC and for another playoff run. Center Connor Sands, running backs Jude Sutherland and Aidan Clark, Daniel Nussbaum (ILB/TE) and Aaron Nussbaum (ILB/TE), and kicker/punter/WR/DB Logan Ellison all are expected to play big roles in 2023.
2022 record: 7-3
Coach: Sean Drendel
Worth noting: The Huskies return a slew of starters led by WR/free safety Luke Williams, who coach Drendel expects to become the first player ever named all-DVC all four years. The Purdue commit had 42 catches for 614 yards and 5 TDs last year, while also feturning a kickoff for a score and recording 32 tackles and 3 interceptions on defense. "When all is said and done, Luke will probably own every receiving record that we have," Drendel said. "On top of that he's a really good defensive back and a really good returner." Jacob Bell will take the QB reigns and Williams will not be his lone weapon as WR Brock Pettaway is back after recording 30 catches and 4 TDs as a sophomore, and running back Cole Arl will be the lead back after splitting time last year and still recording 488 yards and 5 TDs on almost 8 yards a carry. The OL brings back plenty of experience, size and talent led by senior Andrew Jennings (6-3, 250) and fellow 2-year starters Daniel Jurjovec, Jack Provenzano, Zion Lee and Steve Harvey. Newcomer Austin Roush, a 6-3, 265-pound junior, will only make the OL stronger. On defense, the Huskies return 9 key contributors, with linemen Lawson Grier a 3-year starter and all-conference performer who had 43 tackles including 14 for loss. William Korosec is back at one corner and linebackers Sam Gehrs (62 tackles) and Matt Murphy -- captain and 3-year starter who missed time last year with an injury -- return to a deep, talented defensive unit. "Our front seven is really strong," Drendel adds. "We're hoping to create some problems for people defensively." The defensive line also returns Blake Robinson and Alex Kushenbach, Josh Lovick is back at linebacker and the secondary returns Kai Williams as well as Luke Williams. "Our schedule is super tough starting with H-F, Loyola and Bolingbrook," Drendel said. "It's a daunting task, but we feel that we have something to offer too. We feel pretty good about where we are."
2022 record: 8-3
Coach: Bill Ellinghaus
Worth noting: The Wildcats graduated a talented class last spring after the DVC champs lost a tough 17-14 second-round playoff game to eventual 8A state runner-up Lincoln-Way East, but they're not expecting anyone to feel sorry for them in 2023. Quarterback Ryan Mohler is back after winning all seven games he started last year while taking over for the injured Mark Mennecke, and so are four main cogs who started every game last year -- DL Nick Williamson and Justin Dutkiewicz, and receivers Carter Stare and Miles Miskel. "We're working real hard but we know there's a bunch of holes to fill," Ellinghaus said. "I do like the word reload over rebuild because seniors only get one shot. We try to reload the best we can every year and to give our seniors an opportunity to go out and win a bunch of football games." Neuqua Valley's nonconference slate includes a tough opener with Oswego and a Week 3 battle with the Lincoln-Way East team that ended their season in 2022. Silvano Spatafora will be the main ball carrier and Stare and Miskel return as threats on the outside, along with TE Ryan Mascari, who started every game as a sophomore. The OL will be paced by returning tackles Aidan Nash and Joey Mattia. On defense, Williamson and Dutkiewicz are a force up front and Stare and Miskel will strengthen the secondary when playing both ways. "We'll see where it goes. I will say they're working really hard, putting a lot of effort in so we'll see," added Ellinghaus, who has 37 seniors on the roster.
2022 record: 1-8
Coach: John Parpet
Worth noting: Injuries and inexperience plagued the Mustangs last fall, but with 12 starters back in 2023 things are looking up for the program. Returning seniors RB/SS Oscar Rivera (5-11, 180), RB/WR/DB Lucas Vanvlerah (5-9, 165), RB/DB Daniel Pere (5-10, 175) and RB Damarion Lewis (5-8, 190) give Metea lots of ball carrying options, and fellow senior Hank Omar (6-1, 215) is expected to have an impact at fullback and linebacker. The OL returns big seniors Brady Jones (6-2 260) and Adan Gonzalez (5-10, 250), and Jones will also help out the DL. Junior QB Jake Macleod will call the signals this year and TE Joey Miller and WR/FS Christian Lee are returning pass catchers looking for big years. Other key players back with experience include junior OL/DL Okiki Oekanmi (6-5, 285), senior LB Maurice Morrow (6-3, 220), and senior punter/kicker Nico Carrier. "In 2022 we had a very young team that had 10 starters miss multiple games due to injury which effected the team play drastically," coach Parpet said. "A lot of experience is coming back this year with some newcomers looking to fill roles in the starting lineup." Metea will have more depth than it did a year ago and if it isn't hit by as many injuries as last year the win total should climb.
2022 record: 0-9
Coach: Tom Baumgartner
Worth noting: The Warriors are looking to bounce back from a tough season last year and return plenty of experience on offense including starting quarterback Luke Elsea and senior wide out Tyler Threat, who will also play defensive back on a defense looking to return to playing at a high level. "We feel that if we can get off to a good start we can return to the playoffs and compete for a DVC title," said Baumgartner, whose squad will play a tough nonconference schedule against Oswego East, Plainfield East, and Homewood-Flossmoor. Senior TE/DE Julian Johnson -- one of 8 returning starters for Waubonsie Valley -- has committed to play at Minnesota. Linebacker Bryce Provis is a returning senior starter and he'll have plenty of help from returning linemen Charlie Drohan (OL/DL), Stefan Popov (OL/DL), Sean Carroll (DL) and Dominic Regan (DL). "We're expecting big things from seniors Julian Johnson, Tyler Threat, and Luke Elsea," Baumgartner said. The team also expects big contributions from a quartet of newcomers: Chrisjan Simmons (jr., RB), Owen Roberts (jr., DB/WR), Dylan Beacom (jr., DB/QB) and Patrick Cassidy, (jr., OL/DL).