Who are the football teams to beat in 2013?


Who are the football teams to beat in 2013?

Don't look for Maine South to make another serious bid for a state championship in 2013. Or Loyola. Or Lincoln-Way East. Or Lemont. Or Joliet Catholic.

Between the five of them, they return only two legitimate Division I prospects--Lincoln-Way East center Nick Allegretti and Joliet Catholic tackle J.B. Butler.

Maine South, which has won three state titles and is 61-4 over the last five years, will be in what is being described as "a total rebuilt on both sides of the ball."

"We're looking for leaders and football players," coach Dave Inserra said.

The Hawks also are looking for a quarterback, something they have had in abundance in the last decade. But who will succeed recent All-Staters Sean Price, Tyler Knight, Charlie Goro, Tyler Benz and Matt Alviti?

"It's wide open," said offensive coordinator Charlie Bliss, who hopes either senior Alec Basso, junior Spencer Malam or sophomore Brian Collis will develop into the next star at the Park Ridge school.

Meanwhile, defending state champions Mount Carmel (8A), Glenbard West (7A), Crete-Monee (6A), Montini (5A) and Aurora Christian (3A) return the caliber of talent necessary to make another drive for a championship.

Other teams that figure to contend are Glenbard North, Kaneland, Bolingbrook and St. Rita, which figures to get a big boost from quarterbackrunning back Tommy Mister, a highly touted Division I recruit who transferred from Richards.

Let's look at the major contenders:

MOUNT CARMEL: What else does Frank Lenti have left to accomplish? The winningest coach in state history is 326-59 in 29 years with 10 state championships. Returning from last year's 13-1 kingpin will be running back Matt Domer, who rushed for 1,290 yards and 20 touchdowns, running back Jimmy Mickens and defensive linemen Enoch Smith and Steve Richardson. Will senior Marko Boricich step up to replace Don Butkus at quarterback?

GLENBARD WEST: Coach Chad Hetlet, who is 59-5 in the last five years, has a solid nucleus returning from last year's 14-0 powerhouse. Headliners are running back Scott Andrews, who rushed for 1,250 yards and 19 touchdowns, defensive back Hayden Carlson, running back Devante Toney, 6-foot-5, 280-pound offensive tackle Eric Shute, wide receiver Luke Domask, kicker Hayden Lekacz and running back Jarmon Kindle-Joyner. Senior Drew Vogg figures to be the starting quarterback.

GLENBARD NORTH: Any team with running back Justin Jackson has to be considered a threat to contend for the state title. Last year, Jackson rushed for 2,539 yards and 35 touchdowns as coach Ryan Wilkens' team went 12-2 and finished second in Class 8A.

CRETE-MONEE: The Warriors are looking for a new coach after Jerry Verde resigned to succeed his mentor Dave Mattio as head coach at Marian Catholic. Also gone are the stars of last year's 14-0 state championship team--wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, quarterback Marcus Terrell and wide receiver Lance Lenoir.

But Verde didn't leave the cupboard bare. The headliner is linebacker Nyles Morgan, one of the top prospects in the nation. Other standouts are senior running backs DeShaun Smith and Trevor Smith, senior linebacker Jonathan Draper, junior strong safety Omari Stringer and 6-foot-5, 234-pound junior defensive end Chris Slayton, one of the most promising prospects in the class of 2014.

MONTINI: Can coach Chris Andriano win a fifth state title in a row? The only milestone he hasn't accomplished is an unbeaten season. His last three state champions were 12-2. In 2009, his team finished 10-4. He also won in 2004 with a 13-1 team. Could this be the year to go 14-0?

Andriano will build his 2013 squad around quarterbacks Alex Wills and James Barron, linebacker Mike Maduko, wide receiver Tyler Tumpane, defensive lineman Edgar Ruano and 6-foot-6, 260-pound defensive end Dylan Thompson, one of the leading prospects in the state. Wills, a transfer from Wheaton Warrenville South, beat out Barron for the starting QB job last season and passed for over 1,726 yards and 22 touchdowns.

If that isn't enough, Andriano recently welcomed one of the top prospects in the class of 2013, 6-foot-2, 225-pound defensive end Nile Sykes, a transfer from Oak Park. Sykes has scholarship offers from Illinois, Purdue, Northern Illinois and Toledo and has interest from Northwestern, Indiana, Iowa and Arizona State.

Sykes, who grew up in Maywood, has moved with his family from Oak Park to Aurora and is expected to be eligible for the 2013 season. Last year, he missed the first five games after breaking his right foot in an intrasquad scrimmage a week before the season opener.

AURORA CHRISTIAN: Coach Don Beebe is seeking a third state title in a row. Junior quarterback Austin Bray is the successor to Anthony Maddie and Ryan McQuade, who quided Aurora Christian to 13-1 records in 2011 and 2012. Also look for senior wide receiver Noah Roberts, junior kicker Trevor Hills and senior running back Legend Smith.

BOLINGBROOK: Can coach John Ivlow replace Illinois-bound quarterback Aaron Bailey? He has plenty of talent on hand, including highly recruited cornerback Parrker Westphal, sophomore linebacker Tuf Borland, junior quarterback Quincy Woods and the Huff brothers, senior running back Jaden and junior defensive backs Jacob and Julian.

ST. RITA: Mister, who has scholarship offers from Illinois, Notre Dame and Indiana, is a very athletic dual threat quarterback who could turn the Mustangs from a 6-6 team to a state champion in one year. Coach Todd Kuska already has five Division I players on his roster--defensive end Eddie Randle, defensive back Lamar Dawson, tackle Matt Byrne and wide receivers Malik Space and Julian Crum. Tyree Lee and D.J. Miles are promising running backs.

KANELAND: Coach Tom Fedderly is 12-1, 12-1 and 10-1 in the last three years. With quarterback Drew David returning for his third season, the Knights should contend again. David has passed for nearly 6,000 yards and 65 touchdowns in the last two years. He gets able support from running back Jesse Balluff and wide receiver Dylan Nauert.

Other schools that figure to contend for top 20 status and go deep into the state playoff are Stevenson, Providence, Batavia, Notre Dame, Downers Grove North, Benet, Elk Grove, Thornton, Notre Dame, North Chicago, Bloom, Fenwick and St. Patrick.

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Not all losses are created equal.

When Lincoln-Way East suffered a 35-30 defeat in Week 3 to Homewood-Flossmoor, the Griffins took positives away from the loss. They had held a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, battled back from adversity in the second half and had a chance to win the game in the final minute. Even that loss in retrospect appeared acceptable – if there ever was an acceptable loss – as the Vikings are currently 8-0 and in their other seven wins have outscored their opponents by an average of 38 points.

By Week 3 the Griffins were still acclimating to the unique situation of playing at game speed with a host of Lincoln-Way North students who had transferred in the offseason. They had a defense made up almost entirely of first-year starters, and the offense was still rotating quarterbacks Jake Arthur and Max Shafer to figure out how to maximize their talent. By many standards the Griffins went toe-to-toe for 48 minutes with a team also considered to be a favorite for a state title.

The same couldn’t be said for the Griffins’ effort last Friday night in Bradley.

An esteemed program with a 2005 state title and 16 consecutive playoff appearances to their resume, it isn’t often the Griffins are embarrassed on Friday night. But those were the words head coach Rob Zvonar used in his postgame speech to the team following their 38-21 loss to the undefeated Boilermakers.

“We chose to play the game,” Zvonar began. “Which means you play it to the greatest of your ability and you honor each other, God, everybody by your play. And we didn’t do that tonight.”

There were plenty of reasons the Griffins suffered their second loss of the season. That is came in such blowout fashion was the bigger surprise. The Boilermakers found the end zone on their first two possessions, rallying behind a raucous home crowd hoping to see their team go 8-0 for the first time in school history.

The Griffins defense, which had allowed 27 points the previous three weeks combined, were on their heels as the Boilermakers used misdirection and a few trick plays to set up the short touchdown runs.

The Griffins offense moved down the field on their fourth possession, moving inside the Boilermakers red zone looking to get on the board. But Iowa commit Camron Harrell stepped in front of a Griffins screen pass on 4th down and returned it 89 yards for a score. On the final play of the first quarter, with the Griffins moving again, Damien Williams read a route and picked off Jake Arthur, returning it 53 yards for a score to give the Boilermakers a shocking 28-0 lead after 12 minutes.

After a spirited halftime speech from Zvonar, the Griffins came out firing in the second half, scoring on a touchdown run from Nigel Muhammad and a Jeremy Nelson 27-yard reception from Arthur. But the Boilermakers weathered the storm each time Lincoln-Way East attempted a comeback. The Griffins only got as close as 14 points late in the fourth quarter.

“I think we came into this game not ready,” said Muhammad, who finished with 164 yards on 24 carries. “But we’re all a team and we all accept this loss together.”

Added senior Jack Carroll, who finished with a team-high nine tackles: “We have this sick feeling in our stomach right now but the best thing is (next) Friday we can come back and get it out of our stomach. If we lose again in the playoffs then we’ll have that sick feeling in our stomach for the rest of our lives.”

That’s now the reality for the Griffins, and a silver lining if there ever could be one for such a blowout loss. With the playoffs a mere week away – the Griffins defeated Lockport on Friday to finish the regular season 7-2 – the feeling each of them felt getting on the bus back to Frankfort will linger with them and act as a reminder of how quickly things can slip away.

“We’re trying to put this behind us,” said Max Shafer. “We’re going to try to get hot and make a run in the playoffs.”

In a loaded 8A class, the Griffins’ two regular-season losses have already knocked them down in the seeding process. While any loss before Week 9 means little in the long run – the Griffins locked up a playoff berth weeks ago – it also means a more difficult road to Champaign. But that’s the reality for Zvonar’s group, and whether it’s a defense playing faster or an offense avoiding costly mistakes, the Griffins are running out of time to right the ship.

But Zvonar believes such a loss as the team suffered last Friday night can act as the catalyst to doing just that. The Griffins have established themselves as one of the state’s premier programs, and that means not riding the highs too high, and not breaking apart when the lows come. Last Friday night was as low as Zvonar had seen any of his 16 teams, but the silver lining occurred in that his squad now knows what it has to do to avoid it when it’s win or go home.

“What we also think is that the program is built on a solid foundation, so when you take a little hit like that you battle back and you go back to what you believe in and what you know can be successful. And that’s fundamentals and keeping things simple, and the kids have bounced back and they’re not acceptable to them what occurred to them, so very proud of their effort and the way they’re working.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Jacob Keller

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Jacob Keller

This week's Wintrust Athlete of the Week is Fenwick senior Jacob Keller. 

The quarterback has helped the Friars be a constant presence in the CSN Preps Power Rankings this season as Fenwick finished the regular season 8-1. 

Besides being a team leader in football, the 6-foot-4 Keller is also a Division I prospect on the hardwood as he was one of Fenwick's leaders last season. 

As one of the best two-sport athletes in the area this season, Keller will try to lead Fenwick on a deep playoff run before transitioning to basketball season.