As we creep ever closer to IHSA Kickoff (comes up faster every year, it seems), could 2013 see a repeat performance from several Chicagoland area teams who we saw win state titles last November? It's very possible, and here is a best guess on which teams have the best chance of a repeat visit:
Class 8A: Mount Carmel -- Since I predicted the 2013 Caravan to repeat as Class 8A state title champions back in early December of 2012, I guess I better stick to my guns. While it's very rare to get a consensus No. 1 ranked team in the state anymore, no one can deny that the Caravan return some serious talent for the 2013 season. Gone is standout QB Donny Butkus, and his loss remains one of the biggest questions facing Mount Carmel this preseason, yet senior QB Marko Boricich has looked very solid throwing the ball.
Boricich, who is also a standout baseball player, will be asked to focus more towards making good, quick reads and decisions in the Caravan veer option attack. If Boricich can make those quick reads happen, then the offense will roll.
Illinois verbal commit RB Matt Domer (6-foot-0, 186 pounds) is back for Mount Carmel, along with two starting offensive linemen in senior Kyle Thomas along with senior Nate Oquendo (6-foot-1, 286 pounds). The team's defense is hands down the strength of the 2013 Caravan. The defensive line features two standouts in Minnesota verbal commit DT Steve Richardson (5-foot-11, 285 pounds) along with Michigan State commit Enoch Smith Jr. (6-foot-2, 272 pounds), plus Western Michigan verbal commit DB Deontae Brown (6-foot-2, 200 pounds). Senior LB Nick Johnson (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) is another impact player to watch for Mount Carmel this fall.
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Class 7A: Glenbard West -- The 2012 Class 7A state champs are always a contender, yet just getting out of the West Suburban Silver will be an even bigger accomplishment in 2013. West will need to reload in 2013 with just seven returning starters back (four offense, three defense), yet senior RB Scotty Andrews along with senior FB Devante Toney give the Hilltoppers experience in the backfield and running game.
Glenbard West and head coach Chad Hetlett will particularly need to focus on breaking in new line play on both sides of the ball with just NC State verbal commit senior OT Eric Shute (6-foot-5, 275 pounds) the lone starter back on either of the line. The defense will be led by senior S Hayden Carlson (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) plus senior LB Grant Greeno and Jordan Hassan.
Class 6A: Crete-Monee -- The odds of the Warriors repeating as Class 6A state champs are pretty high from what I've seen. Crete-Monee has a new head coach in John Konecki, who takes over for Jerry Verde (Marian Catholic).
Konecki was the hands-down choice to replace Verde and the transition should be seamless this fall. Crete-Monee welcomes back a ton of talent and impact players, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Senior LB Nyles Morgan (6-foot-1, 222 pounds) was an all-state player in 2012 and is also one of the top ranked linebackers in the nation, holding 33 scholarship offers this summer. Senior DE Chris Slayton (6-foot-3, 258 pounds) has major Division 1 level offers, and both are part of eight starters back on defense this fall.
The biggest question mark comes on offense. Gone is WR LaQuon Treadwell (Ole Miss) and QB Marcus Terrell. Crete-Monee will need a to find some early answers, yet the team still has the makings of being a strong contender in 6A.
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Class 5A: Montini Catholic -- Back to back to back to back to back to..... OK, let's slow down just a bit here as the Broncos will attempt to win only their fifth straight state football title this season. The Broncos welcome back seven starters in 2013 (three offense, four defense), yet Montini is never short of talent and numbers. Senior QB Alex Wills (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) looks more ready than ever to take the reins of the Broncos' offense, and Montini always has several quality receivers on hand.
Watch out for senior WR Simmie Cobbs (6-foot-4, 207 pounds) this fall. Ohio State verbal commit senior DL Dylan Thompson (6-foot-4, 271 pounds) is an impact player, and Oak Park-River Forest transfer senior LB Nile Sykes (6-foot-1, 219 pounds) will bolster an already strong unit.
The biggest question mark? Who steps up and becomes the go-to guy on offense with the graduation loss of both WR/DB Joey Borsellino (Western Illinois) and Mark Gorogianis.
Class 3A: Aurora Christian -- The Eagles and head coach Don Beebe are also working on a three-peat of their own this fall, and early indications look positive for Aurora Christian. 10 starters are back in 2013, including seven on the defensive side of the ball. Senior WR/DB Noah Roberts (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) has a handful of offers this summer and is part of a very good group of skill position players. Also watch out for junior QB Austin Bray. The biggest issue will be if the Eagles can replace graduated QB Ryan McQuade along with three Division 1 skill-position standouts in Brandon Mays (NIU), Chad Beebe (NIU) and Joel Bouagnon (NIU).