ST. EDWARD at GENOA-KINGSTON
Game time: 7 p.m.
Location: Genoa-Kingston High School, 980 Park Ave., Genoa, 60135
Last meeting: The Cogs lost 43-21 in Elgin to begin last year.
Scouting the Green Wave: There’s no surprises here. The teams are meeting for the fourth straight year.
“They might as well be a conference team at this point,” G-K coach Travis Frederick said. “We have seen enough of each other.”
Frederick said the Green Wave bring back most of their weapons from a year ago, including junior running back Dwayne Allen, senior quarterback Joe Mullen and 6-foot-4 (on last year’s roster) receiver Nick Duffy.
On defense, Frederick said most of St. Edward’s front seven return, calling the defense “real stout.”
What’s at stake: The Cogs are hoping to make a leap beyond 5-5 this season, and they get a good Week 1 measuring stick. Despite the lopsided score, the Green Wave also finished 5-5 last year.
“If we can play with these guys for four quarters, it’s a good test to see where we’re going to go for the season,” Frederick said. “If we compete well, maybe we get a ‘W’ against these guys and that would be a huge, huge boost to start the season. But they are real good and if things don’t go our way – I mean, they are going to be a playoff team. I like to start the year against a tough team like this.”
Frederick said he expects big things from quarterback Griffin McNeal. He also thinks converted lineman Joe Murray will shore-up a depleted fullback position. The Cogs started with four, but are down to “one and a half” according to Frederick.
MOOSEHEART at HIAWATHA
Game time: 7 p.m.
Scouting the Ramblers: Loaded with size and speed, Mooseheart will run a no-huddle, up-tempo offense. Senior wide receiver Hameed Odunewu is a big target at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds. He’ll also line up at defensive end and use his size to be a disruptive force. The Ramblers were 4-5 in 2013; a victory shy of being playoff eligible.
What’s at stake: With a smaller offensive line, the Hawks will use a zone blocking scheme that will give senior running back Nick Doolittle the chance to read a block and make one, decisive cut to get upfield. Expect heavy doses of Doolittle, who Hiawatha coach Sean Donnelly said is “the Hawks’ best athlete.”
The Hawks will be an I-Formation team and look to get senior quarterback Alex Flores out of the pocket on bootlegs to utilize his ability to throw on the run. On defense Hiawatha will blitz from all positions.
“We need to be aggressive on defense,” Donnelly said. “We don’t have the personnel to line up man-to-man with other teams. We expect a lot of action from a defense the players have really taken a liking to because they are always moving around.”
VERNON HILLS at DeKALB
Game time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: 501 W. Dresser Road, DeKalb, 60115
Last meeting: The Barbs won 25-10 in the season opener last year at Vernon Hills.
Scouting the Cougars: Last year, sophomore Tanner McNamara took over at quarterback late in the game against the Barbs and stayed there for the rest of the year. Bill Bellecomo was in his first year as head coach – just as Matt Weckler was for the Barbs – so he’s looking on an improvement last year.
The three wins the Cougars had last year were all relatively close – two, six and 14 points. They started 0-3 with losses of 25-10, 28-7 and 18-7. Then they alternated wins and losses for the rest of the year, although the defeats were blowouts – 52-7 to Stevenson, 42-7 to Villa Lakes and 46-15 to Antioch.
What’s at stake: Weckler scored a playoff berth in his first season, something Bellecomo was unable to do. But both are looking for big things in their respective second years. The Barbs are hoping to be competitive with the top teams in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East, and nothing can help prove that like a nonconference win against a team they beat a year ago.
“We have to prepare ourselves just like we would preparing anybody in our conference,” Weckler said.
LINCOLN-WAY WEST at SYCAMORE
Game time: 7:15 p.m.
Location: 555 Spartan Trail, Sycamore, 60178
Last meeting: The Spartans won 34-21 in New Lenox to open last year.
Scouting the Warriors: The Warriors lost twice last year – once to Sycamore in the regular season, and once to the Spartans in the playoffs. Way West led the playoff game 14-7 before Sycamore got two late touchdowns for the win in the quarterfinal round.
Like the Spartans, the Warriors lost a lot to graduation and look to see where they are with a tough first matchup. Lincoln-Way West won the Southwest Suburban Red conference for the first time. The Warriors were 8-4 in 2012.
What’s at stake: The Spartans are playing the first of two games without seven players due to suspensions according to athletic director Chauncey Carrick. Carrick said he could not say the nature of the suspensions or who is gone.
That makes the test against the Warriors even tougher. The Spartans ended up playing seven playoff-bound teams in the regular season last year.
KANELAND at CHICAGO BROOKS
Game time: 7 p.m.
Location: 47W326 Keslinger Road, Maple Park, 60151
Last meeting: Kaneland cruised to a 27-7 win in the opener last year on the road.
Scouting the Eagles: Despite the Knights’ easy win, the Eagles actually had a longer playoff run last year than Kaneland, going a round further and finishing 9-3. Brooks lost to Dunbar in the Class 8A quarterfinals last year.
What’s at stake: Kaneland gets a tough test to start the season – again. Senior receiver Connor Fedderly, son of coach Tom Fedderly, had 20 catches last year and is the top returner back in the receiving corps. Jake Marczuk is likely to be under center for the Knights.
– Eddie Carifio, firstname.lastname@example.org