As we begin to prepare for Week 6 of the regular season along with unofficially opening up IHSA state playoff talk, here are some teams that have been a "surprise" so far this season.
Maine West (3-2) - The Warriors and head coach Jason Kradman got off to a quick 2-0 start but then dropped two straight Central Suburban conference crossover games to New Trier (5-0) and Glenbrook South (3-2) before putting up a 51-6 win over rival Maine East last Friday. The Warriors still have work to do the rest of the season, including games against Deerfield (3-2) and Glenbrook North (5-0), but this team is capable. Beware however since Maine West could be very close to the playoff point cut off if they finish the season with a 5-4 record.
St. Rita (1-4) - The Mustangs just haven't been able to generate much offense in Chicago Catholic League play. St. Rita has a great chance to get two straight wins starting this week against Aurora Christian (3-2) and St. Joseph (1-4) but then would need to beat both Loyola Academy (5-0) and Brother Rice (4-1) in Weeks 8 and 9 to make the state playoffs. The last time the Mustangs finished the season with a losing record you ask? 1998 (3-6).
Wheaton South (1-4) - The Tigers, much like the entire DuPage Valley Conference so far this season, have been light on offense and heavy on defense. Wheaton South's playoffs begin this week at Waubonsie Valley (3-2) yet all four remaining games are winnable.
Riverside-Brookfield (5-0) - The Bulldogs have been dealing with its new stadium renovations (set to open this Friday against Immaculate Conception) and maybe head coach Brendan Curtin might want to reconsider staying on the road? Riverside-Brookfield has some heavy lifting left to do on the schedule (Immaculate Conception/Glenbard South) but the Bulldogs look to be on their way to back-to-back state playoff appearances.
Vernon Hills (5-0) - The Cougars have been on a roll; behind senior QB Connor McNamara yet beware Vernon Hills fans, the schedule gets much tougher from here on out (Lakes/Warren Township). The Cougars will also need six wins to guarantee a state playoff spot due to a potentially low number of playoff points. I expect the Cougars to be state playoff bound.
Hillcrest (4-1) - The Hawks added a first year head coach in former Hawks/Northwestern and NFL defensive back Marquise Cole and got off to an early roll. However how will this team bounce back after a 53-6 loss to Eisenhower (4-1) last Friday? Hillcrest will need to battle its way to at least five wins with the likes of Tinley Park (4-1), Lemont (4-1), TF South (3-2) and Oak Forest (5-0) still left to play. The four wins so far this season is the most regular season wins for Hillcrest since 2009 (8-2).
Eisenhower (4-1) - The Cardinals have bounced back well this season after going 1-8 in 2014. The offense for Eisenhower has been averaging 42 points per game so far and have a real shot at a state playoff spot this postseason.
Thornton Township (5-0) - With the departure of long time head coach Bill Mosel last spring no one outside of Harvey really knew what to expect from the Wildcats under first year head coach Dontrell Jackson. Thornton once again has speed and explosiveness with the likes of QB Sam Taylor III along with RB Tionte McDaniel and its 35-28 win last Friday over ranked Lincoln-Way West (4-1) no question sent a message to the rest of the South suburbs.
Glenbard East (4-2) - The Rams have been making steady progress over the past two seasons (2-7/3-6) and head coach John Walters has back some key playmakers from a season ago, including senior QB Phil Abruzino. Glenbard East however has a very tough end of the regular season schedule starting this week against South Elgin (4-1) and this team can't afford to look ahead whatsoever. Glenbard East has made the state playoffs just once back in 1999.