Preps Talk

Previewing and predicting the IHSA State Football Championship games


Previewing and predicting the IHSA State Football Championship games

NBC Sports Chicago will have complete recaps and highlights from this weekend's IHSA State Football Championship games on High School Lites, Saturday at 11 p.m. Can anyone score when Lincoln-Way East takes on Loyola in Class 8A?  So who you got between Batavia and Lake Zurich? Can Nazareth Academy stun the defending Class 6A state champs in Prairie Ridge? Can Phillips bring home another state title trophy and beat Dunlap in 5A? Can Morris derail 4A state power Rochester? Can IC make the Cinderella story come to an end for 16 seeded Pleasant Plains in 3A? Who comes away with a win on Friday between Maroa-Forsyth and GCMS? Will it be the ground and pound Le-Win in 1A or are you more of a balanced offense fan of Tuscola?

Class 8A

Lincoln-Way East (13-0) vs. Loyola Academy (12-1) at DeKalb (Huskie Stadium) Sat., Nov. 25, 7:00 pm

EDGY's Take: Both Lincoln-Way East and Loyola feature two of the state's top defenses along with strong quarterback play. QB Brendan Morrissey (2,458 yards of total offense with 29 combined TD's) leads a balanced offensive attack that also features senior RB Ryan Scianna (696 yards rushing) plus big-play ability from sophomore WR AJ Henning. Loyola has gotten a huge senior year from QB Quinn Boyle (2,695 yards of total offense 27 combined TD's) along with a committee of running backs plus senior WR James Joyce (50 catches for 621 yards 4TD's) and senior WR Rory Boos (37 catches 743 yards 10 TD's). So whose defense rises to the occasion? How healthy is East QB Brendan Morrissey? How healthy is Loyola overall? I fully expect a very tight and one turnover or big play could be a difference maker.

EDGY's Pick: Lincoln-Way East 17 Loyola 10

Class 7A

Batavia (12-1) vs. Lake Zurich (13-0) at DeKalb (Huskie Stadium)  Sat., Nov. 25, 4:00 pm

EDGY's Take: Batavia and head coach Dennis Piron are in search of the Bulldogs' second state football title on Saturday. The Bulldogs will look toward a balanced offensive attack led by senior QB Riley Cooper (2,001 yards passing 27 touchdowns) along with a steady group of running backs along with a good sized offensive line including senior OT Nolan Eike (Central Michigan). The Batavia defense is also a big reason why they are in DeKalb on Saturday. Keep an eye on senior SS Michael Niemiec (120 tackles) along with junior ILB Luke Weerts plus junior OLB Michael Jansey. Lake Zurich and first year head coach Luke Mertens have been able to steer this football program past last year's hazing scandal and into the state title game led by a revamped offense and the always strong Bears defense. The Bears offense has opened up the passing game behind senior QB Evan Lewandowski (2,572 yards passing 26 TD's) plus a steady dose of the running game led by senior RB/LB Joey Stutzman (1,094 yards rushing 15 TD's) while the Lake Zurich defense has speed. Keep an eye on senior LB Jack Sanborn (Wisconsin commit). Can the Batavia defense lock down the Lake Zurich multi-threat offense? Can the Lake Zurich defense contain Batavia's QB Riley Cooper? 

EDGY's Pick: Lake Zurich 21 Batavia 13

Class 6A

Prairie Ridge (13-0) vs. Nazareth Academy (12-1) at DeKalb (Huskie Stadium) Sat., Nov. 25, 1:00 pm

EDGY's Take: Prairie Ridge is looking to capture its second straight Class 6A state title and the school's third overall football championship on Saturday. The Wolves will put their fate in the hands of Iowa commit senior QB Samson Evans (1,957 yards rushing 36 TD's) along with a ground hugging power option attack. The Prairie Ridge defense has experience and also plenty of speed, and keep an eye on senior OL/DL Jeff Jenkins (Iowa commit) along with senior ILB Jacob Ommen and senior OLB Joe Perhats. Nazareth Academy and head coach Tim Racki has one of Chicagoland's youngest and most talented teams in 2017. The Road Runners will look for senior QB Bobby Grimes to get the ball into the hands of several playmakers including junior RB/DB Devin Blakely plus junior WR/DB Michael Love along with junior WR/S Diamond Evans. Nazareth Academy will also look towards its defense led by senior DT Isaiah Lee (Iowa State) and a unit that has both size and speed. Can the Road Runners defense contain Superman, aka Samson Evans? Can the Prairie Ridge defense match up and defend the multiple weapons from Nazareth on Saturday?

EDGY's Pick: Nazareth Academy 35 Prairie Ridge 34

Class 5A

Chicago (Phillips) (13-0) vs. Dunlap (13-0) at DeKalb (Huskie Stadium) Sat., Nov. 25, 10:00 am

EDGY's Take: Phillips is looking to capture the school's second state football title on Saturday morning. The Wildcats will rely on their running game anchored by senior RB/LB Craig Elmore (1,814 yards rushing 22 TD's)  while the passing game is also a strength, led by QB J'Bore Gibbs (South Dakota State commit) along with a strong group of receivers including senior WR/S Fabian McCray plus junior TE Jahleel Billingsley and junior WR/DB Joseph Thompson. The Phillips defense has a great mix of size upfront, led by senior DT Queneil Morrisson (NIU commit) plus speed on the edges with senior DE Terrance Taylor (Toledo commit) and an athletic group of defensive backs. Dunlap has rolled this season behind a mix of senior RB/DB Luke Bennyhoff (2,092 yards rushing 32 TD's) along with a big play play-action passing game led by QB Myles Burks (1,526 yards passing 17 TD's) plus senior TE/LB Nick Mangieri (Northwestern commit). The Eagles defense has also been a huge key this season and the defensive line is a strength. Keep an eye on junior Josiah Miamen. Can Dunlap keep the Phillips defense off balanced? Can Phillips establish its running game on Saturday against a strong Dunlap defense? 

EDGY's Pick: Phillips 22 Dunlap 17

Class 4A

Morris (11-2) vs. Rochester (13-0) at DeKalb (Huskie Stadium), Fri., Nov. 24, 7:00 pm

EDGY's Take: Morris and head coach Alan Thorson have a strong running game featuring senior RB/LB Kam Dransfeldt (1,679 yards rushing 20 TD's) and is led by a very large offensive line anchored by senior OL Nolan Feeney and senior OT Nathan Korte. The Redskins defense also has good size and speed upfront and will look towards senior team leading  tackler LB Kaden Laurie (118 tackles) plus senior DE/TE Tyler Spiezo. Rochester and head coach Derek Leonard is attempting to win the school's six state football title in seven years on Friday evening. Rochester senior QB Nic Baker (3,678 yards passing 52 TD's) leads a fast-paced Rockets shotgun spread offense that can beat opposing defense with both the run and the pass. The Rockets defense has also been very solid all season so keep an eye on senior LB Stephan McCree (63 solo tackles) plus senior LB/RB Nick Capriotti. Can Morris take the air out of the football, control time of possession and limit the Rochester offense's touches? Can the Morris defense contain the Rochester offense for four quarters?

EDGY's Pick: Rochester 37 Morris 21

Class 3A

 Elmhurst (IC Catholic) (12-1) vs. Pleasant Plains (10-3) at DeKalb (Huskie Stadium), Fri., Nov. 24, 4:00 pm

EDGY's Take: Immaculate Conception and head coach Bill Krefft is looking for a repeat win on Friday for the 3A state title, but the path to DeKalb has been anything but easy. The Knights needed to replace standout QB Luke Ricobene after suffering a season ending injury early in the year. However the Knights reloaded quickly. Keep an eye on senior QB CJ West (1,831 yards passing 24 TD's) along with junior WR/DB Khalil Saunders and with his twin brother WR/LB Khali Saunders plus a strong running attack led by senior RB/DB Lazerick Eatman (1, 277 yards 19 TD's). Pleasant Plains had made IHSA football playoff history already as the first ever No. 16 seed in the current 1 through 16 seeded bracket to make it to the state final game. The Cardinals offense under head coach Bobby Walworth has been as balanced as they come with a strong running game featuring senior RB/LB Nik Samson (1,470 yards rushing  19 TD's) plus senior QB Ben Reinert (2,114 yards passing 25 TD's) has been extremely impressive all season. The Pleasant Plains defense is led by do it all senior LB/TE/P Tristen Tewes (129 tackles) and junior LB Jake Hermes. Can the IC defense contain the Pleasant Plains multiple weapons on offense? Can Pleasant Plains match the overall physicality from the Knights?

EDGY's Pick: Immaculate Conception 35 Pleasant Plains 21

Class 2A

Gibson City (G.C.-Melvin-Sibley) (13-0) vs. Maroa (M.-Forsyth) (12-1) at DeKalb (Huskie Stadium) , Fri., Nov. 24, 1:00 pm

EDGY's Take: GCMS and head coach Mike Allen have relied this season on a strong running game along with a speedy and athletic squad on both sides of the football. The Falcons will hand the football off to either RB Mitch McNutt (1,550 yards rushing 29 TD's) or FB Jared Trantina (828 yards rushing 15 TD's)  while QB Nathan Garard might not throw it a ton, but when he does it's usually for a big gain. The Falcons defense has been outstanding all season long having allowed just 81 points over 13 games. Keep an eye on senior LB Luke Freehill (113 tackles) plus junior DL/LB Josh Bieich for the GCMS defense. Maroa Forsyth and veteran head coach Josh Jobst are back in the state title game for the second straight season and are making their 7th appearance over the past 12 years. The Trojans possess a high octane offense led by sophomore QB Ian Brenner (2,082 yards passing 23 TD's) along with RB Deondre Gregory (1,630 yards rushing 29 TD's) plus with several speedy and sure handed receivers. The Trojans defense is anchored by senior LB Tanner Falk plus  LB Aaron Inda. Can GCMS defense continue to lock down all comers including the Maroa powerful offense on Friday? Can the Maroa defense find an answer for the GCMS one-two punch of McNutt and Trantina?

EDGY's Pick: Maroa Forsyth 27 GCMS 21

Class 1A

 Lena (L.-Winslow) (13-0) vs. Tuscola (13-0) at DeKalb (Huskie Stadium) (map), Fri., Nov. 24, 10:00 am

EDGY's Take: Lena-Winslow and head coach Ric Arand are all about ground and pound on offense while the Panthers defense has been a strength all season long led by an impressive defensive line and back seven. Look for the Panthers to get senior FB/DB Rahveon Valentine (2,025 yards rushing 25 TD's)  involved early and often while sophomore RB/OLB Sean Ormiston and senior RB/LB Gabe Schwartz are also threats running the football. Senior QB Ty Christman (25 of 36 passes for 620 yards and 12 TD's) won't throw it a ton but is more than capable of keeping opposing defenses honest with play action passes. Tuscola is yet another familiar name in the IHSA state playoff field and the Warriors are a much more balanced offensive attack. Junior QB Luke Sluder (2,991 yards of total offense 38 TD's)  is a big time threat with the run and the pass while WR Dalton Hoel (45 catches for 1010 yards and 17 TD's) is Sluder's main target in the passing game. Tuscola also has good size upfront on both sides of the football and is anchored by senior OL/DL Hunter Woodard (6-foot-5, 285 pounds), who is verbally committed to Oklahoma State. Can Le-Win continue to run the football at will? Can the Tuscola defense keep the Le-Win offense on the sidelines and allow it's offense multiple touches?

EDGY's Pick: Lena-Winslow 35 Tuscola 24

2018 NBC Sports Chicago Boys Basketball All-Area Team

2018 NBC Sports Chicago Boys Basketball All-Area Team

The end of the IHSA boys basketball season means it's time to unveil the fifth annual NBC Sports Chicago All-Area team.

Unlike some other postseason awards, we wait until after the high school season has finished so that we can take postseason accomplishments into account. The three teams are broken up similar to the All-American teams you see at the college level: three teams of five players each. Only players from our main Chicagoland coverage area are considered.  


Talen Horton-Tucker, Simeon senior guard (Player of the Year) -- The Player of the Year award was an easy choice as Horton-Tucker had the strongest season of any area player from start to finish. Although the Wolverines came up short of a Class 4A state title, they became a nationally-ranked powerhouse during the season thanks in large part to the emergence of Horton-Tucker as a go-to player. Putting up 23.0 points, nine rebounds, six assists and 2.1 blocks per game, Horton-Tucker was dominant at times on both ends of the floor. A back-to-back city champion and the A.C. Williamson award winner at Pontiac, Horton-Tucker seemed to elevate his play in the biggest of games. When the Wolverines played nationally-ranked teams this season, Horton-Tucker averaged 21 points per game. The 6-foot-5 Horton-Tucker is headed to Iowa State next season.

Ayo Dosunmu, Morgan Park senior guard -- The Illinois commit closed out a great IHSA career with a Class 3A state title with the Mustangs. Dosunmu would have been in serious contention for Player of the Year had he not missed a critical stretch of 10 games in the middle of the season. Dosunmu averaged 25.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 3.0 steals per game this year as he's been selected to participate in the prestigious Jordan Brand Classic All-Star Game in New York. Dosunmu also had games of 60 and 52 points this season -- the area's only player with multiple 50-point outings. 

Javon Freeman, Whitney Young senior guard -- Starting this season as the talk of the town after some monster scoring games, Freeman and the Dolphins just missed winning back-to-back Class 4A state titles. The Valparaiso commit put up 19.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game this season as the 6-foot-4 Freeman was one of the area's most gifted offensive weapons. Also winning MVP of the Rockford Tip-Off Classic and making All-Tournament honors at Proviso West, Freeman also elevated his play in the biggest of games. 

Drew Peterson, Libertyville senior forward -- The uncommitted senior was the area's most consistent go-to scorer this season as Peterson put up 25.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game. A lethal perimeter shooter at 38 percent from distance, Peterson was a matchup nightmare at the high school level because of his 6-foot-8 size on the perimeter. A North Suburban All-Conference selection, Peterson was held under 20 points only five times all season. Division I schools from all over the country have tracked Peterson's play this season as he will be a fascinating spring recruit.

Ryan Davis, Conant senior center -- The area's best big man this season, the 6-foot-9 Davis was a force on the interior for the Cougars. The Mid-Suburban League's Player of the Year averaged 24.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.3 blocked shots per game this season while facing double- and triple-teams in almost every game. Davis also shot an impressive 61 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free-throw line. The Vermont commit is Conant's all-time leader in wins while scoring 1,542 total points in his career. Davis was also MVP of the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic at York -- leading the Cougars to the title there. 


Zion Griffin, Hinsdale South senior forward -- After a breakout campaign as a junior, Griffin became a star as a senior. The 6-foot-6 Iowa State commit averaged 21.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.2 assists per game this season while shooting 55 percent form the floor. An All-Tournament selection at Lyons and Jack Tosh (York), Griffin has as much upside as any player on this All-Area list. 

Camron Donatlan, West Aurora senior guard -- A three-sport star who is headed to Wyoming for football and track, the 6-foot-3 Donatlan finished out a stellar career on the hardwood this season. Helping the balanced Blackhawks to a Class 4A sectional title, Donatlan averaged 18.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.0 steals per game while shooting 56 percent from the floor. The Upstate Eight Valley co-Player of the Year finished fourth in West Aurora history with over 1,500 points.

Morgan Taylor, Marist senior guard -- Marist had another great season as the 6-foot-3 Taylor's contributions were a huge reason why. Finishing with the single-season school scoring record, Taylor averaged 21.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.3 steals per game while shooting an impressive 53 percent from the field. Taylor will go down in Marist history as the sixth leading scorer all time. 

Messiah Jones, Simeon senior forward -- One of the most active players in the area, the 6-foot-5 Jones was a double-double machine for the Wolverines this season. Putting up 17 points and nine rebounds per game, Jones was an All-Tournament selection at Pontiac while also garnering MVP honors at the Penny Hardaway Hoopfest. The Drake commit was often playing out of position by having to go in the post, but he always handled his assignment with productive games. 

Dannie Smith, Orr senior forward -- A two-time Class 2A state champion, Smith has been one of the area's best all-around players the past two seasons. As a senior, Smith shined by averaging 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game for the Spartans while being named to the IBCA 1A/2A All-State first team. Smith was also critical in helping Orr capture the Proviso West Holiday Tournament while going undefeated in the loaded Public League Red North/West. The 6-foot-5 forward is uncommitted. 


Perry Cowan, DePaul Prep junior guard -- One of the area's most efficient offensive players, the 6-foot-4 Cowan had a strong junior season for the Rams. The All-Catholic League selection averaged 19.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.5 steals per game while shooting 51 percent from the floor, 40 percent from three-point range and 78 percent from the free-throw line. Cowan was also an All-Tournament selection at DePaul/Lane and Hinsdale Central. Another uncommitted prospect, Cowan has scholarship offers from local programs like DePaul, Loyola and UIC. 

D.J. Steward, Fenwick sophomore guard -- The state's top sophomore this season, the 6-foot-1 Steward was named the Catholic League's Player of the Year after helping the Friars to another conference title. Facing opposing defenses that were often geared to slow him down, Steward showed impressive poise for a sophomore this season. Putting up 18.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.0 steals per game, Steward was one of the best all-around players in the area. Steward remains uncommitted as high-major programs should be all over him during the spring and summer.

Damaria Franklin, Niles North senior wing -- A powerful 6-foot-3 wing who can score with the best of them, Franklin was one of the premier go-to guys in the area this season. Playing in the loaded CSL South, Franklin was an all-conference selection while averaging 17.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 2.2 assists per game as a senior. Capable of pumping in points from all three levels of the floor, Franklin is second in Niles North history with 1,508 points. The uncommitted Franklin was also an All-Tournament selection at DePaul/Lane, Wheeling and Lake Zurich this season. 

Raekwon Drake, Orr senior forward -- A back-to-back Class 2A state champion with the Spartans, Drake has been a known presence in the city the past four years. An elite athlete and one of the best dunkers in the city in recent memory, Drake averaged 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game as a senior. Also named to the Associated Press Class 2A All-State first team, Drake was a dominant force in the state playoffs once again. The 6-foot-5 Drake is uncommitted.

Anthony Lynch, Larkin senior guard -- The Upstate Eight River Player of the Year this season, Lynch was a huge reason why the Royals made their first state appearance in school history. The 6-foot-3 guard was the catalyst behind Larkin's offense as he averaged 20.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game before the state finals weekend. Lynch and Larkin senior big man Jalen Shaw formed one of the area's best inside-outside combinations. Lynch is uncommitted. 

Stagg's Kyle Neputy leads through action during offseason

Stagg's Kyle Neputy leads through action during offseason

While many athletes talk about leadership and the importance of being a leader, others let their actions do the talking. One of them is Stagg senior quarterback Kyle Neputy (6-foot-4, 234 pounds).

Neputy, who is signed and will play this fall at Cornell, participated in last year's annual Franklin Middle School Charity Dodgeball tournament. The tournament had such a positive impact on Neputy and his fellow Charger teammates that they decided to rally together and support a worthwhile cause for a second straight year. 

I had a chance to catch up with the Kyle Neputy at the sixth annual Franklin Middle School Dodgeball Tournament in Wheaton. Proceeds from the event benefited the Northern Illinois Food Bank, Cammy Can, Jack’s Army and Franklin Middle School. 

Neputy shares why he and his Stagg teammates decided to support the event. He also had a chance to reflect on making the move to Cornell later this year.