Lincoln-Way East

Dream on? Some fantasy-like HS matchups could become a reality

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Dream on? Some fantasy-like HS matchups could become a reality

With two more weeks left until the IHSA state playoffs, here are some fun dream matchups to consider.  I would love to see some of these happen-- and in some cases, a few of these actually have a chance to occur.

Homewood-Flossmoor vs East St. Louis: The 8A Vikings, coached by Craig Buzea, have a ton of playmakers. They feature a speedster in NIU-bond senior RB Justin Hall; plus, their speed and athleticism on both sides of the football is eye-catching. As for East St Louis, the Flyers (Class 7A) also have a ton of talent and speed including senior dual-threat QB Christian Perez and a big, very physical offensive line. This would be an excellent back-and-forth game-- a possible 'last possession wins' type of finish.

Marist vs Lincoln-Way East: Both 8A schools could very well see each other on the IHSA playoff road. Coach Rob Zvonar's Griffins feature one of the state's top defensive lines, built around senior Northwestern commit Devin O'Rourke. They also have a strong running game and good overall depth. Marist, under first-year head coach Ron Dawczak, also boasts a fantastic defensive line led by Indiana commit DE Gavin McCabe and Minnesota pledge Elijah Teague. The Redhawks' offense can beat you with the run and the pass. QB Mike Markett, RB Delonte Harrell and a ton of quality receivers are helping Marist rack up nearly 45 points per game. I'd pay to see these two teams compete in any postseason playoff round.

Barrington vs Huntley: It's another matchup that could potentially happen in 8A this postseason. How much fun would it be to see both do-it-all quarterbacks (Barrington's Ray Niro and Huntley's Eric Mooney) battle each other for four quarters?

[MORE: Edgy Tim's Week 8 Power Rankings]

Maine South vs a Rochester/Sacred Heart-Griffin CO-OP team: Since 4A perennial power Rochester and 5A-sized Sacred Heart-Griffin are both smaller than Maine South (from an enrollment standpoint) I'd allow a CO-OP for both schools here. How wild would a combined Leonard Family-led team be? Maine South has great balance on offense with QB John O'Sullivan, NIU commit RB Fotis Kokosioulis and a ton of quality receivers. Team Leonard's offense would undoubtedly be equal to the task. 

Glenbard West vs Loyola: Sort of like Godzilla meets Godzilla? Both Loyola (8A) and Glenbard West (8A/7A bubble team) pride themselves on defense first, but both are pretty diverse on offense as well. How cool would this be: two of the top overall programs in Illinois over the past decade going head to head? We can only hope. 

Lake Zurich vs Prairie Ridge: It's the unstoppable force (6A's Prairie Ridge offense with QB Samson Evans) against the immovable object (The 7A Lake Zurich defense). The matchup between the Bears' offense, which has opened up considerably under first year head coach Luke Mertens, against the Wolves' speedy and hard-hitting defense could potentially be just as impressive. 

Phillips vs Peoria: Peoria (4-3), the defending 5A state champs, seem headed to 6A. Of course, they would have to qualify for the state playoff field first. Phillips, the 3A/4A-sized school voluntarily moved up to 5A for the next two seasons. How would the Wildcats defense contain Peoria's offense, led by Illinois commit QB Coran Taylor and company? 

No coasting allowed: why some football programs schedule to play "up"

No coasting allowed: why some football programs schedule to play "up"

While many IHSA football programs across the state continue to face various scheduling issues, some of the top programs are still finding ways to play the best possible opponents. It's a matter of scheduling "up" and not "down." Here are some Illinois high school programs who are loading up on their respective non-conference schedule:

East St. Louis: The Flyers (1-1) took its first loss of the year on Saturday night to nationally-ranked Evangel Christian 14-6. But don't be fooled by the final result. East St. Louis was able to compete for four quarters against an Eagles team that featured three LSU commits and an overall roster stocked with top underclassmen talent. This matchup was part of the annual Gateway Scholars Football Classic which featured three local teams (Cahokia, Belleville West and East St. Louis) against three of the top out of state programs in the country (New Jersey's Camden and Timber Creek, along with Louisiana's Evangel Christian). The day-long event was packed with fans and featured several local restaurants, a children's play area and a great overall festival atmosphere. 

Unlike so many other Illinois teams who are forced to seek out of state opponents to fill scheduling issues, the Flyers actively seek out nationally-ranked programs to take part in the Classic, a process that begins a year or two in advance. If any school could make a case for actually moving up in the in-state polls after a hard-fought game and loss to a national power, it could very well be the Flyers. I seriously doubt that the Flyers will see another team the rest of the season with as much raw talent and speed on the field than what Evangel Christian brought to Clyde C. Jordan Stadium on Saturday night.

Crete-Monee: You'll be hard-pressed to find another program that stacks its non-conference schedule better than Crete-Monee (1-1) does under head coach John Konecki. The Warriors lost in the opening week to the state's top ranked team in Lincoln-Way East; however, they pulled off (arguably) the program's biggest non-conference regular season win in defeating Brother Rice 33-25 last Friday. The Warriors will get a taste of out-of-state competition this Friday night when they travel to Purdue's Ross Ade Stadium against West Lafayette High School. 

Phillips: The Wildcats (2-0) under head coach Troy McAllister also "play up" when it comes to the non-conference schedule, including this season with wins over 8A power Loyola Academy (1-1) and last Friday in Oak Lawn over 6A power Richards (1-1). Phillips, who has been a low 4A-sized program until petitioning up to play in Class 5A for the next two seasons, has also defeated the likes of Fenwick, Carmel and Naperville North in recent years. Phillips will also get its annual Chicago Public League battle with Simeon this Saturday night at Gately Stadium-- a game that has become a must-see in the CPL.

Providence Catholic: The Celtics (0-2) have played two straight defending state champions to start this season in East St. Louis and St. John Vianney (Missouri), both losses. Providence Catholic has always challenged itself when it comes to the non-conference schedule. In recent years, those early test have paid off while at other times the tough schedule has played a factor in keeping the Celtics out of the state playoff field. Providence Catholic will need to turn up the heat this week hosting CCL Blue rival St. Rita (2-0) in what could be a must-win scenario. 

[MORE: Edgy Tim's Week Three Power Rankings]

Maine South: The defending 8A state champs opened the season at Glenbard West then hosted Lincoln-Way East. And the Hawks (1-1) didn't exactly pump the brakes on the rigid non-conference slate after scheduling those two opponents. Mid-Suburban conference foes are lurking over the next two weeks: Fremd (0-2) and then Palatine (1-1).

Lake Zurich: The Bears (2-0) are another program that doesn't shy away from from competition in non-conference play. They posted good wins over solid football programs in Fremd (0-2) and last Friday over Montini Catholic (1-1).

Lincoln-Way East: The Griffins (2-0) were able to get strong wins over 6A power Crete-Monee and the previous top-ranked team, Maine South. They open up conference play this Friday night in Tinley Park against Andrew (1-1).
 

65 Days to Kickoff: Taft

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65 Days to Kickoff: Taft

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O'Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Jul. 31, we'll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.

School: Taft

Head coach: John Tsarouchas

How they fared in 2016: 8-2 (7-0 Chicago Public League Big Shoulders Conference), lost to Lincoln-Way East in the Class 8A opening round. 

[MORE: 66 Days to Kickoff - St. Laurence]

2017 regular season schedule:

Aug. 25 – Mount Carmel *Soldier Field*

Sept. 1 – @ Evanston

Sept. 9 – Von Steuben *Lane Stadium*

Sept. 15 - Whitney Young  *Rockne Stadium*

Sept. 23 - Dunbar *Lane Stadium*

Sept. 28 – Simeon *Gately Stadium*

Oct. 5 - Curie *Lane Stadium*

Oct. 14 - Lane Tech *Lane Stadium*

Oct. 20 - CPL Playoffs

Biggest storyline: Can the Eagles adjust to life in the CPL illini Red Bird conference?

Names to watch this season: senior WR Kevin Gniedziejko, senior WR/DB Kobe Collins

Biggest holes to fill: The Eagles have a good group with talent but can they develop more overall depth for the 2017 season?

EDGY's early take: Taft football has been on an upswing having posted a winning record in seven of the past eight seasons. Yet the move "up" to the CPL Illini Red Bird conference will be a big  challenge this fall. If the Eagles can catch a few breaks along with avoiding the injury bug they have a chance to remain a playoff caliber team.