Preps Talk

81 Days to Kickoff: Oak Lawn

81 Days to Kickoff: Oak Lawn

NBCSportsChicago.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 Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Oak Lawn

Head coach: Harold Blackmon

Assistant coaches: Chris Hawkins, Anthony Phillips, Andre Taylor, Marquis Ball, Raymond Sullivan, Luke Stekel and Corey Flagg

How they fared in 2018: 2-7 (1-5 South Suburban Red Conference). Oak Lawn failed to qualify for the IHSA state football playoff field.

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 30 @ Marian Catholic
Sept. 6 vs Wilmington
Sept. 13 @ Evergreen Park
Sept. 20 @ Tinley Park
Sept. 27 vs Argo
Oct. 4 @ Shepard
Oct. 11 @ Richards
Oct. 18 vs Eisenhower
Oct. 25 vs Reavis

[MORE: 87 Days to Kickoff - T.F. South]

Biggest storyline: New head coach Harold Blackmon. Can he help turn around the Spartans' recent lack of success?

Names to watch this season: WR/TE/DE Jordan Sprycha (Sr.) and WR Kevin Swatek (Sr.) 

Biggest holes to fill: The Spartans will need to replace eight graduated starters from last year's defensive unit.

EDGY's Early Take: Oak Lawn was able to add a strong head coach in Harold Blackmon, who was relieved of his duties from St. Laurence after leading the Vikings to the IHSA state playoffs in four of his last five seasons. If Blackmon can (1) attract more overall numbers and (2) keep in-district kids from leaving for several local private schools, he can undoubtedly turn around the Spartans' program sooner rather than later. Oak Lawn will be searching for their first playoff berth since 2009. 

Edgy Tim's Week 4 analysis and picks

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NBC Sports Chicago

Edgy Tim's Week 4 analysis and picks

NBC Sports Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest high school football games across Chicagoland on the Week 4 edition of High School Lites, Friday at 11:00 p.m. Can Yorkville beat Joliet West and stay undefeated in the Southwest Prairie West conference? Southwest Suburban conference rivals Lincoln-Way East and Bolingbrook square off in another big matchup of top 10 teams. The last time IC Catholic Prep and Bishop McNamara squared off it was at the Class 4A state title game. Will this rematch serve as a preview for the 4A title game this November? This week we #SENDEDGY to cover Loyola playing at Mount Carmel. Can the Caravan remain undefeated at their new on campus facility, Carey Field? Also: Who do you have in this week's Viewers' Choice Game? CPL Illini Prairie State foes Payton and Clark do battle on the West Side.

Yorkville at Joliet West, 6:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Yorkville (3-0) is off to a strong start behind the arm of QB Josh Beetham. The senior has a great target in fellow upperclassman WR/S Cale Reeder (South Dakota) and a deep group of running backs. Don't overlook the Foxes' defense. The unit has allowed just 10 points in three games. Joliet West, coached by Bill Lech, stands at 0-3. That said, the Tigers have played the hardest Southwest Prairie crossover schedule so far in losses to Oswego, Minooka and Oswego East-- all undefeated. West will look to get the ground game going behind a big offensive line along and a running game led by junior RB Trenten Howland. Can the Tigers get the running game going this week? Can they find a way to derail the Yorkville offense?

EDGY's Pick: Yorkville 26 Joliet West 16

Schaumburg at Deerfield, 7:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Schaumburg (2-1) has bounced back with two straight wins after a close 16-13 loss in the opening week to York. Coach Mark Stilling has a potent offense this fall, led by QB Luke Jessie and junior RB Mike DeGiola. Deerfield (2-1), with veteran head coach Steve Winiecki, is off to a strong start. They're coming off a 31-24 double-overtime loss to Rolling Meadows. The Warriors will rely on the arm of QB Ryan Nagelbach. RB/DE Colin Ward has been an impact player on both sides of the football. Can Deerfield limit the Saxons' big play abilities? Can Schaumburg get the job done on the road?

EDGY's Pick: Schaumburg 31 Deerfield 30 OT

(1) Lincoln-Way East at (9) Bolingbrook, 7:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Top-ranked Lincoln-Way East (3-0) is off and running. The Griffins boast another deep, talented roster. Senior QB Kyle Quinn runs the LWE offensive, a group that's stacked with skills and speed. They're highlighted by senior four star-ranked WR/RB AJ Henning (Michigan). They have a stable of quality running backs and an experienced offensive line. On defense, they have playmakers in senior DE Sean McLaughlin (Northwestern) and senior DE Adrain Wilson (Bowling Green). Bolingbrook (3-0) and head coach John Ivlow has the Raiders playing well. The Raiders will establish the run game with senior QB Devyn Suggs (Yale), with senior OL John Williams (Cincinnati) out in front. Don't overlook senior WR Antonio King plus and TE Trevor Borland (Buffalo). The 'Brook defense also hsa speed and playmakers. Junior S Justin Walters is already drawing major Power Five scholarship offers and recruiting attention. Can the East defense take away the Raiders running game? Can the Bolingbrook defense limit the big plays? Could the kicking game/special teams be a big factor here?

EDGY's Pick: Lincoln Way East 28 Bolingbrook 21

IC Catholic Prep at Bishop McNamara, 7:15 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Defending Class 4A state champion IC Catholic Prep, coached by Bill Krefft, has a certain familiarity with Metro Suburban Blue foe Bishop Mac. The Knights have relied on a one-two punch of senior QB Danny Cronin's running and passing abilities. Junior Kyle Franklin remains one of the top running backs in Chicagoland. Bishop McNamara and Hall of Fame head coach Rich Zinnani also boasts a one-two punch on offense with QB Ty Hiller along with RB/LB Owen Jackson. RB Manny Harris is another name to watch for the Fighting Irish. Last possession wins?
 
EDGY's Pick: IC Catholic Prep 35 Bishop McNamara 34

Raby at Phillips, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Raby is coming off a 35-2 loss to Solorio last week. Head coach DeAngelo DeReef and the Raiders will need to be able to get the offense going against CPL powerhouse Phillips at Mandrake Park Friday night. Phillips head coach Troy McAllister is looking to get another strong performance this season from his Wildcats. QB Terryon Thrower has been a key playmaker through the first three games. They feature a deep backfield that includes senior RB Rashaun Thompson and RB Tyler Clark. Senior ATH Ronald Pledger (Western Michigan) is another impact player with big play potential. 

EDGY's Pick: Phillips 46 Raby 6

(25) Notre Dame at (10) Providence, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Notre Dame made a big statement last week in beating Marist 21-14. The Dons, with Hall of Fame head coach Mike Hennessey, utilized a strong defensive effort along with steady play from junior QB Anthony Sayles and senior RB Julian Schurr in the victory. Providence Catholic also pulled off an impressive 34-22 road win over Brother Rice last Friday. Junior QB Kevin Conway ran for three touchdowns and passed for. The Celtics also limited the Crusaders offense and made key stops when they were needed. Can the Notre Dame defense slow down a balanced Providence offense-- and also defend the very large Celtics receiving group? Can Providence get the football back from the Dons' ball control offense? 

EDGY's Pick: Providence Catholic 21 Notre Dame 13

(2) Loyola at (7) Mount Carmel, 7:30 p.m. #SENDEDGY 

EDGY's Take: Loyola was able to pull away last Saturday in beating St. Rita 24-7. The Ramblers offense got a big game from RB Vaughn Pemberton. Coach John Holocek's defense forced a handful of key turnovers in the win. Mount Carmel is coming off a solid 27-20 win over Montini. Junior QB Justin Lynch continues to impress this season running the Caravan's offense. Junior RB/LB Kenenna Odeluga and senior OL/DL Jalen Grant are names to watch for the guys in brown and white. Can the Loyola offense get on track early and often? Can Mount Carmel's spread offense dent the always tough Loyola defense? Should be a good one on the South Side.

EDGY's Pick: Loyola 27 Mount Carmel 21

Marist at (13) Brother Rice, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Forget the fact that both teams are coming off tough Week 3 losses. Nothing gets the blood boiling more on either sideline than the annual South Side Super Bowl when Marist takes on Brother Rice in the Battle of Pulaski Road. Marist (2-1) and head coach Ron Dawczak will utilize the Redhawks' dual quarterback system with senior Hayden Mikesell and sophomore QB Dontrell Jackson Jr. Senior WR AJ Markett should make play and junior OL Pat Coogan anchors the line. Brother Rice (2-1) has a big time game breaker in junior RB Willie Shaw. The Crusaders have struggled to get the play-action passing game in gear. The Rice defense has been a strength. Senior DT Justin Jefferson, senior S Giacomo Iraci and junior ILB Myles Jones will make the tackle sheet often. Can Brother Rice get its passing game in gear? Can the Marist offense kick things into a higher gear?

EDGY's Pick: Brother Rice 21 Marist 20

Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Payton vs Clark at Rockne Stadium, Thursday 4:15 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Clark head coach Kevin Simmons has the Eagles (2-1) playing well so far this season. Their only loss came in Week 2 to suburban St. Viator. Payton (3-0) is also rolling. The Grizzles have a deep and experienced roster, led by senior QB Sage Schlinder along with RB/DB Damien Goodman. Can Clark's defense slow down an explosive Payton offense? A win here is big for either side. It's shaping up to be a four team race (Back of the Yards and Kenwood are the others) in the CPL Illini Prairie State conference this season.  

EDGY's Pick: Payton 35 Clark 27

With commitment to Duke, Whitney Young's D.J. Steward becomes Chicago's biggest high school star since Jalen Brunson

With commitment to Duke, Whitney Young's D.J. Steward becomes Chicago's biggest high school star since Jalen Brunson

Whitney Young senior guard DJ Steward ended his whirlwind recruitment on Wednesday as he verbally committed to Duke and head coach Mike Krzyzewski with a video announcement on Twitter.

The 6-foot-3 Steward gives the Blue Devils a major perimeter threat who can score, handle and distribute as he's coming off of a monster summer that saw him push for five-star national status. Steward becomes the second Whitney Young star this decade to commit to the Blue Devils, following in the footsteps of former Dolphins center Jahlil Okafor. While Okafor was a known national prospect as a high school freshman who eventually helped Duke to a national championship in his only season in Durham, Steward had to work hard over the summer before his senior year to earn an offer from the blueblood program.

Duke only showed interest in Steward during his early years but picked things up rapidly after the Nike Peach Jam in early July when they offered Steward a scholarship. Steward's recruitment was effectively sealed last week when Krzyzewski and three Duke assistant coaches -- including lead recruiter and former Glenbrook North star Jon Scheyer -- showed up to Whitney Young's first open gym of the fall. An official visit to Durham last weekend ended Steward's recruitment despite long-standing interest from schools like Illinois, Louisville and Texas -- among many others.

As Duke and Krzyzewski have been engaged in a decade-long battle with Kentucky and head coach John Calipari over five-star prospects and the nation's top college basketball recruiting class, the Chicagoland area hasn't seen much of the nation's top two recruiting programs.

Steward's commitment changes things. His pledge to Duke makes him the Chicagoland area's biggest high school basketball star since Jalen Brunson graduated from Stevenson in 2015. 

Brunson was the state's last McDonald's All-American in 2015 as the state of Illinois has seen an unprecedented drought with top-flight basketball talent the past few years. Other area stars have committed to big programs and been ranked in the national top 100. But the name-brand of Duke Basketball and Coach K resonates with even the most casual of sports fans. 

The commitment to Duke from Steward, along with Whitney Young's status as perhaps the state's best team this season, should lead to a lot of excitement from area basketball fans. The Dolphins will be a hot ticket in their numerous showcase games. It also helps that Steward has been a known varsity performer since his freshman season at Fenwick. In his first season of varsity basketball, Steward became an instant must-see attraction after a perfect 10-for-10 shooting performance in a Class 3A state-title game loss to Morgan Park. Steward is one of the rare players to make a major impact in both the Chicago Catholic League and Chicago Public League during his high school career.

An NBC Sports Chicago All-Area selection during his sophomore season at Fenwick and junior season at Whitney Young (following his transfer), Steward has positioned himself as the favorite to win Mr. Basketball entering his final season. If Steward can complete his high school career with a state title -- which has eluded him to this point -- then he'll have one of the most storied careers in recent IHSA history thanks to his big numbers, winning ways and national reputation.

Coupled with Morgan Park senior guard Adam Miller's monster junior season (and lofty national ranking of his own) and it could be one of the most memorable seasons of basketball in the Chicago Public League in the past decade.