Preps Talk

EDGY: Who will be the top team in 2016?

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EDGY: Who will be the top team in 2016?

At this time last year I truly had no question who would be the top team in Illinois heading into the preseason.

Homewood-Flossmoor had a ton of returning starters from its 2014 Class 8A title game appearance, and the Vikings became the preseason consensus pick. While the Vikings lost to the eventual top-ranked team Loyola Academy, 34-28, in the quarterfinals, very few would argue that they didn't belong in the top tier of teams in 2015.

So who gets the bulls as the top-ranked team going into 2016? It might not be quite as clear as it was in 2015.

[MORE PREPS: Recruiting News and Notes - Sam Brodner reopens recruiting process]

Let's start with Loyola. Head coach John Holocek's Ramblers welcome back just five starters from last year's title-winning team, but don't let the overall number of returning starters fool you. Loyola has talent on all levels. If the Ramblers have proven anything over the past 6-7 seasons, they don't rebuild. They just reload.

But Loyola won't be the only Chicago Catholic League school in the mix as Brother Rice and Mount Carmel will challenge all foes in 2016. Providence Catholic and St. Rita welcome back several returning starters from a season ago. St. Laurence returns 14 starters and Montini Catholic will bring back five starters on offense, including standout running back Prince Walker.

How about Phillips? The feel good story of the 2015 season, which saw the Wildcats capture the first state football title in Chicago Public League history. They will reload as well. The Wildcats already have several underclassmen from last year's team on the college recruiting radar. Expect Phillips to challenge for another title. 

[MORE PREPS: O'Sullivan decommits from Cincinnati, pledges to Syracuse]

One of the most interesting stories heading into the 2016 season will be the Lincoln-Way schools. With the closing of Lincoln-Way North at the end of the school year, which remaining Lincoln-Way school (or head coach for that matter) will benefit the most from the merging of North? My money is on Lincoln-Way East and head coach Rob Zvonar, who will inherit even more numbers and talent heading into next season.

Homewood-Flossmoor? The Vikings will be hit hard by graduation losses this spring. That said, no one seems to have as much talent, numbers and flat-out athletes in Chicagoland than Craig Buzea's bunch. 

Nazareth Academy? Lots of talent has passed through the halls in La Grange Park over the past two seasons. The Roadrunners feature back-to-back titles and the 2016 team will welcome back several key starters.

The DuPage Valley conference? Pick a team that wins the league title (really any team) to be honest. Whoever survives the DVC schedule is automatically playoff tested and I would focus on the likes of the two Valley schools (Waubonsie and Neuqua), along with Naperville Central and Glenbard North.

[MORE PREPS: Edgy's Recruiting News - Two Land of Lincoln players pick Florida Atlantic

Palatine was under the radar until the 2015 postseason, but that won't happen next season as the Pirates will bring back a ton, including quarterback Zach Oles.

Other very worthy names to watch include the two top dogs in the Fox Valley Conference: Cary-Grove and Prairie Ridge. The Trojans return running back/linebacker Ty Pennington, while the Wolves have two more years with quarterback Samson Evans running the option attack. 

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game Of The Week

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NBC Sports Chicago

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game Of The Week

Who wants it more?

We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland's top prep sports show, in the hands of area football fans in our "Viewers' Choice Game of the Week." Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @NBCSPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights and postgame reaction of that game will appear on that night's "High School Lites" broadcast at 11 p.m. The show also live streams at www.nbcsportschicago.com/watchlive. High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. the following Saturday. 

Week 9 is “Bubble Week” for many teams fighting to stay on the right side of the postseason bubble. Who moves on? Whose bubble will burst? Will Wauconda advance to the playoffs after finishing 2-7 last year? Or will Grant end their season on a winning note? Schaumburg and Fremd both stand at 4-4. The winner goes to the postseason. The winner stays home for November. Zion-Benton hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2003. A win over Libertyville gets them there. But for the Wildcats, this ‘is’ their playoff game. Who wins in the North Suburban conference? We’ll send our cameras to one of the following:

Grant at Wauconda, 7:15 p.m.

Schaumburg at Fremd, 7:30 p.m.

Libertyville at Zion-Benton, 7:30 p.m.

— Follow @NBCSPreps on Twitter.
— Note the "pinned Tweet" atop the @NBCSPreps feed. Vote for the game you want us to cover.
— Spread the word! 

We will make an announcement on @NBCSPreps just after 4 p.m. Thursday with the official results of which game will be covered. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @NBCSPreps for updates on the "Viewers' Choice Game of the week," along with other high school sports news, scores and highlights this season.

Edgy Tim's Preps Power Rankings: Week 9

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NBC Sports Chicago

Edgy Tim's Preps Power Rankings: Week 9

Here are the latest @NBCSPreps Top 25 Power Rankings.
 
1. Lincoln-Way East 8-0 (1)
Last Week: Beat Thornwood, 56-18
This Week: vs Bolingbrook
EDGY's Take: The Griffins get a nice Week 9 test hosting Bolingbrook. Can the Raiders push the Griffins for four quarters?

2. Batavia 8-0 (2)
Last Week: Beat St. Charles North, 27-24
This Week: @ Wheaton North
EDGY's Take: An epic drive late in the game with no timeouts. The Bulldogs pull out the close-call win over St. Charles North.  

3. Brother Rice 8-0 (3)
Last Week: Beat Leo, 48-0
This Week: @ Montini Catholic
EDGY's Take: What were the preseason that the biggest Chicago Catholic League game of the year would be Brother Rice at Montini?

4. Marist 7-1 (4)
Last Week: Beat Marian Central Catholic, 42-6
This Week: @ Benet Academy
EDGY's Take: The Redhawks will get a nice Week 9 on Friday from Benet at Benedictine University. 

5. Mount Carmel 7-1 (5)
Last Week: Beat St. Laurence, 40-0
This Week: vs Fenwick
EDGY's Take: The Caravan have been playing as well as any contenders ranked here.

6. Homewood-Flossmoor 7-1 (6)
Last Week: Beat Andrew, 35-3
This Week: vs Sandburg
EDGY's Take: Head coach Craig Buzea got his 200th career win last Friday over Andrew.

7. Cary-Grove 8-0 (7)
Last Week: Beat Prairie Ridge, 21-14
This Week: vs Naperville Central
EDGY's Take: The Trojans rallied from being down 14-0 and scored 21 unanswered points to defeat their bitter rivals.

8. Simeon 8-0 (8)
Last Week: Beat Taft, 58-7
This Week: @ Curie
EDGY's Take: The big question coming Saturday night-- Will the Wolverines wind up in 8A or 7A? 

9. Nazareth Academy 7-1 (9)
Last Week: Beat Joliet Catholic, 49-20
This Week: vs Marian Catholic
EDGY's Take: The Roadrunners get a nice bounce-back win last Friday over Joliet Catholic.

10. Maine South 7-1 (10)
Last Week: Beat New Trier, 38-21
This Week: vs Niles West
EDGY's Take: The Hawks get another big Central Suburban South win. 

11. Oswego 8-0 (11)
Last Week: Beat Joliet Central, 49-0
This Week: @ Plainfield South
EDGY's Take: The Panthers will take on a very defensive-minded Plainfield South team on Friday.
 
12. Richards 8-0 (13)
Last Week: Beat Reavis, 51-0
This Week: vs Eisenhower
EDGY's Take: The Bulldogs continue to cruise and are gearing for a high seed in Class 6A.
 
13. Phillips 6-2 (14)
Last Week: Beat Westinghouse, 46-6
This Week: @ Raby
EDGY's Take: The Wildcats will look to finish strong this week against Raby.

14. Willowbrook 8-0 (15)
Last Week: Beat Proviso East, 40-7
This Week: @ Downers Grove South
EDGY's Take: The Warriors will look to send Downers Grove South (4-4) home for the holidays on Friday.

15. Naperville Central 6-2 (16)
Last Week: Beat Waubonsie Valley, 35-14
This Week: @ Cary-Grove
EDGY's Take: The Redhawks have won six straight games and have the makings of a team that could make some postseason noise. 

16. Bolingbrook 7-1 (17)
Last Week: Beat Thornton, 43-7
This Week: @ Lincoln-Way East
EDGY's Take: The Raiders will look to derail the "Big Cobalt Blue Machine" this Friday in Frankfort. 

17. Montini 8-0 (18)
Last Week: Beat Providence Catholic, 27-3
This Week: vs Brother Rice
EDGY's Take: The Broncos will host Brother Rice on Friday in the biggest game of the year in the Chicago Catholic League.

18. Oak Park-River Forest 6-2 (NR)
Last Week: Beat Glenbard West, 10-7
This Week: vs Lyons Township
EDGY's Take: The Huskies have a top-notch defense and found a way to beat Glenbard West at Duchon Field. It was OPRF's first win there since 1998.

19. Warren Township 7-1 (NR)
Last Week: Beat Stevenson, 21-0
This Week: @ Mundelein
EDGY's Take: The Blue Devils defense came to play. An impressive 21-0 shutout over Stevenson 21-0 last Friday.

20. Glenbard West 6-2 (12)
Last Week: Lost to Oak Park-River Forest, 10-7
This Week: @ Proviso West
EDGY's Take: The Hilltoppers defense is still salty as ever. But can the offense find a few more options besides standout RB Tyquan Cox?

21. Hillcrest 8-0 (22)
Last Week: Beat TF North, 50-6
This Week: vs Bremen
EDGY's Take: The Hawks have made it look easy this regular season. They'll go for a 9-0 sweep later this week in an effort to claim a high seed in 5A.

22. Notre Dame 7-1 (23)
Last Week: Beat Carmel, 21-7
This Week: vs Joliet Catholic
EDGY's Take: The Dons now host JCA and will try to knock out the Hilltoppers from the state playoff field.

23. Hinsdale Central 8-0 (24)
Last Week: Beat Lyons Township, 57-0
This Week: vs Hinsdale South
EDGY's Take: The Red Devils will get challenged this Friday against crosstown rival Hinsdale South (The "Doings Cup" game).

24. Rolling Meadows 8-0 (NR)
Last Week: Beat Hersey, 38-35
This Week: @ Buffalo Grove
EDGY's Take: The Mustangs get a huge win over Hersey. Why do I get the feeling we could see an RM-Hersey rematch in the postseason?
 
25. St. Charles North 6-2 (21)
Last Week: Lost to Batavia, 27-24
This Week: vs Wheaton South
EDGY's Take: The North Stars drop a last-second loss to Batavia last Friday; they will look to get back on track this week against another tough opponent in Wheaton South.