Preps Talk

Five IHSA football programs on the rise in 2016

Five IHSA football programs on the rise in 2016

It seems like every season we see (at least) a handful of teams who seem to come out of nowhere to become playoff-worthy teams. Here are five teams who could become Cinderella stories for the 2016 IHSA football season, which kicks off this Friday.

Naperville North (2-7 in 2015): The Huskies and head coach Sean Drendel have been stuck in second gear the past two seasons, posting two straight 2-7 records after a 5-5 state playoff appearance in 2013. North returns 17 starters (seven offense, 10 defense) this season. They have talent and a new offensive system led by former St. Francis head coach Mike Fitzgerald, who is now the Huskies offensive coordinator. It's never easy winning in the DuPage Valley; however, the Huskies look to be in position for a breakout season.

Bremen (1-8 in 2015): The Braves have had down years the past two seasons (2-7 in 2014 and 1-8 in 2015). That said, head coach Dan Stell and company could be on the verge of a breakout this fall. 18 starters will be back on the field in Midlothian. And there is some real talent in place, with junior OL/DL Chris Clark and a ton of experienced offensive skills players to boot.

[MORE: Edgy Tim has football previews for 100 area schools]

Fenwick (3-6 in 2015): Head coach Gene Nudo decided to go young in 2015. Will that experience pay off this season? The Friars bring back 19 returning starters, which includes the entire starting offense from 2015. Keep an eye on senior quarterback (and basketball standout) Jacob Keller along with junior WR Mike O'Laughlin. The 2016 schedule for Fenwick is -once again- brutally tough, yet this team is much better prepared for a rough ride.

Wheeling (4-5 in 2015): The Wildcats dropped their first five games in 2015. But the strong finish -wins in their last four games- has turned a few heads.. The Wildcats, with veteran Hall of Fame head coach Brent Pearlman at the helm, will look to get back to the state playoffs this season behind 16 returning starters (seven offense, nine defense) including senior QB Jalen Dennis and senior RB Jason Shannon. Getting off to a good start in non-conference play again is vital for Wheeling.

Zion-Benton (3-6 in 2015): The Zee-Bees always had trouble getting wins in the then-North Suburban Lake (now realigned as the North Suburban 8) but the 2016 Z-B squad could surprise. Head coach Bob Moynahan brings back 13 starters (eight offense, five defense) including four starting offensive linemen and a ton of speed and skills on both sides of the football. Again, the schedule is brutal (Stevenson/Lake Zurich/Libertyville/Warren Township/Lake Forest), but I see this team having the potential to challenge for that fifth magical win this season.

73 Days To Kickoff: Fenwick

73 Days To Kickoff: Fenwick

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: Fenwick

Head coach: Gene Nudo

Assistant coaches: Dick Eufrasio, Titcus Pettigrew, Tim Rooney, Brien Rooney, Craig Schneider, Joe Bauers, Mike Herman and Joe Hajek

How they fared in 2018: 3-6 (2-2 Chicago Catholic League/Green Conference). Fenwick failed to qualify for the IHSA state football playoffs.

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 30 vs Curie
Sept. 6 vs Dunbar
Sept. 13 @ Nazareth Academy
Sept. 20 @ Joliet Catholic
Sept. 27 vs. Marist
Oct. 4 vs Marmion Academy
Oct. 11 vs. St. Patrick
Oct. 18 @ Leo  
Oct. 25 @ St. Ignatius

[MORE: 75 Days to Kickoff - St. Ignatius]

Biggest storyline: The new conference. Can the Friars bounce back from last season while playing a new and challenging league?

Names to watch this season: OL/DL Sean Carpenter (Sr.) QB Kaden Cobb (Soph.) and WR Bryce Legan (Sr.)

Biggest holes to fill: The Friars welcome back several starters from last fall but will also need to find six new replacements on the defensive side of the football.

EDGY's Early Take: Fenwick struggled last season. The Friars played several underclassmen starters and they're hoping that experience will pay off come August. The new CCL/ESCC mega conference also brings new challenges. It includes a tough path in the middle of the season with games at Nazareth, at Joliet Catholic and then at home vs. Marist. If the Friars can get out of the gate quickly, they have a good shot at earning a state playoff spot in 2019. 

74 Days To Kickoff: Metea Valley

74 Days To Kickoff: Metea Valley

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: Metea Valley 

Head coach: John Parpet Jr.

Assistant coaches: Defensive coordinator - Erik Kramer, Asst. coach - Russ Lorenz, Asst. coach - Albert Zika, Asst. coach - Evan Goodman

How they fared in 2018: 1-8 (0-4 DuPage Valley Conference). Metea Valley failed to qualify for the IHSA state football playoffs

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 30 vs. Wheaton Warrenville South
Sept. 6 @ Lake Park 
Sept. 13 @ Belleville East
Sept. 20 @ Naperville Central
Sept. 27 vs. De Kalb
Oct. 4 @ Naperville North
Oct. 11 vs. Neuqua Valley
Oct. 18 @ Waubonsie Valley  
Oct. 25 vs. Neuqua Valley

[MORE: 93 Days to Kickoff: Oswego East]

Biggest storyline: Can the Mustangs get off to a good start under first year head coach John Parpet Jr.?

Names to watch this season: TE/DE Austin Frederick (Sr.) and TE/LB John Belskis (Sr.) 

Biggest holes to fill: The Mustangs will need to replace seven graduated starters on the defensive side of the football for the 2019 season.

EDGY's Early Take: Metea Valley and first year head coach John Parpet Jr. will look to get the Mustangs program on the winning side of the slate after posting back-to-back 1-8 seasons. They will rely on an experienced core of senior multi-year starters. If the underclassmen group can develop sooner rather than later, this program has the potential for a breakout. The regular season schedule in the DuPage Valley conference is always stacked; they need to get off to a good early start.