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Five surprising starts for Illinois high school football teams

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Five surprising starts for Illinois high school football teams

With three weeks of IHSA football in the books (a third of the regular season, if you will), here are five teams that have started their seasons in surprising fashion.

Providence Catholic (0-3). The Celtics, the defending Class 7A state champs, are off to a rough start. Providence has lost to Joliet Catholic (3-0), Oswego (2-1) and last Friday to Mount Carmel (3-0), and all three of those teams are ranked. The schedule really doesn’t get any easier: St. Rita, Loyola Academy and Brother Rice still loom. If the Celtics can get back injured junior running back Richie Warfield, who left last Friday's game early, and if the offensive line continues to improve, I wouldn't count out this team just yet. Head coach Mark Coglianese has been down this road more than a few times in his tenure, and in more cases than not the Celtics find a way into the state playoff field.

Carmel (0-3). The Corsairs have some big-name recruit types, yet they remain winless so far. The latest setback: a 41-14 loss last Friday at Joliet Catholic. The Corsairs are a run-heavy offense, and putting together long drives and playing the ball-control game is key. The Corsairs must get the running game and, in particular, standout junior running back Rondell Jamison going. They also need to get some help from the defense if they plan on making a late-season run.

[MORE PREPS: Week 4: Top 25 Power Rankings]

Lake Zurich (0-3). The Bears have been in every game this season, including last week's 38-35 loss to Stevenson. The 0-3 start is the first for Lake Zurich since 2001. Standout running back Ben Klett left last week's loss with an injury. Getting the Bears defense back to its usual stellar self is a top priority, starting this week against Zion-Benton (2-1). Lake Zurich still has the likes of Libertyville (3-0), up-and-coming Mundelein (3-0) and Lake Forest (2-1) left on the schedule.

Downers Grove South (0-3). The Mustangs and head coach Mark Molinari have played a brutal early schedule against the likes of Homewood-Floosmoor (3-0), Hinsdale Central (3-0) and Hinsdale South (2-1) — all of whom are ranked. Up next for DGS is Addison Trail (2-1), and the schedule also includes the traditional showdown with rival Downers Grove North (2-1) in Week 7.

Maine South (1-2). The Hawks always "schedule up" in non-conference play. They suffered losses to Montini Catholic (3-0) and Loyola Academy (3-0) before beating Deerfield last Friday. Was the win over Deerfield the spark that the Hawks offense needed? Also on the line is Maine South's Central Suburban South winning streak (70 games and counting). Are the other sharks in the conference starting to smell blood in the water?

High School Lites Roundup Week 8

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NBC Sports Chicago

High School Lites Roundup Week 8

High School Lites is back with an exciting Week 8 full of thrilling matchups. NBC Sports Chicago has the highlights of some of the top matchups from the games.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPREPS for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights.

Drive: Phillips Epsidoe 8

Windy City Legends: Pierre Thomas

Saint Xavier Team of the Week: Proviso East Pirates

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Maggie Biegalski

Phillips 58, Westinghouse 0

Coal City 29, Wilmington 14

Homewood-Flossmoor 14, Bolingbrook 13

Hillcrest 32, Lemont 26

Prairie Ridge 42, Cary-Grove 7

Grayslake North 20, Grant 17

Antioch 10, Lakes 7

Nazareth 21, Notre Dame 0

Warren 37, Stevenson 0

St. Francis 20, IC Catholic 19

Edgy Tim's Week 8 analysis and picks

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NBC Sports Chicago

Edgy Tim's Week 8 analysis and picks

NBC Sports Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest high school football games across Chicagoland on the Week 9 edition of High School Lites, Friday at 11:00 p.m. Can Wilmington win on the road at Coal City in this backyard rivalry? Who comes out ahead in the Battle for the Alec Anderson Trophy: Bolingbrook or H-F? Can Prairie Ridge and Cary Grove just start overtime now? Can Nazareth Academy unleash its offense and beat a very strong Notre Dame defense in Niles? And will Friday's Metro Suburban Blue --and Class 4A-- showdown between IC and St. Francis stand as a potential playoff preview between the two?

Wilmington at Coal City, 7:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: This Illinois Central Eight conference title game features two nearby rivals who know each other extremely well. It's one of the most anticipated games in southern Will and eastern Grundy counties all season. Wilmington (7-0/5-0), led by veteran head coach Jeff Reents, has the Wildcats playing well this fall behind a power running game led by RB Jake Rodawold and a nice mix of the play-action passing game behind QB Keaton Hopwood. Coach Dan Hutchings and the Coal City Coalers (7-0/5-0) have an experienced and deep roster. THey will also look to establish the running game with RB Dan Jezik. The passing game is also a strength with QB Peyton Hutchings. Can Wilmington contain the Coal City running game and win the battle in the trenches? Will home field be a factor?

EDGY's Pick: Coal City 28 Wilmington 14

(10) Bolingbrook at (6) H-F, 7:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Despite the distance between Bolingbrook (6-1/3-1) and Homewood-Flossmoor (6-1/3-1) this game is undoubtedly one of the biggest rivalry games for each school. They will play for the Alec Anderson Memorial Trophy. Raiders head coach John Ivlow has returned to the triple-option offense with just enough play-action passing game to the tune of great success. The running attack is led by senior QB Deyvn Suggs; the experienced offensive line is led by senior John Williams (Cincinnati). The defense has speed and athleticism, guided by junior LB Tyler Mclaurin and junior S Justin Walters. H-F head coach Craig Buzea features a big and experienced offensive line led by seniors Marcus Harper II (Oregon), Michael Ford and Denzel Bryant. Junior RB Sean Allen is also having a strong season. The Vikings 'D can match just about anyone in the state speed for speed. Junior WR/SB Will Pauling and sophomore LB Malyk Jones are names to watch. Can Bolingbrook run the football against H-F? Can the Vikings' offense pound away at Brook's speedy defense?

EDGY's Pick: Homewood-Flossmoor 21 Bolingbrook 14

(18) Hillcrest at Lemont, 7:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Hillcrest (6-1/4-0) has been playing lights-out football since a close 26-20 Week 1 loss to Brother Rice. Junior RB Mar'Kiese Irving has been one of the most sought-after recruits in the Class of 2021 and has led the way for head coach Morgan Weaver's Hawks this fall. Lemont (6-1/4-0) also dropped a close opening week decision (12-6 to St. Charles East), but they have been on a roll ever since. They have a balanced offense led by QB Luke Bailey and WR Anthony Sambucci (Western Michigan). Can the Lemont defense corral and contain Mar'Kiese Irving? Can the Hawks win on the road? 

EDGY's Pick: Hillcrest 28 Lemont 27

Prairie Ridge at (25) Cary-Grove, 7:00 p.m. #SendEDGY

EDGY's Take: Year in and year out, these two Fox Valley powehouse programs never fail to entertain. Same applies in 2019 where Prairie Ridge (6-1/6-1) and Cary Grove (6-1/6-1)-- expect a very tight, 'last-possession-wins' type of game. Prairie Ridge and head coach Chris Schremp will look to get the Wolves offense balanced and on trackled. The group is led by QB Connor Lydon and a backfield of RB Blake brown, Taidhgin Trost and Carter Evans. Cary-Grove and head coach Brad Seaburg will want to establish the power running attack with RB Blake Skol and QB Luke Eleftheriou. On defense, the Trojans have allowed just 36 points so far on the season. Will the team that limits the overall amount of mistakes win? 

EDGY's Pick: Cary-Grove 28 Prairie Ridge 21 OT

Grant at Grayslake North, 7:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Grant (6-1/4-1) secured the Bulldogs' first state playoff bid since 2012 in last week's win over North Chicago. Head coach Chris Robinson's squad will rely on a stable of quality running backs along with QB Tyler Elfering. On defense, Grant has kept teams at bay all season. The unit is led by senior LB Kyle Rainey. Grayslake North (3-4/2-3) will be in must-win mode this week. The Knights are hoping that their recent offensive explosion over the past few weeks continues Friday night. North is led by QB Nick Fish. Can the Knights' offense put up points against a very strong Grant defense?

EDGY's Pick: Grant 35 Grayslake North 21

Antioch at Lakes, 7:15 p.m. 

EDGY's Take: Antioch (6-1/5-0) has been able to keep winning despite losing standout junior QB Athan Kaliakmanis (Minnesota) for the season to a Week 6 injury. Look for the Sequoits, coached by Brian Glashagel, to get the football into the hands of junior WR Dino Kaliakmanis (Minnesota) along with senior WR Treshawn Watson. Lakes (6-1/4-1), coached by Jordan Elder, was able to bounce back last week with a win over Grayslake Central after losing to Grant. Can the Eagles get starting QB Chris Selig back in the lineup after suffering a Week 6 injury? This is one of the top rivalry games in Chicago's northern suburbs.

EDGY's Pick: Antioch 35 Lakes 34

(5) Stevenson at Warren, 7:20 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Warren (7-0/5-0) is looking to lock up the North Suburban Conference title with a win. Head coach Bryan McNulty's Blue Devils defense remains the big story so far this season. The 'Township defense has allowed just 21 points all season and is led by senior DT Willis Singleton Jr. (Iowa State), junior LB Malachi McNeal and senior LB Juan Delacruz. On offense, Warren is getting a big season from RB Derrick McLaughlin. The experienced offensive line has certainly helped. Stevenson (4-3/4-1) features a first-year head coach in Brent Becker. He has relied on senior RB J.M. Etiene and backup QB Liam Crowley-- who has played well since filling in for the injured Justin Hiller. Can the Patriots' offense move the football consistently --and then score-- against Warren's defense?

EDGY's Pick: Warren Township 28 Stevenson 10

(3) Nazareth at (8) Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Nazareth (6-1/2-0) is coming off a big 39-29 win last Friday over Marist. The Roadrunners are stacked again this fall for head coach Tim Racki. Junior QB J.J. McCarthy (Michigan) is as dangerous as ever. He has a target in sophomore WR Tyler Morris. The 'Naz defense is also very solid. Keep an eye on senior ILB Marcus Griffin (GVSU), junior DE/OT Ryan Keeler and senior LB/FB Riley Theobald. Notre Dame (7-0/2-0), under Hall of Fame head coach Mike Hennessey, has been one of the biggest surprise stories in Chicagoland. The Dons have a tough one-two punch on offense with junior QB Anthony Sayles and senior RB Julian Schurr. LB Anthony Ranallo leads a very tough ND defense. Can the Nazareth offense dent a very strong ND defense? Can the Dons' offense keep the football and win time of possession?

EDGY's Pick: Nazareth Academy 20 Notre Dame 14

I.C. Catholic Prep vs St. Francis at Wheaton College, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: A huge showdown here in the Metro Suburban Blue-- as well as in Class 4A. I.C. (7-0/4-0) has relied on the arm and legs of senior QB/LB Danny Cronin. Junior RB Kyle Franklin remains a game-breaking threat at all times for head coach Bill Krefft and company. Many around St. Francis (6-1/4-0) felt that this team was maybe a year away. But next year is here. Keep an eye on junior QB Tommy Rittenhouse. He's one of the most dangerous dual-threat signal callers in Chicagoland this season. The Spartans also have a stable of talented backs and receivers. Can The St. Francis defense slow down and contain the balanced Knights offense? Can the IC defense get pressure on the St. Francis offense? Am I the only one who thinks this game could be Part 1 of 2 this season? (psst: playoff preview)

EDGY's Pick: I.C. Catholic Prep 34 St. Francis 28