NBC Sports Chicago will have cameras covering every IHSA football championship game in DeKalb on the state championship edition of High School Lites, this Saturday night at 11:30. Can Lena-Winslow win a “close to home” title game? They will make the relatively short drive as they battle Central A&M in Class 1A. Can Nashville handle the 300-mile bus ride and beat Newman Central Catholic? Can the Byron Tigers win out over Williamsville? Will it be ‘run’ with St. Rita or ‘pass’ with Rochester in 5A? Can Prairie Ridge upset the state’s top ranked team in East St. Louis? Can Mount Carmel derail the Nazareth offense and standout QB J.J. McCarthy? And who will be left standing when heavyweights Warren and Lincoln-Way East wrap things up in Class 8A?
Lena-Winslow vs. Central A & M, 10:00am
EDGY's Take: Lena-Winslow (13-0) is going after their fourth state title on Friday. Coach Ric Arand’s Panthers roster is stacked with talent and experience. They will establish the running game behind RB Sean Ormiston (1,767 yards rushing 23 TD's) along with Iowa commit RB/DE Isaiah Bruce. While the Panthers won't throw the football a ton, QB Luke Benson has been effective with the play-action passing game. Central A&M (13-0), under head coach Brent Weakly, are a little more balanced on offense. They’re led by QB Connor Heaton (3,325 total yards of offense with 48 combined touchdowns). His main target has been WR Jacob Paradee (52 catches for 1.274 yards and 19 touchdowns). Can the Central A&M defense slow down the Lena power running game? Can the Central A&M offense big play and quick strike the Panthers defense?
EDGY's Pick: Lena Winslow 35 Central A&M 21
Newman C. Catholic vs. Nashville, 1:00 pm
EDGY's Take: Newman Central Catholic (12-1) first-year head coach Brenden Kreczmer has the Comets back in the IHSA state finals— not a bad opening season after taking over the program from Hall of Fame head coach Mike Papoccia this fall. They will look to establish the running game with a trio of top backs including RB Andrew Velasquez (936 yards rushing 7 touchdowns), RB Connor McBride (784 yards 9 TD's) and FB Kye O'Brien (690 yards 12 TD's). Their defense has been a strength all season long. The unit is led by LB Andrew Velasquez and LB Ethan Van Landuit. Nashville (12-1), with head coach Stephen Kozuszek, will make its first ever state championship appearance. They will gladly load up the buses and head 301 miles north to NIU Huskie Stadium on Friday. The Hornets are more balanced on offense, led by the arm of QB Cole Malawy (2,863 yards passing). His main targets are WR Isaac Turner (52 catches for 908 yards 9 TDs) and WR Nick Miller (421 catches for 563 yards 7 TDs). The running game is solid, led by RB Julian Metcalf (1,007 yards rushing 28 touchdowns). Can the Newman Central Catholic defense put a clamp Nashville‘s potent offense? Can the Nashville defense slow down the power running game/ball control offense of the Comets?
EDGY's Pick: Sterling Newman Central Catholic 27 Nashville 21
Byron vs. Williamsville, 4:00 pm
EDGY's Take: Byron (12-1) and head coach Jeff Boyer will make back-to-back 3A state title game appearances after losing to Monticello in last year’s 3A state title game. The Tigers have a terrific power running offense with an experienced backfield. Senior OL/DL Tyler Elsbury (6-foot-6, 295 pounds) is an Iowa commit who is force on both sides of the football. Senior RB Drake Snodgrass (99 carries for 1,037 yards, rushing 8 TDs) and RB Isaac Stickler (109 carries for 1,237 yards and 15 touchdowns) lead the way for the Tigers offense. Williamsville (13-0) head coach Aaron Kunz has QB Connor McCormick on the roster (2,039 yards passing). His main weapon is RB/LB Grant Ripperda (210 carries for 1,449 yards rushing 26 TDs). The Bullets’ defense is a strength. Keep an eye on ILB Trevor Shue and ILB George Spanoil. Can Byron establish the power running game early on the game on Friday night? Can Williamsville consistently throw the football and keep the Byron defense off-balance?
EDGY's Pick: Byron 34 Williamsville 28
Richmond-Burton vs. Murphysboro, 7:00 pm
EDGY's Take: Richmond-Burton (13-0) is barreling into the state championship game. Hall of Fame head coach Mike Noll leads the Rockets into the school’s third IHSA state title appearance. R-B features a powerful ground game led by RB/LB Dalton Wood (202 carries for 1,600 yards and 32 touchdowns) and RB Nick Legnaioli (77 carries 961 yards 9 TDs) along with a very capable play action passing game featuring QB Jacob Huber (1,020 yards passing). Their defense has posted six shutouts in 2019 including last week's impressive 30-0 win over Coal City. Murphysboro (11-2) is making the school's first ever state title game appearance. Veteran head coach Gary Carter’s Red Devils have a speedy and athletic squad, led by RB Dezmond Clark (117 carries for 1,110 yards rushing and 16 TDs), RB Jake Hoppenstedt (549 yards rushing 9 TDs) and QB Jamarr McZeke (830 yards passing). Can the Murphysboro defense slow down a punishing Rockets power run game? Can the R-B defense contain Murphysboro’s speed and big play potential?
EDGY's Pick: Richmond-Burton 35 Murphysboro 14
St. Rita vs. Rochester, 10:00 am
EDGY's Take: St. Rita (10-3) head coach Todd Kuska has the Mustangs in the IHSA state title game for the third time in school history and the first time since 2006. Rita will rely on sophomore RB Kaleb Brown (1,947 yards 35 touchdowns). He has been one of the most electric big play runners this season in Chicagoland. He will run behind a big and experienced offensive line led by senior Trevor Tovey (6-foot-2, 305 pounds). The Mustangs have speed and size on defense. Keep an eye on junior ILB Michael Gaughan, senior DE Evan Wojcicki and senior DE Michael Milton. Their secondary has speed and athletes. Rochester (12-1) head coach Derek Leonard has built the Rockets program into a state powerhouse; however, they will playing in their first 5A title game after winning the 4A title in seven out of the last eight seasons. Rochester’s spread passing game will look to attack the St. Rita defense all over the field. Senior QB Clay Bruno (3,327 yards passing) is a key along with RB Jacob DuRocher (1,789 yards rushing 26 TDs) and sophomore WR Hank Beatty (86 catches 1,789 yards). Can the Rita defense cover the entire field against the Rochester spread attack? Can the Rochester‘s ‘D go match up against the St. Rita offensive line and running game for four quarters?
EDGY's Pick: Rochester 36 St. Rita 35
Prairie Ridge vs. East St. Louis, 1:00 pm
EDGY's Take: Prairie Ridge (12-1) head coach Chris Schremp will lead the Wolves into the 6A state title game for the third time in four years. The Wolves feature a very well-run triple option attack led by senior QB Connor Lydon and a stable of quality backs including RB Blake Brown (479 yards rushing 8 TDs), RB Taidhgin Trost (598 yards 10 TDs) and FB/LB Kyle Koelblinger. The offensive line is experienced and has good size. The unit is led by senior OL/DL Riley Smith. East St. Louis (13-0) has been the state's top ranked team all season long. Coach Darren Sunkett’s Flyers have star power and talent all over the field. That list includes junior QB Tyler Macon (3,937 yards passing 35 TDs), RB Demonta Witherspoon (1,649 yards rushing 33 TD), junior WR Dominic Lovett (68 catches 1,423 yards 14 TDs) and senior WR/S Antonio Johnson. Their defense is just as deep and talented. Keep a lookout on senior DE Kevon Billingsley (Missouri), senior ILB Kendric Scarbrough and DB/WR Lewaun Powell. Can the Prairie Ridge triple-option attack keep the Flyers offense on the sidelines on Saturday? Can the Prairie Ridge defense avoid giving up the big play against East St. Louis? I have a feeling this one has the potential to end up much closer than one may think.
EDGY's Pick: East St. Louis 28 Prairie Ridge 14
Mt. Carmel vs. Nazareth, 4:00 pm
EDGY's Take: Mount Carmel (13-0) head coach Jordan Lynch has the Caravan in the 7A state title game in just his second season. They feature an offense led by junior QB Justin Lynch (1,740 yards passing/693 rushing). But they also have balance. Junior RB/LB Kenenna Odeluga (1,075 yards rushing 11 TDs), senior WR Tony Livermore (52 catches 590 yards 4 TDs) and a big/strong offensive line led by senior OL/DL Jalen Grant have kept the opposition in check. Their defense is also playing well this season and keep an eye on ILB Lance Swain, Maciel Heygood and S Benjamin Perry. Nazareth (13-0), under coach Tim Racki, will be looking to win back-to-back 7A state titles after defeating St. Charles North 27-21 in last year’s title game. The Roadrunners offense starts with junior QB J.J. McCarthy (Michigan), who has completed 191 of 290 passes for 2,704 yards. His main target this season has been sophomore WR Tyler Morris (68 catches for 1,237 yards and 17 touchdowns). RB Derrick Strong Jr. (837 yards rushing 10 TDs) and RB Alex Carillo run behind a big offensive line led by junior Power Five recruit OL Ryan Keeler. Can the Mount Carmel secondary cover Nazareth’s multiple backs and receivers and avoid giving up the big play? Can the Nazareth defense limit the Mount Carmel running game and time of possession?
EDGY's Pick: Nazareth Academy 28 Mount Carmel 17
Warren Township vs. Lincoln-Way East, 7:00 pm
EDGY's Take: Both Warren Township (13-0) and Lincoln Way East (13-0) have a ton of similarities, including both programs wanting to establish the running game against two very impressive tone-setting defenses. Warren Township head coach Bryan McNulty has taken the Blue Devils to the highest level of IHSA football behind a defense that has allowed just 40 points in 13 games in 2019 along with a steady and efficient offense. For Warren offensively, keep an eye on senior RB Derrick McLaughlin (1,616 yards rushing 21 TDs) along with senior RB/WR Christian Phillips (1,253 yards of total offense 21 combined TDs) who will operate behind a big and experienced offensive line led by senior Matt Rich. The Blue Devils’ defense features senior DT Willis Singleton Jr. (Iowa State), senior OLB Juan Delacruz, senior DE/FB Seamus Mellican and junior ILB Malachi McNeal. This defense will run to the football and gang tackle as well as any team in the state. Lincoln-Way East and head coach Rob Zvonar continues to keep the Griffins at an elite level. They have a roster stacked with talent and depth. On offense, they have a major game breaker in senior Slot A.J. Henning (Michigan) who will play all over the field at times.The Griffins also look towardjunior RB Jamal Johnson and QB Kyle Quinn as leaders. Quinn is a solid signal caller this season and he operates behind a big, strong and experienced line. The Griffins’ defense also has star power and talent. Senior DE Adrian Wilson (Bowling Green), DE Sean McLaughlin (Northwestern) and very strong linebacker and secondary group will make plays. Special teams advantage? Both teams have terrific kicking games led by Warren Township senior K/P Adam Saul (Illinois State) and Lincoln-Way East senior K/P Dominic Dzioban (Miami of Ohio). Look for a big play or a turnover to potentially be the difference maker.
EDGY's Pick: Lincoln-Way East 10 Warren Township 7