Preps Talk

High School Lites IHSA Playoff State Title Game Previews

NBC Sports Chicago

High School Lites IHSA Playoff State Title Game Previews

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? 

Class 1A

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

Class 2A

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

Class 3A

 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

Class 4A

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

Class 5A

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

Class 6A

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

Class 7A

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

Class 8A

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

High School Lites basketball roundup: Week 8

NBC Sports Chicago

High School Lites basketball roundup: Week 8

Check out our high school hoops highlights from some of the best games around the state, and be sure to follow @NBCSPREPS for all of the latest scores, highlights, and analysis

Windy City Legends: Jimmy Garoppolo

Athlete of the Week: Lincoln-Way West's Taylor Gugliuzza

Team of the Week: Hinsdale South boys basketball

Highlights: Oak Lawn 61, Richards 60

Highlights: No. 10 DePaul Prep 78, St. Laurence 57

Highlights: Deerfield 33, Highland Park 29

Highlights: No. 2 Evanston 49, New Trier 43

Midweek Mixtape: Zion-Benton 90, No. 2 Evanston 71

Highlights: No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 64, Lincoln-Way East 43

Highlights: Austin 76, Prosser 43

Highlights: DeKalb 53, Naperville Central 51

Highlights: No. 24 Joliet West 59, West Aurora 54

Highlights: Simeon 88, No. 14 Morgan Park 86

Whitney Young's DJ Steward, Maine West's Angela Dugalic named to McDonald's All-American games

Whitney Young's D.J. Steward ends the Illinois McDonald's All-American drought

NBC Sports Chicago

Whitney Young's D.J. Steward ends the Illinois McDonald's All-American drought

Whitney Young senior guard D.J. Steward became the latest Burger Boy from the Land of Lincoln with his selection into the game on Thursday afternoon. The Duke commit is the first Illinois boys basketball player to be selected for high school basketball's most prestigious game since Stevenson's Jalen Brunson in 2015.

Maine West girls basketball star and Oregon commit Angela Dugalic was selected for the girls McDonald's game. Illinois native and former Morgan Park standout Nimari Burnett was also selected for the boys game. Burnett helped the Mustangs to a Class 3A state title as a freshman before moving to California for his last three seasons of high school basketball at Prolific Prep. 

While Illinois will have multiple local storylines in both McDonald's game, the 6-foot-2 Steward being included on the boys team is a big deal for a number of reasons.

For starters, Illinois has been without a boys McDonald's All-American since 2015. From the game's debut in 1978 until 2009, Illinois had at least one McDonald's All-American every year. In the past 11 years, Illinois has been held out of the McDonald's six times -- including the past four classes. The talent drought has been noticeable over the past several years. 

More importantly, the McDonald's distinction caps off an already stellar high school basketball career for Steward. His accomplishments already include a state finals appearance and two All-Area selections (with a third almost assuredly coming later this season). 

Starting his career at Fenwick the first two seasons, Steward earned Catholic League Player of the Year honors as only a sophomore. Now dominating in the Public League this season, Steward could also own the unique distinction of being perhaps the best player in both the Chicago Catholic League AND Public League during his four-year high school career.

By making the McDonald's game, Steward also follows in the footsteps of other Whitney Young legends like Jahlil Okafor (2014) and Quentin Richardson (1998). Steward will now forever be linked to those two first-round NBA Draft picks for the rest of his career. The only thing missing from Steward's profile at this point is an elusive IHSA state title -- something the other two captured their senior season.

While Steward's selection into the McDonald's game is an important personal accomplishment, it's also huge for the rest of the local high school season. It's no secret that Illinois high school basketball has been starving for big-name talent. The buzz for the state tournament has continued to die down in recent seasons. 

Star power like Steward, and Illinois commit Adam Miller, should draw more casual interest in the local high school basketball season down the stretch. Steward making the McDonald's game makes him an even bigger draw locally for casual fans. It's likely Whitney Young will play in front of a lot of fans as they travel in the state tournament in-part because of Steward's high-profile career. 

There is still plenty of basketball to be played the rest of the 2019-20 season. Steward has time to add to his legacy as Whitney Young prepares to play for a city and state championship. Even if Steward falls short of some personal goals, he'll always be remembered among the state's greats now that he's playing in the McDonald's game.