Preps Talk

High School Lites IHSA state finals preview: Class 5A-8A

High School Lites IHSA state finals preview: Class 5A-8A

CSN Chicago (CSN), the television home of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) State Championships, will be airing live coverage of the 2016 IHSA Football State Championships on Friday, November 25 and Saturday, November 26 from Memorial Stadium in Champaign. In addition, every IHSA Football State Championship telecast on CSN, including surrounding pre/postgame coverage, will be streamed LIVE on CSNChicago.com and will be made available via the NBC Sports app on tablets and smart phones. Highlights and postgame reaction from all eight games will be presented in a special state championship edition of High School Lites, Saturday at 10 p.m., immediately following the 8A title game.

Class 5A

Vernon Hills (10-3) vs. Peoria (12-1), Saturday, 10:00 a.m.

EDGY's Take: Vernon Hills and head coach Bill Bellecomo has the Cougars in their first-ever state football title game. Vernon Hills has gotten to Champaign led by their defense and a balanced offensive attack. The offense is led by senior QB Kyle Hull (1,512 yards 15 touchdowns) and versatile senior RB/DB Drew Winegardner. The Cougars defense is spearheaded by senior ILB Andrew "Chick" Smith (152 tackles). Peoria and head coach Tim Thornton is also seeking the Lions first-ever state football title on Saturday. The Lions shotgun read option offense is led by junior QB Coran Taylor (2,864 yards of total offense 34 touchdowns), junior RB Geno Hess (2,597 yards 42 touchdowns) and a talented and deep group in the offensive skills department. The Lions offensive and defensive line play has been impressive all season long. They’re led by three star-ranked OL/DL Kendrick Green (6-foot-4, 279 yards) plus junior D-1 recruit Marques Cox (6-foot-5, 292 pounds). Can the Vernon Hills defense continue to work its magic against one state's most potent offenses? Can the Peoria defense slow down the Cougars’ balanced offense? 

EDGY's Pick: Peoria 35 Vernon Hills 20

Class 6A

Prairie Ridge (13-0) vs. Sacred Heart-Griffin (13-0), Saturday, 1:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Prairie Ridge and head coach Chris Schremp is in search of the school's second state football title. The Wolves will look to run the football and play smash-mouth football behind junior QB Samson Evans (1,870 yards rushing 38 TDs) and senior FB Manny Ebirim (134 carries for 971 yards 10 TDs). Prairie Ridge can also play strong defense. Keep an eye on junior OL/DL Jeff Jenkins, ILB Jacob Ommen and senior DB Peter Berg. Sacred Heart Griffin, under Hall of Fame head coach Ken Leonard, has been rolling up huge points all season long. The Cyclones offense is led by junior TB Tremayne Lee-- one of a very deep group of backs. Senior QB Tim Brenneisen (120 of 185 passes for 2,436 yards and 23 TDs) has also been solid all season. The Cyclones also rely heavily on its big, senior-laden offensive line (they average 6-foot-4, 279 pounds). Can the Prairie Ridge defense slow down the Cyclones offense/running game? Can anyone slow down and contain PR's QB Samson Evans?                                                       

EDGY's Pick: Prairie Ridge 38 SHG 31

[RELATED: CSN to carry live coverage of the 2016 IHSA Football State Championships Nov. 25 & 26]

Class 7A

Plainfield North (11-2) vs. East St. Louis, (13-0), Saturday, 4:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Plainfield North was able to beat Fenwick 18-17 in overtime last Saturday to advance to Memorial Stadium. North hadn't even won a state playoff game until this year. The Tigers feature a balanced attack on offense along with an overall speedy team on both sides of the football. The offense is led by junior QB Brady Miller (139 of 235 passes for 1,868 yards 20 TDs)  along with senior RB Ty Hoosman (1,675 yards rushing 26 TDs) and senior WR Connor Peplow (50 catches for4 783 yards 7 TDs). Plainfield North's defense has been strong all season long. Keep an eye out on senior LBs JJ Frey and Will Stoll. OL/DL Ari Ekowa is a force as well. East St. Louis and head coach Darren Sunkett are looking to capture the school's eighth overall state football title. The Flyers have speed on both sides of the football, led by senior QB Rey Estes (Missouri) along with four star-ranked senior WR Jeff Thomas and junior RB Jarrell Anderson (1,306 yards rushing 21 TDs). The East St. Louis defense has also been a strength all season and is led by senior LB James Knight, senior OL/DL Lemontre Harvey plus junior DL Terrion Williams. Can the East St. Louis offense run past the Plainfield North defense? Can the Tigers’ offense dent the Flyers’ defense?

EDGY's Pick: East St. Louis 22 Plainfield North 14

Class 8A

Loyola Academy (13-0) vs. Maine South (10-3), Saturday, 7:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: The state's top-ranked team all season long, Loyola Academy, will be looking to bring a second straight Class 8A state football title --and third overall—to Wilmette. The Ramblers offense was on point in last week's 42-13 win over Glenbard West. Senior QB Tommy Herion (165 of 267 passes for 2,115 yards and 18 TDs) will look to his main targets: senior WR David Terrell Jr. (55 catches for 886 yards 7 TD's) and senior WR/ATH Jake Marwede (Duke). Loyola can --and will-- run the football. They’ll do it with RB Kyle Rock (1,128 yards 18 TD's) and a big, strong and veteran offensive line. Maine South can also light up the scoreboard with senior QB Nick Leongas (155 of 257 passes for 2,787 yards 27 TDs/1,040 yards rushing 11 TDs) along with junior RB Fotis Kokosioulis (1,358 yards rushing 21 TDs) plus a deep group of receivers. The Hawks defense has been of the bend-but-not-break variety. Keep an eye on senior DL/OL Kevin Jarvis (Michigan State). Can the Maine South defense slow down the Loyola offense? Can the Loyola defense slow down the Maine South offense?

EDGY's Pick: Loyola 41 Maine South 35

Friday's slate of games:

Class 1A: Forreston vs. Decatur St. Teresa, 10 a.m.

Class 2A: Deer Creek-Mackinaw vs. Maroa-Forsyth, 1 p.m.

Class 3A: IC Catholic vs. Carlinville, 4 p.m.

Class 4A: Johnsburg vs. Rochester, 7 p.m.

CCL/ESCC football programs stacked with FBS level talent this year

football_closeup.jpg
USA TODAY

CCL/ESCC football programs stacked with FBS level talent this year

It's no secret that year in and year out that the former Chicago Catholic League along with the former East Suburban Catholic Conference (now known as the not so creatively named CCL/ESCC conference) traditionally generates some of the top teams in the State of Illinois.

Several 2020 CCL/ESCC conference powerhouse football programs are stacked with FBS level talent, and could provide multiple highly ranked preseason teams and multiple state title contenders. Here are some of the schools and names to consider as we inch ever closer to the 2020 IHSA Football season (which is just a mere 191 shopping days away).

Mount Carmel- The Caravan posted a perfect 14-0 season in 2019 and won the 7A state title including posting an impressive 37-13 title win over Nazareth Academy. Mount Carmel and head coach Jordan Lynch welcomes back 13 returning starters back (8 offense 5 defense) for the 2020 season. Junior QB Justin Lynch is already committed to Temple while the remaining offensive skills are back with RB/LB Kenenna Odeluga along with WR Jaali Parker, WR Jack Butcher plus three starter back on the Caravan offensive line. Junior S Benjamin Perry is already drawing several Power 5 scholarship offers, and while the Caravan will need to replace some key names from the 2019 season, the underclassmen classes are impressive and stocked with talent.

Loyola Academy- The Ramblers (8-4) and head coach John Holecek posted a rare "down" season in 2019 as Loyola saw its season end in the Class 8A quarterfinal round to Marist. While the Ramblers would never make any excuses, many failed to realize just how young the 2019 Ramblers were on both sides of the football. Loyola welcomes back an impressive 16 returning starters (7 offense 9 defense) and the Ramblers could very well have it's largest amount of D1 names on the 2020 squad than any Loyola team in recent history. Loyola Academy sophomore TE James Kyle (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) added his first offer recently from Nebraska and look for Kyle to be a major Power 5 level recruit. Loyola junior OC Josh Kreutz also has a handful of FBS offers and several other Ramblers have been drawing recruiting attention and offers this winter including junior S/ATH Perrion McClinton, junior LB Liam Conaghan, junior RB/LB Vaughn Pemberton plus junior DB Artise Benjamin, sophomore WR Owen Boos and WR Aiden Brownlee.

Marist- The Redhawks and head coach Ron Dawczak also had an up and down season in 2019, but Marist found its way and made a deep run in the Class 8A state playoff field. The Redhawks also brings back several key playmakers from last season. Sophomore QB Dontrell Jackson Jr. started much of the regular season and Jackson Jr. is already on several recruiting radar screens this winter. Junior RB/WR Jovan Marsh is drawing a ton of recruiting attention this winter while freshman WR Ryan Sims (6-foot-3, 180 pounds) and freshman WR/DB Carnell Tate (6-foot-1, 165 pounds) have all the tools to become eventual FBS level recruits. The Redhawks also welcome back three starting offensive linemen, and two who are already holding FBS level offers in junior OT Pat Coogan along with sophomore OL Deuce McGuire. Coogan is one of the most sought after linemen in the Midwest in the Class of 2021. While the Redhawks will need to reload a bit on defense this winter, the overall talent level is impressive for Marist.

St. Rita- The Mustangs also made a terrific run in 2019, from starting the season with a less than spectacular 1-3 record then firing off 9 straight wins before losing to Rochester in the 2019 Class 5A state title game. While St. Rita was a bit more senior heavy last fall compared to others listed here, they still welcome back a strong core for 2020. Sophomore RB Kaleb Brown for the second straight season had a standout season and was no question one of the state's most dangerous playmakers in 2019. Brown is already drawing multiple Power 5 offers this winter and even more big time programs are calling each day. The Mustangs and head coach Todd Kuska also has even more firepower back on offense including three-star ranked junior WR Henry Wilson Jr., junior WR Isaiah Bragg plus speedy junior RB/DB Kyle James. Last year the quarterback duties were shared between sophomore Tommy Ulatowski and junior Brian Johnson and both will play a major role on the field in 2020. I also really liked junior LB Michael Galghan's play last season. He will also be a recruit name to watch for at St. Rita.

Nazareth Academy- The Roadrunner and head coach Tim Racki came up a bit short in 2019, losing in the 7A state title game to Mount Carmel. However, despite some key graduation losses (especially on the defensive side of the football) no one will be having any tag days for the Road Runners anytime soon.

The Nazareth Academy offense will again be loaded in 2020 with 8 returning starters in the fold led by junior four-star ranked QB JJ McCarthy. McCarthy, who will be a three-year starter in 2020, will also have several key names back including sophomore WR Tyler Morris, junior WR Tanner Koziol plus junior WR/TE Landon Morris. The Road Runners will also welcome back standout three-star ranked OL/DL Ryan Keeler, along with two additional starters back on the offensive line in junior Sean O'Hara and junior Domenic Virelli. The Road Runners defense will need to reload a bit but keep an eye on Ryan Keeler along with freshman DB Kaleb Miller and junior DE Daine Hansen (6-foot-7, 240 pounds). Hansen has already added 6 FBS level scholarship offers and is in line for an even bigger spring evaluation period. 

Joliet Catholic Academy- The Hilltoppers ended up dropping out of the 2019 Class 5A playoffs in a stunning 21-14 quarter final loss to Mascoutah. While JCA will need to reload in a handful of key spots for 2020 yet lots of talent remains on the Hill.

The 2020 Joliet Catholic Academy Hilltoppers are stocked with some impressive athletes including sophomore RB Jordan Anderson, junior S Ja'Aire Mack along with junior DB Jabrill Williams plus a big and experience group upfront on the offensive line. Junior S/RB Devean Washington, who suffered an off season injury is in recovery mode and hopefully will be back for his senior season and Washington is yet another high level athlete to watch here. The Hilltoppers will also bring back it's two top quarterbacks from a season ago in sophomore Aidan Voss and junior Anthony Napolitano. JCA also will look towards a strong freshman class from 2019 that had both good overall numbers and talent to boost the varsity level depth in 2020.

IHSA Preps Girls Basketball AP Poll

ap-illinois-hs-girls-basketball-rankings-slide.png
AP

IHSA Preps Girls Basketball AP Poll

Here are the rankings of Illinois high school girls basketball teams in each class, according to an Associated Press panel of sportswriters with rank, team, first-place votes, record and total points.

Class 4A

No. Team                                                   W-L    Pts    Prv
1. Benet (4)                                        26-2 58 1
2. Edwardsville (2) 25-1 55 2
3. Maine West 26-3 49 3
4. Lincoln Way West 26-3 42 4
5. Libertyville 23-4 36 5
6.  Homewood-Flossmoor 22-4 26 6
7. Evanston Township 21-6 19 7
8. Marist 25-5 12 8
9.  O'Fallon 25-5 11 9
10. Bolingbrook 20-7 9 NR

Others receiving votes: Fremd 7. Whitney Young 3. Hersey 2. Maine South 1.

Class 3A

No. Team W-L  Pts    Prv   
1. Morton (7)                                           31-0 70 1
2. Montini 27-4 63 2
3. Simeon 28-2 55 4
4. Peoria Central 25-3 46 5
5. Richwoods 25-6 39 6
6.  Bethalto Civic Memorial 26-5 39 3
7. Kankakee 27-4 27 7
8. Kenwood 24-6 13 9
9.  Geneseo 23-6 12 8
10. Decatur MacArthur 27-3 6 10

Others receiving votes: Fenwick 4. Rockford Boylan 4. Rock Island 3. Burlington Central 2. Washington 1. Grayslake Central 1.