Preps Talk

Simeon stays at No. 1 in latest Preps Power Rankings

Simeon stays at No. 1 in latest Preps Power Rankings

Now that the holiday tournaments are in the books, the latest edition of the Preps Power Rankings has a host of new teams in the mix. While the rankings have already been very fluid during a chaotic first month of the season, some surprising holiday tournament showings have completely changed the outlook for some teams as we begin 2018. 

1. Simeon (11-2, 3-0) (1) -- Clearly the No. 1 team in the state right now, Simeon dismantled quality competition in winning the Pontiac Holiday Tournament. The Wolverines still have some difficult games against local and national competition, but they look like the clear favorite in the city and state title race. 

2. Orr (11-2, 4-0) (8) -- The Spartans have their swagger back after winning the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. The beatdown of Uplift was one of the most eye-popping wins of the season and beating rival Whitney Young for the title was a huge step in Orr being viewed as a potential No. 1 team in the state. 

3. Curie (10-2, 3-0) (3) -- The Condors hadn't lost in Illinois until they fell to Simeon for the Pontiac title as Curie continues to look really good. You could make the case for the Condors being the No. 2 team in the state with wins already over Morgan Park and Orr. Curie's balance is scary.  

4. Niles North (13-0, 3-0) (5) -- Still undefeated on the season, the Vikings claimed the crown at Wheeling with a tough overtime win over Libertyville for the title. Now that Jamal Stephenson is back in the lineup, this team gets an additional scoring threat. 

5. Whitney Young (13-3, 3-1) (2) -- Solid week for the Dolphins at Proviso West as they advanced to the title game before falling to Orr. After relying so heavily on Javon Freeman earlier in the year, Whitney Young has figured out a more balanced approach as others are beginning to step up. 

6. Morgan Park (10-5, 2-2) (6) -- The short-handed Mustangs still earned the title at Rich South as sophomore Adam Miller is finally starting to figure things out with his new team. Senior Cameron Burrell also deserves a lot of credit for elevating his play since the beginning of the season. 

7. Oak Park-River Forest (9-2, 2-0) (7) -- Running into some of the state's best competition at Pontiac, the Huskies held their own against powerhouse Curie before also falling to state title contender Danville in the third-place game. Beating a tough Bloomington team was a major positive from the week at Pontiac.

8. Fenwick (11-4, 2-0) (13) -- Solid week for Fenwick at Proviso West as they earned good wins over Bogan, Larkin and Proviso West. A close loss to Orr was tough, but the Friars now have three close losses against the area's top seven teams. 

9. Bolingbrook (10-2, 1-0) (4) -- The Raiders placed second at Hinsdale Central after a disappointing championship loss to St. Rita. Still a threat in Class 4A, Bolingbrook has to find scoring help outside of the guard trio of Tyler Cochran, Kaleb Thornton and Joseph Yesufu. 

10. St. Rita (9-7, 1-0) (NR) -- The major story of the week is St. Rita as they went from under .500 to tournament champions at a very deep Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic. Knocking off Bolingbrook, DePaul Prep and Maine South, the Mustangs looked like the team that was in the preseason Preps Power Rankings before the slow start. 

11. Lincoln Park (11-4, 3-1) (NR) -- The emergence of Lincoln Park continues to be a solid storyline in the Public League as the Lions picked off Marian Catholic and gave Bolingbrook everything they can handle. Showing well against top-ten competition, Lincoln Park is a team that nobody will want to face in the next few weeks. 

12. Marian Catholic (10-2, 1-1) (18) -- Marian Catholic fell in its Hinsdale Central opener to Lincoln Park but rallied to win three straight and claim the consolation title. Sophomore point guard Ahron Ulis is growing more and more comfortable as the team's floor leader while juniors Malik Tidwell and Chris White have also been solid. 

13. DePaul Prep (11-3, 1-0) (15) -- The Rams finished fourth at Hinsdale Central after an up-and-down week that included good wins over Crete-Monee and Stevenson and double-digit losses to St. Rita and Lincoln Park. Junior Perry Cowan had some cold shooting during the event, but when he's on track, DePaul Prep can compete with anyone. 

14. Conant (11-4, 2-1) (NR) -- Winning five games at York is always incredibly tough as Conant had one of the best weeks of any team in the area. Senior big man Ryan Davis is a big Player of the Year candidate while the Cougars received some clutch shooting around Davis to help win at Jack Tosh. 

15. Marist (14-1, 2-0) (NR) -- Time to start keeping an eye on Marist as an impressive 14-1 start and third-place finish at Centralia a great start. Senior Morgan Taylor is hooping at a very high level right now as Marist looks like a factor in the ESCC race. 

16. Evanston (11-3, 2-1) (21) -- Good week at Centralia for the Wildkits as they lost to a quality opponent in Champaign Central before finishing in fifth. Junior guard Lance Jones made a clutch shot to beat Carmel and fellow junior Jaheim Holden also had some bright moments in the event as well.  

17. North Lawndale (11-2, 2-1) (NR) -- Finishing in second place in Bloomington, the Phoenix lost to a tough Normal team in the championship. A win over Joliet Central was very notable as North Lawndale will be a factor in the loaded Public League Red North/West. 

18. Uplift (9-5, 3-1) (NR) -- One of the area's most puzzling teams, Uplift looked good earning double-digit wins over Hillcrest and Larkin at Proviso West. Then there's the ugly semifinal loss to Orr in which the Titans were down 38 points at halftime. Which Uplift team will we see the rest of the season? One thing is for sure, when Uplift is focused, they are capable of competing with most of the area's top teams. 

19. Loyola Academy (11-2, 1-1) (NR) -- Winning a holiday tournament in Florida, the Ramblers shot the ball well from the perimeter while defending at a high level. Kevin Cunningham was named MVP in Naples as he continues to fly a bit under the radar in the area. 

20. Hillcrest (11-4, 4-0) (22) -- The Hawks played one of the toughest schedules of any team during holiday tournament week as they placed fourth at Proviso West after a 2-2 finish. Close wins over New Trier and Bogan was a great start before losses to Whitney Young and Uplift.

21. Libertyville (8-5, 3-1) (NR) -- After being ranked in the Power Rankings to start the season, Libertyville is back in the mix after a solid second-place showing at Wheeling. Senior Drew Peterson is starting to generate more high-major interest with his strong season and his supporting cast is coming together around him. 

22. Joliet Central (11-2, 4-0) (NR) -- The Steelmen always seem to emerge as more of a threat after Bloomington and this season is no different. Joliet Central's triple OT win over Wheaton Warrenville South was one of the better matchups of the week. 

23. Wheaton Warrenville South (10-2, 4-0) (23) -- Some tough losses for the Tigers down in Bloomington as they fell to eventual champion Normal by a point before falling to Joliet Central in three overtimes. Very good at dictating the slow pace they want to play, Wheaton-Warrenville South showed that they can be competitive with some of the state's better teams.

24. Brother Rice (10-6, 0-2) (NR) -- If it weren't for some last-second losses to ranked teams like Fenwick and Conant then Brother Rice would be sitting at a really strong 12-4 right now. Instead, the Crusaders had to settle for second place at York as this team is starting to come together. 

25. Batavia (11-3, 3-1) (NR) -- Finally at full strength after the deep run in football, the Bulldogs looked feisty and dangerous in taking third place and going 4-1 at York. The win over previously-unbeaten Naperville North was perhaps the signature moment of the week for Batavia. 

34 Days to Kickoff: Bartlett

34 Days to Kickoff: Bartlett 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 July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Bartlett

Head coach: Mark Erlenbaugh

How they fared in 2017: 2-7 (2-3 Upstate 8 Valley Conference), Bartlett failed to qualify for the 20127 IHSA state football playoff field.
2018 Regular Season Schedule:
Aug. 25 @ East Aurora
Aug. 31 vs Glenbard East
Sept 8 vs Glenbard South
Sept. 14 @ Elgin
Sept. 21 @ West Aurora
Sept. 28 vs West Chicago
Oct. 5 vs Larkin
Oct. 13 @ South Elgin 
Oct. 19 @ Streamwood

Biggest storyline: Can the Hawks soar in the newly realigned Upstate 8 conference?

Names to watch this season: QB Dean Kotsovetis WR Austin Gates

Biggest holes to fill: The Hawks will need to fill in several spots this summer especially upfront on the offensive and defensive lines due to graduation losses.

EDGY's Early Take: Bartlett new head coach Matt Erlenbaugh comes in from Chicago Solorio and takes over the Hawks football program. Look for Bartlett to have a chance to challenge in the newly realigned Upstate 8 schedule. The Hawks schedule this season won't include the likes of several 2017 state playoff teams like Lemont, Prairie Ridge and St. Charles East.

35 Days to Kickoff: Oak Forest

35 Days to Kickoff: Oak Forest 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 July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Oak Forest

Head coach: Brian McDonough

How they fared in 2017: 4-5 (3-3 South Suburban Conference). Oak Forest failed to qualify for the IHSA state football playoff field.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 vs Pekin
Aug. 31 @ Niles Notre Dame
Sept. 7 @ T.F. South
Sept. 14 @ Hillcrest
Sept. 21 @ Eisenhower
Sept. 28 vs T.F. North
Oct. 5 vs Tinley Park
Oct. 12 @ Bremen
Oct. 19 vs Lemont

Biggest storyline: Can the Bengals get back into the IHSA state playoffs this season?

Names to watch this season: LB Anthony Kluk and OL/DL Julian Ramirez

Biggest holes to fill: The Bengals will need to reload on both sides of the football especially on offense with the graduation losses of several starters including QB Tyler Morrison and RB Waitari Wilson.

EDGY's Early Take: It was a rare season for the Bengals in 2017, having missed the IHSA state playoff field for the first time since 1999. Look for Oak Forest to rely on its defense while a newer group on offense develops. The Bengals and veteran head coach Brian McDonough will need to get out to a good early start with a front-loaded regular season schedule.