Preps Talk

VOTE: Wintrust Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

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NBC Sports Chicago

VOTE: Wintrust Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Who wants it more?              

NBC Sports Chicago and Wintrust present our “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week.” We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland’s top prep sports show, in the hands of passionate high school basketball followers. Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @NBCSPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights and postgame reaction of that game will appear on that night’s “High School Lites” broadcast at 11:00 p.m. The show also live streams at www.nbcsportschicago.com/watchlive and appears in the MyTeams app.  High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. the following Saturday on NBC Sports Chicago. 

Let's hear you, River Valley Conference! Which game should we cover on Friday night?

Donovan at Gardner-South Wilmington, 7:00 p.m.

Illinois Lutheran at Beecher, 7:00 p.m.

Tri-Point at St. Anne, 7:00 p.m.

To participate, our fans are encouraged to do the following:

**Follow our NBC Sports Chicago preps Twitter page: @NBCSPreps.

**Note the pinned tweet that is atop the feed.

**Vote for the game you want NBC Sports Chicago to cover Friday night.

**Spread the word!

The poll will start promptly at 12:00 p.m. Monday. We will make an announcement with the official results on @NBCSPreps just after 4 p.m. Thursday. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @NBCSPreps for updates on the “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week,” along with other high school sports news, scores and highlights, all season long.

High School Lites Preview: A big week of conference matchups

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NBC Sports Chicago

High School Lites Preview: A big week of conference matchups

High School Lites has a fun show this week as we feature a lot of unique conference battles throughout Chicagoland.

We'll check in with the boys basketball regular season as we have games from the Catholic League Blue, MSL West and CSL South to name a few. On the girls side, our Viewers' Choice checks in on a Class 3A matchup.

High School Lites airs at 11 p.m. on Friday night on NBC Sports Chicago. 

Oswego East at Plainfield North, 6:30 p.m. -- This could be a fascinating game in the Southwest Prairie West. Oswego East (18-10, 11-3) currently leads the league behind seniors Sam Schultz and Will Wolfe. But the Wolves lost to Plainfield North at home on Dec. 13 as they try to avenge that earlier loss. Plainfield North (19-7, 10-4) comes in as one of the area's hottest teams. Winners of 11 straight games -- including two in OT -- the Tigers are playing great ball down the stretch.

Andrew at Lincoln-Way Central, 6:30 p.m. -- We check out a SouthWest Suburban Red matchup here. Lincoln-Way Central (22-7, 6-0) is riding a seven-game winning streak, including a close win over Southland earlier this week. Andrew (15-10, 5-2) has three straight wins of their own as they knocked off Bradley-Bourbonnais during the week. Lincoln-Way Central won the first matchup between these two teams on Feb. 4. 

No. 13 Glenbrook South at No. 7 Evanston, 7:00 p.m. -- The top two teams in the CSL South play for the conference's top spot. Glenbrook South (26-3, 9-0) established a school record for wins with its victory over Conant on Tuesday night. The Titans are led by likely All-Area forward Dom Martinelli as they won the first matchup of these teams in the Titan Dome on January 30. Evanston (24-4, 8-1) lost a tough non-conference game to Kenwood earlier this week. But the Wildkits have a chance to bounce back and claim a share of the conference title with a win. 

Naperville Central at Waubonsie Valley, 7:00 p.m. -- High School Lites gets a glimpse of two talented DuPage Valley Conference teams in this one. Waubonsie Valley (25-4, 5-3) has won three straight games and appears to be finding its stride after dropping out of the Preps Power Rankings. Senior Marcus Skeete continues to lead the charge as the Warriors have recent strong wins over DeKalb and on the road at Oswego East. Naperville Central (19-9, 5-3) is led by seniors Chris Conway (Oakland) and Cameron Dougherty. 

Marengo at Woodstock North, 7:00 p.m. -- The two best teams in the Kishwaukee River play here. Woodstock North (17-11, 7-2) earned a win over Richmond-Burton earlier this week for a new school record. The Thunder kept it close the last time these two teams played with a 51-48 loss on Feb. 4. Marengo (25-3, 9-0) has quietly dominated that area this season, amassing a huge win total and unbeaten mark in the conference. With six straight wins, Marengo is rolling into the playoffs on a high note.

No. 20 Loyola at No. 19 Fenwick, 7:00 p.m. -- The Catholic League Blue division title is decided in this one. The Ramblers (25-4, 13-1) have already clinched at least a share of the conference title following an impressive win over DePaul Prep earlier this week. Loyola remains one of the top defensive teams in the area led by a balanced group that includes Bennett and Jordan Kwicinski. Fenwick (23-6, 12-2) beat the Rams last Friday to stay in the conference race as they need a win to tie Loyola here. The Friars are led by junior forward Bryce Hopkins (Louisville) and sophomore guard Trey Pettigrew. 

East Aurora at Streamwood, 7:00 p.m. -- Some action from the Upstate Eight here. East Aurora (20-9, 14-2) has won six of its last seven as they're in the conference title mix with Glenbard South. Streamwood (15-12, 10-6) has won three of four as they fell to the Tomcats by two points in late Janury.

Riverside-Brookfield at Aurora Christian, 7:30 p.m. -- We see two top teams in the Metro Suburban Blue as the Bulldogs try to clinch the conference title. Riverside-Brookfield (19-8, 9-2) has run off eight straight wins as the Bulldogs are getting hot at the right time. Senior Paul Zilinskas is one to watch for R-B in this one. Aurora Christian (19-6, 8-3) is trying to keep pace with R-B in the standings after a solid win over IC Catholic on Tuesday. The Eagles are led by senior guard Taaj Davis, as he just committed to junior college powerhouse Vincennes last week.  R-B won the first matchup between these two teams with a tight 63-59 win on Feb. 4.

Palatine at Schaumburg, 7:30 p.m. -- The MSL West could get decided in this one. Palatine (18-11, 7-2) has won three of their last four as the Pirates are led by junior center Julian Campbell. Schaumburg (22-6, 7-2) will attempt to match Campbell on the inside with junior big man Chris Hodges as the Wisconsin commit is having a strong season. The Saxons claimed the first game between these two teams on the road on Jan. 10 with a 69-60 road win. But Schaumburg will have to shake off a loss to Cary-Grove from earlier this week.

VIEWERS CHOICE GAME OF THE WEEK

GIRLS: Noble ITW/Speer at Trinity, 7:00 p.m. -- The No. 4 and No. 5 seed in the Class 3A Fenwick Sectional battle for a regional title here. Noble ITW earned a regional quarterfinal victory with a decisive 30-point win over Lake View. Trinity won by forfeit over Senn to advance as they get homecourt advantage. 

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

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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.