Prairie Ridge

Edgy: Selecting the team of the decade is no easy task

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Edgy: Selecting the team of the decade is no easy task

Here we are, nearing the end of a decade. In that span, which IHSA football team stands above all the rest. Can it even be narrowed down to a top five? I tried. It's not an easy task. However, everyone seems to have fun with topics like these, so why not? 

First, a ground rule or two. I decided to look strictly at the IHSA state championship winning teams from 2010 through the 2018 season. My approach? I basically just went back and looked into each year's top teams (eight classes) and then looked into which teams truly stood out about the others. Another rule: they all needed to have unblemished 14-0 season records.

Making a list of this nature is a challenge. That said, you need to somehow have a criteria that will at least allow you to make a distinction to separate teams from a very crowded pack. In many cases, there are multiple teams from the same season that deserve the honor. 

So with all of this in mind...here are my Top 5 state championship 'Teams of the Decade' for IHSA football--

1. 2015 Loyola Academy: The 2015 team was the first such Ramblers group to go undefeated en route to a state championship. The Ramblers had a very balanced offensive attack led by QB Emmett Clifford, RB Dara Laja and an offensive line anchored by the Badovinac brothers (Sam and Jack). On defense, they allowed just 123 points all season long. The unit was anchored by DL Ben Leroy (NIU). This team was tough, hungry and physical on both sides of the football. 

2. 2010 Warrenville Wheaton South Tigers: The Red Grange Tigers, coached by Ron Muhitch, had one of the state's most explosive offensive attacks that year. The offense was led by QB Reilly O'Toole (Illinois), Titus Davis (Central Michigan) along with RB Matt Rodgers. Their huge offensive line anchored by Luke Luhrsen (Kansas). 

3. 2016 East St Louis Flyers: This offense was also highly explosive. East St. Louis was led by QB Rey Estes (Minnesota) along with a Player of the Year in WR/S Jeff Thomas (Miami Fla.). Interestingly, a handful of players from the 2016 roster are on the current Flyers' team, which plays in the state semifinals on Saturday. Current WR Lewaun Powell and OL Javonyez Spraggins both were freshmen starters on that title team that defeated Plainfield North in the championship.

4. 2010 Rochester Rockets: Head coach Derek Leonard has had several outstanding state championship teams, but the 2010 team was Rochester's first state title group. They set the tone for a tremendous run for the program. This Rockets group could have completed at the higher classes quite well. They were led by QB Wes Lunt (Oklahoma State/Illinois), DE/TE Riley McMinn (Iowa), WR Zach Grant (Illinois) and LB Garrett Dooley (Wisconsin). 

5. 2017 Prairie Ridge Wolves: Prairie Ridge has had some great teams over the past decade. But for my money, the 2017 6A state title team was something special. No one was able to find a way to win better than QB Samson Evans (Iowa). The remaining roster was strong and included OL/DL Jeff Jenkins (Iowa) along with several other key names including RB Zach Gulbransen, FB Jackson Willis, S Drew Fryer and MLB Jacob Ommen. 

Others who I gave serious consideration? 

2011: Bolingbrook 13-1, Montini Catholic 12-2
2012: Crete-Monee 14-0
2013: Mount Carmel 13-1, Sacred Heart Griffin 14-0 
2014: Stevenson 14-0, Providence Catholic 13-1, Nazareth Academy 14-0, Sacred Heart Griffin 14-0
2015: Glenbard West 14-0
2016: Prairie Ridge 14-0, Maine South 11-3
2017: Lincoln Way East 14-0, IC Catholic Prep 14-0
2018: Loyola Academy 11-3, Nazareth Academy 13-1 

17 Days to Kickoff: Prairie Ridge

17 Days to Kickoff: Prairie Ridge

NBCSportsChicago.com 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 Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Prairie Ridge

Head coach: Chris Schremp

Assistant coaches: Joe Terhaar (offensive coordinator), Andy Peterson (defensive coordinator), Ryan O'Neill, Nick Margiotta, Edward Smith, John Caldarella, Evan Kozlowski, Matt Dunker and Andy Orgler

How they fared in 2018: 8-3 (6-2 Fox Valley Conference). Prairie Ridge made the Class 6A state playoff field, defeated Hinsdale South and then lost to Phillips in second round action.

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 30 @ Crystal Lake Central
Sept. 6 vs Hampshire
Sept. 13 @ Huntley
Sept. 20 vs Dundee-Crown
Sept. 27 @ McHenry
Oct. 4 vs Jacobs
Oct. 11 vs Burlington Central
Oct. 18 @ Cary-Grove 
Oct. 25 vs Crystal Lake South

[MORE: 71 Days to Kickoff - Crystal Lake Central] 

Biggest storyline: Coach Schremp and company are coming off a rare early exit from the postseason. Can the Wolves recapture the Fox Valley crown and make a deep run in the state playoffs in November?

Names to watch this season: QB Connor Lydon (Sr.), FB Carter Evans (Jr.) and OL Riley Smith (Sr.)

Biggest holes to fill: The Wolves welcome back an impressive 16 starters (eight offense, eight defense) but the overall numbers and depth can always be improved.
 
EDGY's Early Take: The Wolves were 8-3 last year but don't let that record fool you. All three losses were by one possession or less. This was a very young and talented team last fall. They're coming in hungry and have experience on their side. The offense is paced by senior QB Connor Lydon who operates the Wolves' power run-option attack. Senior WB Blake Brown is a name to watch along with junior Carter Evans (6-foot-4, 220 pounds), a converted TE to FB. The defense has speed and will return all three starters on the defensive line. If Prairie Ridge can catch a break or two in the health department, they have the makings of being a very tough out once the postseason rolls around.

Power Rankings #23 - Prairie Ridge

Power Rankings #23 - Prairie Ridge

NBCSportsChicago.com 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: Prairie Ridge

Head coach: Chris Schremp

Assistant coaches: Joe Terhaar, Andy Peterson, Ryan O'Neill, Nick Margiotta, John Caldarella, Evan Kozlowski, Matt Dunker and Andy Orgler

How they fared in 2017: 14-0 (8-0 Fox Valley Conference). Prairie Ridge made the Class 6A IHSA state playoff field and defeated Crystal lake Central, Cary-Grove, Willowbrook and Hoffman Estates. They advanced to the championship game against Nazareth Academy and defeated the Roadrunners to capture the state title.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 vs Crystal Lake Central

Aug. 31 @ Hampshire

Sept. 7 vs Huntley

Sept. 14 @ Dundee-Crown

Sept. 21 vs McHenry

Sept. 28 @ Jacobs

Oct. 5 @ Waubonsie Valley

Oct. 12 vs Cary-Grove

Oct. 19 @ Crystal Lake South

[MORE: 47 Days To Kickoff - Huntley]

Biggest storyline: Can the Wolves continue their astonishing winning streak in the Fox Valley Conference? Is a state title three-peat in the cards?

Names to watch this season: FB Jackson Willis and LB Drew Fryer

Biggest holes to fill: The back-to-back state champion Wolves need to replace, undoubtedly, their best ever graduated senior class. The 2017 group included QB Samson Evans (Iowa) and OL Jeff Jenkins (Iowa).

EDGY's Early Take: While it's true that Superman (Samson Evans) has left the building, the Wolves still have plenty of talent on board to be a Fox Valley Conference and 6A state title contender. Prairie Ridge welcomes back nine returning starters (five offense, four defense). All eyes will be on junior QB Connor Lydon. He will be given the reins of the Wolves’ power option offense this season.