School: Al Raby
Head coach: D'Angelo Dereef
Assistant Coaches: Jordan Dornbush, Eric Harris and Warren Agnew
How they fared in 2017: 11-2 (4-1 CPL Illini Land of Lincoln Conference). Raby made the Class 4A state football playoff field. The Raiders defeated Rock Island Alleman, Richmond-Burton and Dixon before losing to Morris in the semifinal round.
2018 Regular Season Schedule:
Aug. 24 @ Niles North
Sept. 1 vs UP Englewood at Lane Stadium
Sept. 8 vs Curie at Lane Stadium
Sept. 14 @ Lane Tech
Sept. 22 @ Westinghouse
Sept. 29 @ Simeon
Oct. 6 vs Morgan Park @ Lane Stadium
Oct. 12 @ Lincoln Park
Oct. 19 vs Phillips @ Lane Stadium
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Biggest storyline: Can the Raiders make another deep run in the state playoffs in 2018?
Names to watch this season: DB Romel Goston and WR/S Marshon Foster
Biggest holes to fill: The Raiders and head coach D'Angelo Dereef welcome back 18 returning starters from last year's semifinal team. They have a deep, talented team but more depth is always needed to make a deep run in the state playoffs.
EDGY's Early Take: Al Raby was another terrific story out of the Chicago Public League in 2017, as they made a solid run in the post-season. The Raiders of 2018 will feature a deep roster including senior DB Romel Goston (NIU commit) and WR/S Marshon Foster (Western Michigan commit). Look for the Raiders to be in the 4A state title talk once again; however, a move over to the CPL Illini Heartland conference this fall will bring a much tougher regular season slate.
The Bears weren’t the only area football team to have a successful weekend bringing in talent.
Northern Illinois University and head coach Rod Carey saw a big spike over the weekend in the Huskies’ Class of 2019 in-state recruiting efforts.
NIU was able to add four new verbal commitments this past weekend in Solorio junior wide receiver Messiah Travis (5-foot-10, 170 pounds), Raby junior defensive back Romel Goston (6-foot-1, 170 pounds), Buffalo Grove junior tight end Tom Trieb (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) and Kenwood junior cornerback Mark Aitken (5-foot-9, 175 pounds).
"I like a lot of what NIU has to offer," Messiah said. "Getting to play and go to school close to home at NIU was really important to me. I'm really close with my family. It will allow my mom and my dad to come and see me play in college. NIU also recruited me really hard right out of the gates and NIU was my first offer. NIU really made me feel wanted and like I was needed there."
NIU was able to find early recruiting success a year ago when Carey and his staff decided to extend verbal scholarship offers much earlier in the recruiting process compared to previous years.
Three of the latest Chicagoland pledges (Messiah Travis, Romel Goston and Mark Aitken) play together on the HEROH 7-on-7 team based on the South Side. Those connections played a big part in Aitken's decision process.
"We have a really strong connection both mentally and emotionally," according to Aitken. "I feel like we can just make each other better at NIU and also keep each other on the right track. It was definitely a part of my decision to commit to NIU."
NIU now has five known verbal commitments in the Class of 2019. That list includes Detroit’s Martin Luther King High School junior wide receiver Jalen McGaughy (6-foot-3, 175 pounds).
This will mark the sixth full season for Carey leading the Huskies. He owns a 44-24 record during his time in DeKalb with five bowl appearances.
Don't look now, but we're just over three weeks away from crowning eight teams as football state champions in Illinois. And as we approach the end of the season, it's a good time to take stock of other individual awards. Prairie Ridge's Chris Schremp already claimed a title. The IHSA named him "2016-2017 Football Coach of the Year" this week. The award recognizes success on the field and positive work with athletes.
What other Chicagoland IHSA football coaches are worthy of awards this season? Obviously, every team in the IHSA state playoff field can make a strong case for their coach. While we still have a few more weeks of IHSA football left to play, here are some more under-the-radar head coaches for award consideration:
Minooka's Terry McCombs: There were few people (if any) around the Minooka Indians football that had any idea that McCombs, an IHSFCA Hall of Fame coach, would become the program's leader going into this season. McCombs, in his 49th season coaching IHSA football, is a district resident who decided to throw his hat into the ring when the Minooka job opened up. McCombs landed the job and immediately went to work winning over the kids left from a 4-5 team in 2016. Community support quickly followed. Minooka (8-2) travels to take on Barrington this Friday.
Hope Academy's Matt Kelly: His Eagles (8-2) have been a consistent winner and are back in the Class 2A playoffs. Yet Kelly needs to be mentioned here for having to deal with several issues away from the field including having two opponents (St. Francis and Bishop McNamara) decide to forfeit games against Hope. Both schools cited "safety concerns" after an early season shooting incident in the neighborhood surrounding Altgeld Park, the Eagles home field. Kelly, along with the Hope Academy administration, have handled the situation about as well as they could handle it. The Eagles have remained focused at the task at hand.
Raby's D'Angelo Dereef: The Raiders are back in the IHSA state playoffs and have a chance to keep making noise in the 2A field. Raby took some lumps in 2016, posting a 2-7 record. This season, the Raiders have played several underclassmen who are major contributors. The Raiders will hit the road this Saturday and take on Richmond-Burton (7-3).
[MORE: Edgy Tim's Week 11 Power Rankings]
Buffalo Grove's Jeff Vik: The Bison (9-1) have also been able to turn their fortunes around. They went 3-6 in 2016 and the program only cobbled together two winning seasons from 2002 until this fall. Buffalo Grove, who just played in its first IHSA state playoff game in 13 years (a win over Belleville West), will travel this Saturday to take on East St. Louis (8-2). Best part of all for Bison football? They have a nice core of underclassmen starters and could potentially make a return playoff visit in 2018.
Wheaton North's Joe Wardynski: The Falcons (8-2) under Wardynski play old-school football, meaning they will run the football early and often. Then, they suffocate teams with a quick and physical defense. Wardynski, who took the Falcons to the IHSA playoffs in his first six seasons, missed out on the playoffs from 2014-2016. That all changed this year. Any school that survives the 2017 DuPage Valley Conference schedule is a dangerous team to watch from here on out. Wheaton North travels to Batavia (9-1) on Saturday in Class 7A.
Other worthy candidates to consider:
Bryant McNulty - Warren Township
Joe Pardun - Hersey
Nick Nildreth - Willowbrook
Tim Heyse - Hoffman Estates
Morgan Weaver - Hillcrest
Terrell Alexander - Rich Central
Apostolos Tsiamas - Peotone
Mike Barry - Hinsdale South