St. Francis

86 Days to Kickoff: St. Francis

86 Days to Kickoff: St. Francis

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: St. Francis

Head coach: Bob McMillen

Assistant coaches: Doug DiFusco, Todd Howard, Ivan Milivojevic, Jared Culver-McGriff, Tivias Caldwell and Marques Stevenson

How they fared in 2018: 8-3 (4-2 Metro Suburban Blue Conference). St. Francis made the 2018 Class 4A state playoff field. They defeated Amundsen then lost to Boylan in second round action.

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 30 @ Argo
Sept. 6 @ Shepard
Sept. 13 vs Westmont
Sept. 20 vs Wheaton Academy 
Sept. 27 @ Bishop McNamara
Oct. 4 @ Aurora Christian
Oct. 11 @ Riverside-Brookfield
Oct. 18 vs IC Catholic Prep
Oct. 25 vs Aurora Central Catholic

Biggest storyline: St. Francis had a remarkable turnaround, going from 1-8 in 2017 to an eight win team the following year with a playoff spot. Can the Spartans make an even deeper state playoff run in 2019?

Names to watch this season: QB Tommy Rittenhouse (Jr.), OL Connor Schmidt (Sr.), LB Enzo Rendina (Sr.)

Biggest holes to fill: The Spartans will need to replace eight graduated starters on the defensive side of the football.

EDGY's Early Take: Outside of the second round loss to Rockford Boylan, the only remaining losses for the 2018 Spartans came to 4A state champion and runner up, IC Catholic Prep and Bishop McNamara, respectively. The St. Francis offense will be a strength going into the season for head coach Bob McMillen. They're led by junior QB Tommy Rittenhouse. If the Spartans can get their defense in order, they have a real shot being a top-ranked team in Class 4A this season.

Southern Illinois in-state recruiting class recap

Southern Illinois in-state recruiting class recap

EDGY's Salukis Grade: C+

Southern Illinois fared pretty well in Nick Hill's second recruiting class. The Salukis, no question, made the Southern Illinois area a top priority in this recruiting class, and have been strong in keeping kids within their own footprint. Southern Illinois was able to add seven in-state recruits to their 27-member signing class, along with two post-secondary level players who also call Illinois home. The position emphasis for Hill was upfront on both sides of the football. The Salukis inked eight defensive linemen and five offensive linemen, and also added depth to several spots.

Headliner of the in-state class? 

I really like a handful of players here, but both Edwardsville kids in offensive lineman Lucas Davis (6-foot-5, 285 pounds) and defensive lineman Tate Rujawitz (6-foot-4, 305 pounds) stand out from a very strong overall in-state class. Davis will need to add a bit more size and strength, but has a chance to become a long-term answer on the Salukis offensive line. Rujawitz played offensive line then converted over to defensive line last season. Southern Illinois has struggled at times up front on defense, and Rujawitz has the overall game to become a strong addition.

[RELATED: Northern Illinois in-state recruiting class recap]

The one who got away?

Leyden defensive back Jalen Moore (5-foot-10, 155 pounds). Moore, a speedster who also plays wide receiver, was verbally committed to Southern Illinois, but didn't clear admissions. Currently, Moore is verbally committed to NAIA St. Francis in Joliet.

Final thoughts on the Salukis recruiting efforts:

One of the better in-state hires over the past few years has been former Saluki standout Hill as the Southern Illinois head coach. The 31-year-old Hill was an immediate hit with the area fans and alumni, and was able to show some real positives and progress in his first season. Most importantly, the Southern Illinois community has once again become excited for football. 

No question, the Southern Illinois football program is in good hands and also trending up. The Class of 2017 undoubtedly adds some much-needed depth and is also a nice compliment to strong back-to-back recruiting classes for the Salukis.