Genoa-Kingston (6-4) at St. Edward (8-3)
When: 7 p.m. at Greg True Field
Last year: did not play
Outlook: St. Edward will play a new opponent in the season opener for the first time in 13 years. Hampshire, St. Edward's opening foe since 1998, opted out of the series because the Whip-Purs joined the Fox Valley Conference and needed the date in order to maintain their long-running rivalry with nearby Burlington Central. No matter, Genoa-Kingston is cut from the same tough, Big Northern Conference cloth. "I'm envisioning them a lot like Hampshire," St. Edward coach Mike Rolando said. "They have tough kids and they don't run anything too flashy. I'm looking for a hard-fought game." Genoa-Kingston has reached the playoffs four of the last five years. The Cogs open the season under new head coach Justin Frederick. He takes over for Bill McCarty, who remains on staff as offensive coordinator after seven seasons as head coach. St. Edward has made the playoffs two straight years. To make it three straight a nonconference win in the opener is key. "With the level of play we're going to face in our conference, we know this first game will be critical to the outcome of our season," Rolando said.
Next: St. Edward at Iroquois West; Genoa-Kingston at Peoria Manual
Burlington Central (3-6) at Hampshire (1-8)
When: today at 7:15 p.m. at Hampshire Athletic Field
Last year: Burlington Central 48, Hampshire 6
Outlook: What used to be a Big Northern Conference-East game is now a nonconference affair. Hampshire bolted the BNC-East for the Fox Valley Conference this fall, but the annual rivalry game between these Kane County neighbors remains intact. "Conference-wise that game isn't there anymore, but it's still a rivalry," said new Central coach Rich Crabel, previously the team's defensive coordinator. "I think playing each other in Game 1 is good." The Rockets had their way with their neighbors to the north last season and now hold a 25-16 lead in the all-time series. "They took us to the woodshed last year," said Hampshire coach Dan Cavanaugh, whose team has split the last six meetings with the Rockets. "It's a great rivalry and has been for years. There's so much history there. I'm glad it's still going. A lot of the guys know each other. They're a little bit of an unknown now with Rich Crabel coming in as the new head coach." The teams won't go into the season opener completely blind; the coaching staffs agreed to scout each other's scrimmages last weekend. Both teams will start junior quarterbacks: Kyle Anderson for Hampshire; Ryan Ritchey begins his second season under center for Central.
Next: Sycamore at Burlington Central; DeKalb at Hampshire
Joliet West (2-7) at Jacobs (6-4)
When: today at 7:15 p.m. at Jacobs Athletic Field
Last year: Jacobs 34, Joliet West 13
Outlook: The Golden Eagles overpowered the Tigers last year by rushing for 208 yards and throwing for another 101. They dominated time of possession in the first half by a 4-1 margin, and the defense kept Joliet West's big-play threats under wraps. Jacobs hopes to utilize the same formula in the home opener. "I think our guys relish the challenge of trying to stop them again," coach Bill Mitz said of the Tigers. "They had a lot of success last spring in track with some of their wide receivers on the 4x1 and 4x2 teams, so they've got some speed. (Coach) Jason (Aubry) is building on a couple of wins they had late last season and working with those kids. But we hope to send them back on a long bus ride." The Golden Eagles return 13 starters, including quarterback Jason Judson, 1,000-yard rusher Caz Zyks and talented fullback Kyle Wright, all seniors.
Next: Jacobs at Johnsburg; Plainfield South at Joliet West
Crystal Lake Central (8-3) at Huntley (4-5)
When: today at 7:15 at Huntley Athletic Field
Last meeting (2008): Huntley 21, Crystal Lake Central 14
Outlook: To win games in the Valley Division of the Fox Valley Conference, defenses have to stop the running game. Huntley, which returns starting corners James Davis and Frank Recchia and linebackers Josh Symbal and Jordan Hyatt, will be challenged by a CL Central team expected to compete for the title in the Fox Division of the FVC. "It's a great test for us because their style of football is definitely the most prevalent style in our conference," second-year Huntley coach Matt Gehrig said. "It's a very solid program that has had a lot of success. Their offense is run-oriented and predicated on being physical and playing with leverage. This game will be a good indicator for us as to how well we'll match up with the teams in the Valley." Huntley's Davis, a two-time state track qualifier in sprints, and Ethan Connor give the Red Raiders speed at the tailback position.
Next: Huntley at Kaneland; Crystal Lake South at Crystal Lake Central
Larkin (3-6) at McHenry (1-8)
When: today at 7:15 at McCracken Field
Last year: Larkin 35, McHenry 21
Outlook: This matchup sets up as another passing duel between quarterbacks Kyle Newquist of Larkin and Robert Tonyan of McHenry. Newquist, who enters his third varsity season, won the battle last year by throwing for 302 yards and 2 touchdowns and running for another score. Tonyan, working out of the spread, completed 25-of-37 passes for 261 yards and 2 touchdowns, but he was intercepted for a touchdown by Larkin's Shaquille Mosley. Mosley moves to receiver this season to become Newquist's primary target, replacing all-state receiver Trevor Whitehead. "I know that coaching staff over there will have those kids prepared," Larkin coach Mike Scianna said. "They had a rough year last year, but we're not taking them lightly. Their whole town will turn out for that game. We're going in with the mentality that everyone's against us except for the 34 players who walk on that field. It's us against the world."
Next: Larkin at West Chicago; McHenry at Marian Central
Cary-Grove (8-4) at St. Charles East (3-6)
When: today at 7:30 p.m. at Norris Stadium
Last meeting (2008): Cary-Grove 10, St. Charles East 7
Outlook: These two programs meet for the first time since the 2008 playoffs, when Cary-Grove ended the Saints season in the second round. The Trojans have a new head coach in Brad Seaburg, but little else is new. Ten starters return to a fast defense and the entire starting backfield returns to operate a triple option attack that averaged 29 points per game last year. St. Charles East lost its top two quarterbacks to injury early in the 2010 season and struggled offensively throughout. Third-year coach Mike Fields has Dean Bowen back at quarterback with third-string QB Jake Manzake returning to his natural position of receiver. All-Upstate Eight River linebacker Joe Hoscheit returns to lead St. Charles East's 4-3 defense, which is traditionally stout. "Our schedule challenges us right from the start with St. Charles East and then Lake Zurich," Seaburg said. "They're both good programs, but we play good teams all season week in, week out."
Next: Cary-Grove at Lake Zurich; St. Charles East at West Aurora
Dundee-Crown (0-9) at Elgin (6-4)
When: today at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Field
Last year: Elgin 41, Dundee-Crown 12
Outlook: The result of this game in 2010 foreshadowed each team's fortunes. Elgin gained confidence from the big win and went on to earn its first playoff berth since 2002. D-C lost the game and spiraled on its way to a winless season that extended its overall losing streak to 17. A coaching change was made as a result. Vito Andriola takes over the Chargers and hopes to point them in the right direction beginning tonight. "I'm very excited to see what happens," Andriola said of the opener. "It's been a different attitude around here for the last seven weeks. I know Elgin has some speed and they are well coached. And they've got that (Dennis) Moore kid. Hopefully, we can defend them and get our stuff going." Moore, a returning all-UEC River safety, will also become Elgin's primary ball carrier this season after splitting carries last season. Elgin has to prepare for the gamut considering D-C has a new coach. "You really don't know what they'll run with a new coach," Elgin's Dave Bierman said, "but first games are always that way. Look at us; year to year we change based on our personnel. It usually comes down to who makes the best adjustments at halftime."
Next: Streamwood at Dundee-Crown; Elgin at Bartlett
Hoffman Estates (1-8) at Streamwood (2-7)
When: today at 7:30 p.m. at Millennium Field
Last year: did not play
Outlook: A new series begins between two programs hoping to enjoy breakout seasons. Streamwood is two-deep at nearly every position and returns more talent at the skill positions than at any time in sixth-year coach Cal Cummins' tenure. The offense is keyed by senior running back Alex Morrow, a runner gifted with a combination of power, breakaway speed and tremendous balance. He rushed for almost 800 yards last season in just over 5 games before an injury ended his season. "He has a lot of things going for him," Cummins said of Morrow. "He really worked hard in the weight room and his strength has really blossomed. That helps everything from agility to explosion to balance." The Sabres also have skill in returning lefty quarterback Dalton Lundeen and junior speedster Blake Holder at receiver. Hoffman Estates quarterback Jordan Hudak will operate coach Bill Helzer's triple option offense.
Next: Streamwood at Dundee-Crown; Hoffman Estates at Hersey
Bartlett (8-3) at Wheaton North (8-3)
When: today at 7:30 at Rexilius Field
Last year: first meeting
Outlook: A new series begins between two well-respected postseason regulars, each coming off an 8-3 season and a second-round playoff appearance. Bartlett, which returns Air Force-bound third-year quarterback AJ Bilyeu and a pair of returning all-Upstate Eight Valley inside linebackers in senior Mike Partyka and junior Kevin Kirchhoff, opens the season ranked No. 9 in the Daily Herald Top 20. Wheaton North is No. 16. Falcons quarterback John Peltz takes over for the graduated Reece Butler. He can target receiver Johnny Daniels, who has an offer from Ball State. "They usually have a pretty good team so it'll be a good test for us right off the bat," Bartlett coach Tom Meaney said. "We're just excited to get out on the field. I think these guys are looking forward to getting started."
Next: Elgin at Bartlett; Wheaton North at Geneva
South Elgin (7-4) at Downers Grove South (7-3)
When: today at 7:30 p.m.
Last: First meeting
Outlook: South Elgin will be the first opponent to face the Mustangs on their brand-new turf field. The artificial fields at both Downers Grove South and DG North have been under construction since May. This game was nearly moved to Hinsdale, but the Downers Grove South administration announced midweek the school would indeed be able to host as scheduled. Good footing could benefit the Storm, a team that intends to run the ball often behind what promises to be the best offensive line the school has produced in six seasons of varsity competition. Returning all-UEC Valley senior linemen Jonathan Slania (6-2, 275) and Christian Guerrero (6-4, 285) headline a massive, athletic front line. They'll pave the way for hard-running tailback Adolfo Pacheco and nimble senior quarterback Zach Gross, a state track qualifier. The Mustangs return three-year starter Josh Williams for his senior season at tailback. He rushed for over 1,000 yards last year for coach John Belskis. "He's a pretty phenomenal athlete," South Elgin coach Dale Schabert said of Williams. "He reminds me a lot of our runner, Pacheco. They both run mad. They don't want to just run the ball, they want to run the ball at you with great enthusiasm. And looking at their roster they've got most of their defense back. That can carry you early in the season." The DGS defense returns seven starters from a team that made the playoffs for the 15th consecutive season. South Elgin returns two defensive starters from a team that made the playoffs for the second straight season.
Next: South Elgin at Metamora; Downers Grove South at Lyons
Crystal Lake South (11-1) at Thornridge (5-5)
When: Saturday at 1 p.m.
Last: first meeting
Outlook: How did the Gators end up scheduling their season opener in Dolton? Simple, they needed an opponent the Falcons were willing to play them when no one else stepped forward. "We were having trouble getting a game and they were a Class 6A playoff team willing to play us," CL South coach Chuck Ahsmann explained. "It's great for us and it's great for them. We both get to see a team we wouldn't otherwise play." The matinee will feature CL South's new quarterback, junior Brendan Chrystal, who started in the defensive secondary as a sophomore. The Gators, who begin the season ranked No. 8 in Class 7A, return the bulk of their starters from a defense that swept to the FVC Valley title a year ago. Senior Brad Walovitch returns at kicker. His leg can make a difference in close games.
Next: Crystal Lake South at Crystal Lake Central; Thornridge at Lincoln-Way Central