Geneva (13-1) at St. Charles East (8-3)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. today.
Last year: Geneva 37, St. Charles East 7.
Outlook: This was a Week 2 contest last season for these teams, who in 2010 will be Upstate Eight Conference mates. In Geneva's win over the Saints last season, which made the Vikings 2-0 at the time, Michael Ratay ran for 143 yards and Sean Grady scored on 2 interception returns, one a 77-yard jaunt and the second a 100-yard sprint out of the end zone. Both of those stars graduated from the Class 7A state runner-up, though returning safety Mike Santacaterina also picked off a pass in that game. While Santacaterina is joined by Vikings all-state hopeful defensive tackle Frank Boenzi, linebacker Bret Shannon and Nolan Block as returning defensive starters, quarterback Brandon Beitzel is the sole returning starter on the offensive side for Geneva. Beitzel completed 108 of 194 passes last season for 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Geneva coach Rob Wicinski said keys are getting an all-new offensive line together, identifying perimeter playmakers and, naturally, picking up the slack from Ratay. "I need a three-headed monster back there - maybe a four-headed monster - to replace what he did," Wicinski said. Part of what Geneva did was done by first-year St. Charles East coach Mike Fields. Wicinski's first hire, Fields spent the past 10 years at Geneva, the first three on the varsity before helping teach the lower levels. Like Wicinski, Fields is looking to fill the big shoes of a Class 7A all-state running back, Wes Allen, whose 1,929 yards and 30 touchdowns on the ground trailed only Ratay in Kane County. Thus, it may be ground game by committee as the Saints figure out who among Cory Campbell, Andrew Gomez, Zach Zajicek, Cooper Jones and perhaps starting safety Matt Payne can get positive yardage. Plus, quarterback Nolan Possley will be getting up to speed after spending his junior season at receiver. All of the above should receive an adequate cushion, as the Saints' starting line averages upwards of 270 pounds. And the defense should be solid with returnees Payne, middle linebacker Bucaro, lineman Jess Stiedl and the downright menacing tackle, Jon Voytilla. Win or lose, Fields said his first game coaching against his former boss Wicinski will be an emotional event. "I'm not going to lie," Fields said. "That's going to be tough looking across the field and seeing my buddy standing there."
Next week: Morgan Park at Geneva, Sept. 4; St. Charles E. at Naperville North, Sept. 4.
St. Charles North (6-4) at Batavia (6-4)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. today.
Last year: Didn't play
Outlook: As Al Pacino might say: Hoo-ahh! This is the first meeting between these teams, one long in the tooth (Batavia), the other a relative newcomer. "Our kids don't talk about it," said St. Charles North coach Mark Gould, "but I think there's going to be a bragging-rights thing to it. And, (Batavia is) coming into the (Upstate Eight) conference next year." So let the fray begin, and let it begin as an anticipated defensive battle since Batavia lost the bulk of its 2008 offensive stalwarts and St. Charles North is expected to be lacking running back Jordan Huxtable (ankle), who ran for 892 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. The North Stars enter this game a little more experienced on the offensive side, where guard Matt Mautone (6-4, 275) and tackle Ryan Brown (6-7, 260) hold sway on the right side. Quarterback Connor McShane outlasted two juniors in a lengthy competition for the position. North's defense figures to be very strong up the middle. Nose tackle Josh Peters (6-0, 260), middle linebacker J.J. Weaver and two other linebackers, Ben Dvorak and Dom Imbordino, return from a unit that allowed an average of 240.1 yards last year. It would have been awesome seeing them against Batavia's 2008 offense that averaged 451 yards per contest, but as stated above, they graduated. The Bulldogs will turn to coach Mike Gaspari's own son, sophomore quarterback Noel, to lead them to another successful season, with the familiar name of Kabba (Emund, not Bai) running the ball. The offense line is varsity-green, but when you've got senior Pat Martin (6-5, 280) at one tackle and junior Jeff Hartzell (6-4, 310) on the other it's not a bad start. As with St. Charles North, the Bulldogs should bark defensively with a trio of three-year starters at linebacker - Piotr "Pete" Koczmara, Mike Greco and Ian Powers - and defensive tackle Alec Lyons, who started as a freshman. This game begins Mike Gaspari's 25th season coaching Batavia. "It's been a long time though it seems like the blink of an eye," he said.
Next week: McHenry at St. Charles North, Sept. 4; Batavia at West Chicago, Sept. 4.
Burlington Central (2-7) at Kaneland (5-5)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. today
Last year: Kaneland 31, Burlington Central 7.
Outlook: Kaneland opened the 2008 season with its fourth straight victory over Burlington Central. While we don't like to get too crazy with predictions, we're going to say Kaneland takes the fifth. That's based on the Knights returning most of their talent from last year's playoff team, particularly junior quarterback Joe Camiliere, who in last year's opener completed 17 of 25 passes for 228 yards with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Andrews and a 29-yard scoring strike to Blake Serpa, who also return. What's more, returning two-way starter Ryley Bailey had two interceptions at the expense of Burlington Central quarterback Tim Maroder, who comes back for the Rockets. The good times shouldn't stop at the skill positions for Kaneland. They return offensive linemen Brett Ketza (5-10, 220) and Eric Dratnol (6-0, 230) and seven of 11 positions on defense. Headed by returning Western Sun Conference all-conference defensive tackle (as a sophomore) Jimmy Boyle, it's a group that should be prepared to defend Burlington's offense, which has morphed over the years from a Wing-T approach heavy on the ground game to a shot-gun spread, though Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly recalls the Rockets still running the ball steadily out of that spread set. Regardless of the last four seasons of football openers, Fedderly won't be taking Burlington Central lightly. "Burlington is a big rivalry game for us, so it's going to be a big game," he said. "I've got a lot of respect for them, and we play them in every sport. We're 15 minutes apart, so it should be a good crowd and a real good atmosphere."
Next week: Sycamore at Burlington C., Sept. 4; Huntley at Kaneland, Sept. 4.
West Aurora (3-6) at East Aurora (2-7)
Game time: 7:30 p.m. today.
Last year: West Aurora 46, East Aurora 0.
Outlook: This crosstown rivalry began in 1892, but recently it hasn't been as pretty as it's been long. West Aurora has won the last eight contests against its former Upstate Eight mate, not allowing more than 6 points in any one game since East Aurora beat the Blackhawks 26-23 in 2000. Last season West's 40-0 halftime lead ensured a running clock for the entirety of the second half. Many of the principals in that one return tonight to East Aurora. Blackhawks senior running back Leon Spears, who gained 622 yards as a junior, had 6 carries for 48 yards and 2 of his 5 touchdown runs on the 2008 season. Playing his first varsity game, 6-foot-3 receiver Aviance King scored on a 33-yard touchdown catch on a pass from backup quarterback Malcohm Wood - this year's starter. After last year's game, West Aurora coach Buck Drach stated his belief that his club "wore down" the Tomcats, who gained 6 first downs and ran for 24 yards on 26 carries. There's a chance the same could occur. Although West returns only linebacker Tony Ellison on defense several offensive linemen come back. And they're big, averagine 263 pounds tackle to tackle. On the scale they're topped by right tackle Mike Kim (6-5, 310); as experience goes, left tackle Matt Gorges (6-5, 260) leads the way. They're ready to get after it. "We're like everybody else," Drach said. "We're tired of hitting each other."
DuSable (8-1) at Aurora Christian (13-1)
Game time: 7:15 p.m. today.
Last year: Didn't play.
Outlook: Aurora Christian had to scramble when upon entering the new Suburban Christian Conference it was scheduled to face Driscoll with the opener. Driscoll's closing eliminated that, so the Eagles arranged to play this team out of the Chicago Public League's Second City Conference. DuSable went 8-1 last year playing in the non-playoff-eligible CPL Small-South division last year, working the passing game often and effectively. Because Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe got neither a scout tape nor the new DuSable coach's name, "We've got no idea what they're going to throw at us," he said. Last year the Eagles opened up with a 22-12 win over new SCC Gold division rival (and Class 2A champ) Immaculate Conception on their way to the Class 4A state championship game. Most of the names have changed since then - except for Roberts, with sophomore Grayson taking over at quarterback for graduated record-setter Jordan - but at least Beebe knows what his club will throw at DuSable. Speed, speed and more speed. Donald Patterson opens up with a 4.59 time in the 40, and last year he ran for 206 yards, not bad for a backup. Receiver Sheldon Magee is another 4.6 type, and was in competition with Grayson Roberts for the quarterback spot, which would have offered a different look but taken another top athlete off the field. Aurora Christian is in good stead on the offensive line with returners Matt Wilger, David Benson and Dean Griffing back and Dylan Smith at tight end, but return only Smith on defense. "We're going to have a lot of guys that can go both ways, so we've got to be in great shape," Beebe said.
Next week: DuSable at Bogan, Sept. 5; Mendota at Aurora Christian, Sept. 4.
Genoa (8-3) at Aurora Central (0-9)
Game time: 7:15 p.m. today.
Last year: Didn't play.
Outlook: A good test faces Aurora Central, which lost its 2008 opener to Mendota 28-20, the closest margin on the year. Genoa, the 1977 Class 1A champion, laid dormant for more than a decade before coach Bill McCarty led them to consecutive 8-3 records the past two seasons. ACC coach Mike Curry expects junior quarterback Craig Billington to head the Cogs' offense, which last season operated in a spread formation. Another junior, Sean McIntyre, played defensive end for the Cogs as a sophomore in McCarty's 50 defense. It's a defense that may have to rely on speed to surmount ACC's bulk. The Chargers boast a solid 248-pound average on the offensive line, paced by tackles Adam Blake (6-1, 271) and Mario Alanis (6-4, 248) - and have a perfectly sized tight end in junior Kent Brauweiler (6-3, 244). Curry is highly impressed with the leadership, work ethic and toughness of returning starters, brothers Andrew and Tyler Scott. Andrew Scott was the second-leading rusher on the Chargers, to graduated quarterback Mike Adams, but with only 60 yards on 19 carries. So, while Curry returns a multitude of people the skilled spots are somewhat thin.
Marmion (3-6) at South Elgin (3-6)
Game time: 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Last year: Marmion 33, South Elgin 7.
Outlook: Marmion has gone 3-0 thus far against South Elgin, but Upstate Eight Conference types believe veteran coach Dale Schabert's team is on the verge of a turnaround. He returns both his top running backs from last season, Trevor Hansley and Brad Birchfield, has a college prospect in 6-foot-4 reciever Jake Kumerow, and also returns third-year starter Sean Kolber at middle linebacker. Helped mightily by a junior class that has gone 16-2 on the lower levels, this unit should not allow the average 212 yards rushing it did last season. That was a big perk in Marmion's win last year over the Storm; returning fullback Bobby Winkel ran for 128 of his 389 yard on the season in the opener against South Elgin. Cadets coach Dan Thorpe will see if both Winkel and returning back Matt Pircon (528 yards in 2008) can recreate the magic that saw them both reach the end zone in Marmion's first home game under permanent lights. Most of Marmion's returning experience, aside from its quality offensive backfield, exists on defense, headed by linebackers Winkel and T.J. Lally. Mistakes hindered the Cadets' success last season, and the opener was no exception: 13 penalties for 130 yards. If that's cured, perhaps the scoreboard will light up. "We're excited offensively," Thorpe said.
Next week: Mundelein at Marmion, Sept. 4; South Elgin at Vernon Hills, Sept. 4