Scouting Week 1 Lake County football games

Stevenson at Maine South

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Previous matchup: Maine South 41, Stevenson 10 (at Stevenson 2021)

About Stevenson: Patriots coach Brent Becker has watched the efforts of his players in the offseason pay off thus far in preseason practices. “I am proud of the work our kids have put in this offseason, summer and through fall camp,” he said. “Our leaders have done a great job setting expectations and holding each other accountable.” Becker, whose squad has 13 returning starters, said to watch for the likes of Colin Schultz, quarterback Matt Projansky and Ethan Aghakhan in the opener in Park Ridge.

About Maine South: “Maine South is obviously one of the best programs in the state year in and year out,” Becker said. “We will have to play our best football, execute and limit mistakes.” Maine South, the defending 8A runners up, lost a lot to graduation, but will still have seven returning starters, including wide receivers Evan Agosto and Ryan Pothast. The Hawks will have a pair of key newcomers in quarterback Ryan Leyden and wide receiver Maurice Densmore, who transferred in from Homewood-Flossmoor.

Fremd at Lake Zurich

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Previous matchup: Lake Zurich 21, Fremd 9 (at Fremd 2021)

About Fremd: One of the area's longest opening night rivalries continues this season. Fremd and Lake Zurich have met 13 previous times with Lake Zurich leading the series 9-4. Fremd comes in after a tough 1-8 campaign last year. The Vikings do have 10 starting positions back including Caiden Suchy at quarterback. “Fremd is a program rich with tradition,” Lake Zurich coach Ron Planz said. “They are usually one of the top teams in the MSL. I know their coaches will have them prepared and ready to play on Friday. For us to be successful we need to make sure we are sound in all three phases of the game and maximize chances we have to score.”

About Lake Zurich: North Dakota commit Tyler Erkman “is poised to have an all-state kind of a year,” Planz said. “He has put in a lot of work this offseason and I couldn't be more excited to see how his senior year turns out. He is a very explosive player.” Planz said Jim Strojny is ready to roll after battling knee injuries the last two years. “I am really excited for Jim,” he said. “He has never quit and fought back every time. I am excited to see him take the field. He will play right tackle for us, so he won't make the box score, but his perseverance is inspirational to his teammates and coaches.” Lake Zurich is in good shape on special teams with kicker Danny Vuckovic. “Danny has a monster leg,” Planz said. “He is going to really benefit us with field position and give us a chance to score points once we cross the 50.” Lake Zurich has 8 starters back on defense. “It has been great to see the senior leadership grow,” Planz said. “It started in the offseason weight room and continued through our summer practices. This senior class has been through a lot, but they keep showing up every day and putting in the work.”

Barrington at Warren

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Previous matchup: Warren 19, Barrington 0 (at Barrington 2021)

About Barrington: The Broncos are coming off a 5-5 campaign a year ago and a third-place finish in the Mid-Suburban West where the top two teams (Palatine and Hoffman Estates) went into the second round of the state playoffs. “Barrington is always a tough opponent that is well-coached, plays extremely hard and is fundamentally sound,” Warren coach Bryan McNulty said. “We will have to match their intensity, take care of the football and execute the basics of blocking and tackling.”

About Warren: McNulty has noticed a close bond with this 2022 group. “Our biggest progression has come in the form of togetherness,” he explained. “Our kids are close and care for each other on and off the field.” Look for a pair of three-year starters in Kole Weinberg and Justin Kretz (two-way player) to be squarely in the fray for the Blue Devils Friday. McNulty also said to keep an eye on Jaden Turner. “Jaden is a little-known player with a big upside,” he said.

Libertyville at Lemont

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

About Libertyville: Running back Charlie True figures to be active in this nonconference matchup. “Charlie must touch the ball a good amount of the time for us to be successful,” Libertyville coach Mike Jones said. Wide receiver Kristian Gavric, Jones noted, has the ability to make explosive plays, “which we will need,” he added. Defensive lineman Cole Matulenko also will be key for the Wildcats in the opener. “Kristian has the ability to make some explosive plays, which we will need,” Jones said. Jones said things are rounding into form since the summer. “We are beginning to find out what our identity is for this team,” he said. “This progression has started in the summer and has continued in August.”

About Lemont: Libertyville switches gears in Week 1 this year and will head south to Lemont after having Carmel on the schedule last season. Lemont, out of the South Suburban Blue, went 11-1 a year ago. “Lemont is a quality team and program,” Jones said. “They are physical and fast. We must run the ball effectively and be efficient in the pass game. Defensively, tackling will be at a premium and we must minimize the big plays.”

Antioch at Carmel

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

About Antioch: A new matchup on the schedule for the Sequoits this year. Antioch opened last year against Catholic Memorial out of Waukesha, Wisconsin. Antioch coach Brian Glashagel said offensive line play has taken leaps and bounds forward already. “I love the progress of our offensive line,” he said. “You see it daily. We are getting better with every snap and the confidence is growing with that group.” Tight end and outside linebacker Joey Neumann (Division I commit at South Dakota State) will bring it on both sides of the ball, while running back Nick Day ran for more than 800 yards as a sophomore and “has had a great offseason and camp,” Glashagel said. “He's in better shape and has a year of experience under his belt.” Ethan Kolloff plays defensive end and inside linebacker and is also getting reps in on the offensive line. “Ethan is a playmaker and was a starter for us a year ago,” Glashagel pointed out.

About Carmel: “Going to Carmel Week 1 is no easy task,” Glashagel said. “We expect a tight playoff game decided by turnovers, penalties and big plays.”

Grant at Mundelein

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Previous matchup: Mundelein 15, Grant 6 (at Grant, 2021)

About Grant: Key newcomers for the Bulldogs, under the direction of new coach Tim Norwood, include junior free safety-tailback Pryde Mendoza, senior corner Ethan Strutzel and senior linebacker Lance Gallagher. “Grant is going to be a hard-nosed football team and will come out very motivated under coach Norwood,” Mundelein coach Vince DeFrancesco said. “For us to be successful, we will need to take care of the football and play with great team effort.”

About Mundelein: DeFrancesco said the progress that was made a year ago has continued this offseason. “We are excited about our team culture this season,” he said. “We picked up where we left off last season and have carried that momentum through the off-season and into the start of this season. We have seen a large increase in participation, which has really helped build depth throughout the program.” Marcel Siepko, a two-way player is in his third varsity season. “Marcel is a big part of what we do on both sides of the ball,” DeFrancesco said. Julian Rivas is another returning starter “and impact player on the defensive side of the ball,” the coach added. “He has a great motor and is someone who could impact the game in a variety of ways.” DeFrancesco also lauded the improvement of returning starter Brandon Hansen. “Brandon has worked relentlessly this offseason and is a leader of our program,” he said. “We are excited for him and the development he has made over the last nine months.”

Chicago Hubbard at Grayslake Central

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Previous matchup: Grayslake Central 66, Chicago Hubbard 38

About Chicago Hubbard: “Hubbard competes in one of the toughest conferences in the city of Chicago,” Grayslake Central coach Mike Maloney said. “Coach Boelter does a fine job of preparing his units year in and year out. Last year's game was evidence that speed is the great equalizer in the game of football. We will have to ratchet up our special teams execution, especially on the coverage squads if we are going to beat the Greyhounds. Our young men must be disciplined and focused in their assignment. Clean execution and limiting self-induced damage in the form of penalties and turnovers will be the key to victory.”

About Grayslake Central: Maloney said team tackling has been a big headline in camp thus far. “The desire for the second and third guy to get to the ball carrier, cleaning up the play or taking the ball away has improved a ton,” he said. Depth is another improvement area, “and most significantly on the line of scrimmage,” Maloney added. “We'll enter Week 1 with 7 defensive linemen and 8 offensive linemen who the coaching staff has confidence will get their job done.” Maloney also likes where the special teams unit is at. “Coach Reggie McClure Jr. has taken our individual skill development and progression specific to special teams to another level. I feel technically, our kids have a higher capacity for performance in that aspect of the game than Week 1 last year.” Three familiar names for the Rams are Matty Jens, Kaiden Miller and Jaydin Kante — three names opposing teams would likely prefer not be on the roster. “Matty is our physical and vocal leader on defense,” Maloney said. “He has strong ball carriers, plays low and behind his shoulder pads. He loves to churn out yards after first contact. Kaiden is an explosive and versatile athlete who is always dangerous with the ball in his hands. He could be a major factor in the return game in Week 1 Jaydin is a returning starter at nose guard and can play any of the five positions on the offensive line. He is a violent and athletic blocker and tackler and a fun player to watch. He also has excellent hang time as a punter.”

Grayslake North at Vernon Hills

When: Friday, 6 p.m.

Previous matchup: Vernon Hills 21, Grayslake North 14 (at Grayslake North 2021)

About Grayslake North: This season-opening matchup was decided by a single TD a year ago. “Vernon Hills is a top-tier program,” Knights coach Brian Johnson said. “They have a ton of experienced coaches. They have a big line, a big back and a big-time quarterback. Week 1 games are generally won by the team that makes the fewest mistakes. If we can limit their big plays and keep it close into the fourth quarter, we can be successful.” Offensive line play has been a bright spot thus far for North. “We like the progress our line has made,” Johnson said. “The transition to a new offense has gone swimmingly. There have been quite a few changes made in the program and coaching staff. We have seven new coaches and the players have really embraced them. We have really increased the competitiveness in practice and the players have seen how it benefits them and has made them better football players.” Johnson noted the 6 p.m. Friday start might be a good thing, given the two strong quarterbacks. “We feel really good with Jake Donohue, our three-year starter,” he said. “If we can protect him and give him some time, he can be dangerous. How he goes our team goes. It's a good thing we start early at 6 p.m., because I think there are going to be a lot of passes between both teams and it will be a long game. Carter Barenbaum (North cornerback) and Michael Jefferson (safety) will have a lot on their plates with their passing game and their speedy receivers. We anticipate some good matchups there.”

About Vernon Hills: “Grayslake North has a new coach, so we do not know what to expect,” Cougars coach Bill Bellecomo said. “I know Donohue the quarterback is a very good football player.” Bellecomo said big strides have been made since the summer. “We have a group that has really bonded this summer,” he said. “I think they are excited to get out on the field and play against another team. We have made some great strides and our receivers and quarterback have formed a nice bond this summer.” Bellecomo said quarterback Nolan Lazor had a “terrific” offseason. “I think he is really seeing the field and making sound decisions,” he said. Eric Boehmer will be a key cog at H-back and inside linebacker as the leader of the Vernon Hills defense, while Ben Choi is back after rushing for 846 yards and 11 touchdowns a year ago. “He could be one of the better backs in Lake County,” Bellecomo said.

Lakes at Sterling

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Previous matchup: Sterling 31, Lakes 9 (At Lakes 2021)

About Lakes: It's Lakes' turn to get in the bus and make the trip west to start the season. “The biggest progression we have made so far is bringing energy to each play,” Lakes coach Jason Ellerman said. “We need to celebrate or pick each other up after each play, and the kids are doing that.” Lakes wideout-corner Tyson Dewy was applauded by Ellerman for his explosiveness with the ball in his hand, “and he has a high football IQ,” he said. Running back-linebacker Amir Al Hindi is a powerful runner who reads inside zone well, Ellerman said. “At linebacker he carries over his ability to read the offensive line on defense to find the ball carrier.” And look for big things from quarterback Max Bausch. “Max displays great leadership,” Ellerman noted. “He runs the offense efficiently with his ability to make proper decisions of reading the defense.”

About Sterling: Sterling, out of the Western Big 6 Conference, went 7-3 a year ago and made the playoffs. “Sterling is a good program that is returning some good players,” Ellerman said. “They run the ball well. We will need to tackle well and not make mental errors on defense. We will need to run the ball well to shorten the game and limit their possessions.”

Aurora Central Catholic at Wauconda

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

About ACC: A new matchup here for Wauconda after the Bulldogs opened last season against Proviso West at home. Aurora Central Catholic competes in the Metro Suburban Conference Blue Division and went 3-6 a year ago. “Aurora Central has a lot of starters returning this year, eight on defense and five on offense,” Wauconda coach Chris Prostka said. “This is the first time we are playing them and we are excited for the opportunity. We will need to take care of the factors we can control. We need to take care of the ball on offense and pursue/tackle as a team on defense. We need to play with great effort the entire game. We expect our returning varsity players to lead the way for our players who are new to the varsity.”

About Wauconda: Sophomore Liam Carney has earned a spot on the Wauconda offensive line. “Liam had a great summer and fall. He plays a hard-nosed, physical style of football,” Prostka said. Senior Jacob Norris moved from quarterback to wide receiver and outside linebacker this year. “We expect Jacob to be an impact player on both sides of the ball,” Prostka said. New coach Prostka said things are progressing nicely. “We feel great about our players' understanding of our schemes on offense, defense and special teams,” he said. “We have made some changes from last year in all phases and our players have picked up what we have taught.”

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.