Scouting the DuPage Valley

Naperville Central

2022 record: 7-4, 4-2 in the DVC

Coach: Mike Ulreich

Worth noting: The Redhawks were hit hard by graduation after falling in the second round of the 8A playoffs to Loyola last year. But Central looks to build a solid defense around end Maverick Ohle (6-2, 230), free safety Ryan Spickerman and inside linebacker Charlie Eagan. Some talented skilled players have moved on from the offense, but senior running back Tyler Dodd is back and will get a boost from returning offensive linemen John Penny (RG, 6-3, 260) and center Duncan Foley (6-0, 280). Senior Chris McCormack and junior Jack Cook are battling for the starting quarterback job and both have had strong offseasons. "We take a lot of pride in the physicality of our conference and the quality of play that prepares you for the postseason," Ulreich said, "And for us with a young inexperienced team, we really try to simplify it. It's about pad level and it's about physicality. And it's about protecting the football, find a way get the ball back and just trying to find those small little winning edges that make a difference in a really good competitive conference." The Redhawks open with a home contest against Hinsdale Central on Aug. 26.

Metea Valley

2022 record: 3-6, 2-4 in the DVC

Coach: John Parpet

Worth noting: The Mustangs made great strides last fall and played much better than their 3-6 record would indicate. Despite a rugged slate that may have been the toughest anywhere, Metea recorded its first 3-game win streak, first win at rival Waubonsie Valley, and suffered tough losses to both Napervilles. "I look at our season last year as a huge success as we were able to, I guess, slay a lot of demons," said Parpet, the former football and baseball coach at Plano High School. "The difficulty of our schedule with Geneva week one, [state champion] Lockport week two, the tough DVC and playing Naperville Central twice ... You know, we're literally two plays away from being in the playoffs after losing 31-28 on the last second field goal to Naperville North at their place." The Mustangs' success last fall led to a solid summer in the weight room and at camps, a bigger turnout, and higher expectations in 2022. "I loved our offseason. We had 60 some odd kids in our weight room, which is unreal. And now just the summer that we had and then just the energy around our program is just really terrific right now," Parpet added. Noah Larsen takes over the quarterback position and the 6-2, 210-poind athlete started at linebacker last year for Metea. The offense will also count heavily on returning back Oscar Rivera, receivers Chris Smith and Robert Lynch, and linemen Ramone Arteaga. The 3-5 defense will be led by "mike backer" Evan Hall, a senior who Parpet says is special.

Neuqua Valley

2022 record: 10-2, 5-1 in the DVC

Coach: Bill Ellinghaus

Worth noting: The Wildcats have 17 starters back from a team that beat Bartlett and Palatine in the playoffs before losing a heartbreaker, 14-13, to Maine South in the 8A quarterfinals. The offense has talented double threat QB Mark Mennecke back, along with Jaden McGee at RB, North Dakota State recruit Grant Larkin at WR, and linemen center Ryan Schaffer, guard Nick Rush and left tackle David Garrone. MLB Cole Dutkovich will anchor a stellar defense and get plenty of help from linemen Nate Williamson, Gabe Willis and Justin Crawford, along with an experienced secondary. "We feel pretty good about where we're at, we really do," said Ellinghaus, who does have to replace Palmer Domschke, who excelled last year on offense, defense and the kicking game. "As long as long as we can keep our focus and not worry about you know, where we finished last year, but worry about getting better every single day, I think we got a really good shot this year to be really good."

Waubonsie Valley

2022 record: 3-6, 1-4 in the DVC

Coach: Tom Baumgartner

Worth noting: Faced again with a tough nonconference slate, and the rugged DVC, the Warriors will need to start quick to be in position to make the playoffs. They do have a talented, but young group, headed by solid seniors like Mason Ringenbach (LB), Tommy Moriarty (OL), Michael Popov (OL), and Dominic Guzman (OL). Ringenbach is the leader of a defense that will have a lot of new faces, but Baumgartner expects a lot out of this talented unit. Moriarty, Popov, and Guzman will anchor an offensive line that will protect returning quarterback Luke Elsea, who gained valuable experience behind center last fall. Running back Amir Spikener leads a talented group of skill players that includes wide receiver Tyler Threat and tight end Julian Johnson. Overall, the 2022 version of the Warriors looks to get better each week, and looks to be in position to qualify for the IHSA playoffs come November.

Naperville North

2022 record: 6-4, 5-1 in the DVC

Coach: Sean Drendel

Worth noting: The Huskies return a talented crop of players as they look to defend their conference title, including quarterback Aidan Gray (Northwestern University commit) and talented 2-way way player Luke Williams, a wide receiver/defensive back who has received offers from Power Five schools. Three returners are back on the offensive line - Jackson Kerstin, Troy Salela and Andrew Jennings - which should mean some nice holes for senior running backs Danny Eloe and Nathan Jacobs. The defense is led by a great back seven that features Luke Williams, Kai Williams and safeties David Jones and Luke Keogh in the secondary and returning starting linebackers Ryan Anderson and Matt Murphy. Kicker/punter David Olano and wide out Luke Pettaway are also expected to have an impact for North this year. "We have great team speed on offense and a real good quarterback. It should be a fun year on the North side of Naperville," said Drendel, whose team closes out with a three-game road trip capped off with a second crosstown battle with the Redhawks.

Five Players to Watch

1. Naperville North QB Aidan Gray: The Huskies signal caller has committed to Northwestern and we can expect a big senior campaign as he returns to a offense with plenty of speed and talented targets.

2. Naperville North WR/DB Luke Williams: The offers have been coming in from big time programs for Williams, who will have an impact on both sides of the ball this fall.

3. Metea Valley senior linebacker Evan Hall: "I'm telling you, this is going to be a name you'll hear a lot. If he stays healthy, he's gonna break some tackle records. That kid just flies to the football, you know, when he gets there he's angry. He's a son of a gun to practice against," coach John Parpet said.

4. Neuqua Valley running back Jade McGee: The running back finished strong in 2022, including a 2-TD, 106-yard game in the playoff opener versus Bartlett. Coach Ellinghaus expects a big senior campaign from the 6-foot, 195-pounder.

5. Neuqua Valley middle linebacker Cole Dutkovich: The Wildcat defensive anchor has received multiple offers from MAC schools after recording 116 tackles a year ago with 8 sacks, 5 forced fumbles and 3 recoveries.

Five Can't Miss Matchups

Naperville North at Glenbard North, Sept. 2. Two strong programs that used to be DVC rivals.

Naperville North at Neuqua Valley, Sept. 16. DVC favorites square off in Week 4.

Waubonsie Valley at Metea Valley, Sept. 23. Key game for both teams in terms of rivalry and playoff chances.

Naperville Central vs. Naperville North at NCC Sept. 30. First of 2 key crosstown battles in Naperville.

Naperville North at Naperville Central, Oct. 20. Season finale expects to have big conference and playoff implications.

Grant Larkin returns at wide receiver for Neuqua Valley. He will play college football at North Dakota State. Sean King/for Shaw Local
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