Marist No. 9 at No. 1 Mount Carmel, 7:30 p.m. Friday
It’s the first week of conference play in the mighty CCL/ESCC Blue, which means a lot of playoff-like atmosphere. Dermot Smyth, a starting wide receiver for Marist last season, is settling in well at quarterback with 538 passing yards, a 67 percent passing rate and three touchdowns to go along with 126 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Defensive back John Nestor (Iowa), defensive lineman Jamel Howard (Wisconsin) and receiver Ryan Sims (Miami, Ohio) are also impact players for the RedHawks (2-1). Mount Carmel (3-0) edged St. Rita, Phillips and Notre Dame by a combined total of 121-3. Quarterback Blainey Dowling, tight end Parker Startz, receiver Denny Furlong and running back Darrion Dupree are among the Caravan offensive playmakers. Asher Tomaszewski (Kansas State) and Danny Novickas (Ohio) lead the defense.
No. 15 Joliet Catholic in Providence, 7:30 p.m. Friday
Will County bragging rights are on the line for a few programs that turn the corner after some offseason changes. Joliet Catholic (3-0) graduated 16 starters from the 14-0 Class 4A champions, but turns over its entire defensive line: Jeremy Johnson, Billy Burke, Hunter Powell and Dillan Johnson. Northwest lineman Anthony Birsa anchors the offense, which includes Louisville baseball rookie TJ Schlageter at quarterback. Defensive back/linebacker Trey Swiderski is also committed to Louisville baseball. Providence graduate Tyler Plantz, who has spent the past seven seasons on Brian Kelly’s team at Notre Dame, is in his first season as head coach at his alma mater. The Celtics (2-1) have wins over Lake Central (Ind.) and Fenwick as well as a loss to defending 7A champion Wheaton North.
No. 10 Prairie Ridge at No. 17 Jacobs, 7 p.m. Friday
The winner will be the last undefeated team in the Fox Valley Conference at 4-0 overall and in the league. The optional attack on Prairie Ridge continues; in last week’s win over Huntley, quarterback Tyler Vasey rushed for 226 yards and fullback Nathan Greetham rushed for 166 behind line veterans Henrik Nystrom, Ethan Goudschaal and John Fallow. Jacobs is a growing program. Last year’s team went 8-4 – the Golden Eagles’ best record since 1999 – and reached the 7A quarterfinals. Tight end Grant Stec has more than a dozen offers and is one of the top juniors in the state.
Brother Rice at No. 2 Loyola, 1:30 p.m. Saturday
This is another CCL/ESCC Blue opener. Brother Rice (2-1) didn’t bring much back from last year’s 10-2 team. But Wisconsin rookie Roderick Pierce III is a force on the defensive line, and Marty O’Keefe, Owen Lyons and Rickey Taylor are all proven receivers. Colgate-bound quarterback Jake Stearney completed 78% of his passes for Loyola (3-0) for 539 yards and 10 touchdowns. Spencer Leadbetter is the Ramblers’ leading receiver with 152 yards and four touchdowns. Lineman Brooks Bahr (Michigan) leads the defense.
No. 6 Naperville North at Neuqua Valley, 7 p.m. Friday
It’s the fourth meeting in 18 months for these Crosstown rivals, who played once in the pandemic-delayed spring 2021 season and twice last fall with Neuqua winning two of those three games. Naperville North (3-0, 0-0 DuPage Valley) has two Big Ten rookies: Northwestern quarterback Aidan Gray, who has 582 yards and seven touchdowns, and kicker David Olano (Illinois). And junior receiver Luke Williams’ nine offers include three from the Big Ten. Junior quarterback Ryan Mohler, making his first college start in relief of injured Mark Mennecke, hit a TD and ran for another last week as Neuqua (2-1, 0-0) beat the champ titleholder of Missouri State, St. Louis St. Mary’s.