By Pat Disabato Daily Southtown
Top 10 Teams
1. Mount Carmel (14-0): Defending Class 7A state champions are stacked. Quarterback Justin Lynch (Temple), coach Jordan Lynch’s younger brother, is a dynamic two-way threat. Running back Kenenna Odeluga (Illinois) has exceptional power and speed and also plays linebacker. Michael Dobrich anchors physically imposing offensive line. There isn’t a better defensive back in the Southland than Jaali Parker. Linebacker Austin Maciel-Haygood is a force to be reckoned with.
2. St. Rita (10-4): Reigning 5A state runners-up have big-play potential in receiver/running back Kaleb Brown, who counts Alabama and Ohio State among 20 BCS offers. He scored 35 TDs last season. Receivers Henry Wilson and Isaiah Bragg make things happen. Kyle James, who starts at defensive back, will also see time in backfield. Winner of quarterback competition between Tommy Ulatowski and Brian Johnson won’t be unveiled until opening night. Valen Erickson and Bode Turner power O-line. Linebacker Michael Gaughan, cornerback Brandon Norred and lineman Mykhai Harris lead defense.
3. Lincoln-Way East (14-0): Defending 8A state champs return firepower in running back Jamal Johnson (Bowling Green) and receivers Mason Pierre-Antoine (Northern Illinois) and Max Tomczak. Quarterback Sean Walsh is untested but full of potential. Ryan Stewart and Alex Knaperek anchor O-line. Payton Orth returns at linebacker, while Matt Kordas (Bowling Green) and J.C. Vander Kooi are top-notch defensive backs.
4. Brother Rice (8-5): Crusaders return nine starters on offense, seven on defense. Strong-armed Jack Lausch will handle most of snaps at quarterback, with Ben Somers also seeing time. Running backs Willie Shaw (Toledo) and Joshua Bell provide wicked one-two punch. Dwayne Moorehead is a big-play threat at receiver. Luke Murphy, Max Mallon and Carter McAlilly have O-line in good hands. Ryan Whelan and Austin Veal are quarterback hunters on D-line, linebackers Myles Jones and Brendan Ryan form strong tandem, and Mick Badke, KJ Love and Jeremiah Powell man secondary.
5. Marist (8-5): Pat Coogan (Notre Dame), Jack Harmon and Deuce McGuire offer protection and muscle on O-line for passing and running games to flourish. Quarterback Dontrell Jackson Jr. (Coastal Carolina) is a major two-way threat, with primary receiving targets in Tim Warr, Joe Dochee and Matt Rolek. Running back Jamari Grant is shifty and speedy. Triston Schultz, DeAndre Archer and Jalen Hill bring back experience on D-line. Keep an eye on linebacker Santonien Flowers (Indianapolis) and defensive back Jovan Marsh (Wyoming).
6. Homewood-Flossmoor (10-2): Before taking over at Crown Point, coach Craig Buzea has roster to make final season at H-F memorable, including a high-powered offense led by running back Sean Allen (Illinois State) and receivers Myles Walton and Riley Flournoy. Quarterback Alexander Pratt will showcase powerful arm. Three-year starter Brian Smith and Izuchukwu Ozoh anchor O-line. Justin Thomas is a go-getter on D-line. Jaylen Olokun and Malyk Jones possess speed and power at linebacker, while Stacey Terry is a ballhawk in secondary. Watch out for sophomore trio of running back Kamrin Cox, linebacker Christian McKinney and defensive back Ryan Tate.
7. Joliet Catholic (8-4): Hilltoppers have impact players all over field. Defensive backs Jabril Williams (Army) and Devean Washington (Navy) and end Pat Strocchia (Drake) lead dominant defense. Will Berry powers O-line, while running backs Ja’Arie Mack and Jordan Anderson should make frequent visits to end zone. Quarterback Aidan Voss has pair of sure-handed receivers in John Ehrsam and Jake Fieldman.
8. Hillcrest (10-2): Success begins and ends with running back Mar’Keise Irving (Minnesota), who offers electric speed and freight train-like power. He makes a difference any time hands are on football. Robert Myles will play quarterback and receiver. That allows Caleb Treadwell to slip under center. Jakai Washington is stalwart on the D-line. Thornton transfer Elijawah Tolbert steps in at linebacker and Bobby Jones makes plays at defensive back.
9. Providence (8-4): Celtics are counting on trio of three-year starters in tight end Jameson Geers (Minnesota), quarterback Kevin Conway and running back Aaron Vaughn to keep chains moving. Michael Alvarado, Dakota Straight and Brayden Garrigan play both receiver and defensive back. With lack of experience on both sides of line, Kevin Spelman will perform double duty.
10. Crete-Monee (10-1): Warriors boast pair of impact linebackers in three-year starters Ray Arebalo and Terry Elias. Defensive line looks to Xavier Slayton for production and leadership. Three-year starter Matt Simpson anchors O-line. Quarterback Chuckie Smith, running back Ryan Mastin and receiver Jamari Cobbins should produce plenty of excitement.
Top 25 Players
Sean Allen, Homewood-Flossmoor, senior, running back; Jordan Anderson, Joliet Catholic, junior, running back; Taijon Barry, Eisenhower, senior, receiver; Kaleb Brown, St. Rita, junior, running back; Kevin Conway, Providence, senior, quarterback; Pat Coogan, Marist, senior, offensive line; Jameson Geers, Providence, senior, tight end; Trevor Griffin, Andrew, senior, quarterback; Mar’Keise Irving, Hillcrest, senior, running back; Dontrell Jackson Jr., Marist, junior, quarterback; Jamal Johnson, Lincoln-Way East, senior, running back; Malyk Jones, Homewood-Flossmoor, junior, linebacker; Myles Jones, Brother Rice, senior, linebacker; Matt Kordas, Lincoln-Way East, senior, defensive back; Tajheem Lawson, Marian Catholic, senior, running back; Justin Lynch, Mount Carmel, senior, quarterback; Kenenna Odeluga, Mount Carmel, senior, linebacker; Albert Pontrelli, Lemont, senior, linebacker; Willie Shaw, Brother Rice, senior, running back: Jalen Smith, Shepard, senior, receiver; Nate Thomas, Thornwood, senior, running back; Elijawah Tolbert, Hillcrest, senior, linebacker; Aaron Vaughn, Providence, junior, running back; Jabril Williams, Joliet Catholic, junior, defensive back; Henry Wilson, St. Rita, senior, receiver.
Original article: chicagotribune.com