St. Charles North (0-0)at Elk Grove (0-0), 7 p.m. today
Last season’s records: St. Charles North 4-5, Elk Grove 5-5
The skinny: New North coach Rob Pomazak is ultra-familiar with Elk Grove’s personnel, having previously served as the Grenadiers’ defensive coordinator. He knows all about seasoned Elk Grove quarterback Adam O’Malley, D-I receiver prospect John Pass and two-way stalwart Mike Bishoff (LB/WR). All the extra insights at his disposal could be helpful, provided the night’s natural emotions don’t muddy his thoughts. “Sometimes emotion blinds you from your analytical thinking,” Pomazak said. “But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to have an emotional edge to what we’re out there doing [on Friday].” The North Stars’ blocking should be the team’s calling card, led by tackles Chase Gianacakos and Camden Cotter and tight end Garrett Johnson. Senior Evan Kurtz, a touted running back, is poised to take advantage.
Extra point: Pomazak said keeping the game’s big picture in mind will be a challenge as he transitions to head coach. His goal is to be “like a duck on water, poised up on top but working your tail off underneath.”
Geneva (0-0) at Oswego (0-0), 7 p.m. today
Last season’s records: Geneva 4-5, Oswego 9-2
The skinny: Geneva’s best success in the Rob Wicinski era has come with a punishing running game but Wicinski said this year’s strength likely will be on the perimeter. Junior quarterback Daniel Santacaterina had a solid summer and returning receivers Kyle Brown and Pace Temple will be complemented by 6-6 junior Michael Landi and fellow junior Brock Perry, who has turned heads in recent weeks. A young, inexperienced offensive line is a glaring question mark. “That’s one unit we definitely have to get data on,” Wicinski said. “I just hope they fight, that’s the bottom line. If they fight, we’ll be able to work with them.” The Vikings’ defense is even less seasoned than the offense, which could be problematic against an athletic and explosive Oswego offense, albeit one led by a sophomore QB, Steven Frank. Vikings senior Joe Boenzi, a quality athlete transitioning from fullback to linebacker, is a key defensively.
Extra point: Geneva’s whopping six fumbles lost in last year’s season-opening loss to Oswego at Burgess Field is hard for Vikings fans – or Wicinski – to forget. “Is six turnovers too many?” Wicinski quipped.
Brooks (0-0) at Kaneland (0-0), 7 p.m. today
Last season’s records: Brooks 8-3, Kaneland 10-1
The skinny: While senior quarterback Drew David acclimates to a retooled wide receiving corps, he has quite the safety blanket in versatile senior running back Jesse Balluff, who coach Tom Fedderly said is healthy and raring to go in his third year on varsity. “We’re just going to give him more of a load,” Fedderly said. “He’s going to carry and catch the ball more this year.” David is also reinvigorated after a thumb injury proved damaging late last season, and he’ll look to connect with speedy returnee Dylan Nauert along with emerging targets John Pruett and Connor Fedderly. The offensive line is big and seasoned – a nice combo – while the Knights also are well-stocked defensively, reinforced by outside linebacker Ty Carlson’s move to ‘D.’
Extra point: The Knights are a veteran crew, but 6-foot, 250 pound sophomore Andrew Kray is one underclassman who Fedderly sees making a quick impact.
St. Charles East (0-0) at South Elgin (0-0), 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Last season’s records: St. Charles East 6-4, South Elgin 4-5
The skinny: East coach Mike Fields would love to make a dent in an an unsightly stat – he’s 0-4 in season openers with the Saints, albeit against high-end competition. South Elgin should be a more beatable opening foe, though Fields expect the Storm to go no-huddle, which would be an extra conditioning challenge in the mid-day, Saturday afternoon heat. Fields labeled the offensive line as East’s “question mark” in the preseason, with only two returning starters (Brennan Bosch and Ben Smith). Fields said senior Jake Schultz has looked good at a guard spot, while tackle Zach Roberts (5-7, 225) and guard Steven Jagodzinski (5-9, 210) also have won starting spots up front. The Saints likely will use multiple two-way players at the skill spots, including senior standout Brannon Barry (receiver/safety).
Extra point: South Elgin’s early-summer coaching change – Pat Pistorio, with college and Chicago Slaughter coaching experience, replaced veteran coach Dale Schabert – added an element of mystery to the Saints’ game-planning.
Plainfield Central (0-0) at Marmion (0-0), 7:30 p.m. today
Last season’s records: Plainfield Central 6-4, Marmion 4-5
The skinny: Marmion has been among the area’s most snakebitten programs on the injury front in recent years, and this season begins ominously with projected starting offensive tackle John Gauthier (ACL tear) and starting running back Jordan Glasgow (high ankle sprain) both injured in last week’s Red and Blue scrimmage. Cadets coach Dan Thorpe said linemen Luke Juriga and Zach Siwiec likely will have to play more two-way ball as a result of losing Gauthier (6-6, 250).
Extra point: Sophomore running back Lucas Warren will get his chance quick with Glasgow injured. “He’s a special kid,” Thorpe said of Warren. “We were hoping to ease him into varsity but now he’s been thrown into varsity. And he can handle it.”
Riverside-Brookfield (0-0) at St. Francis (0-0), 7 p.m. today
Last season’s records: Riverside-Brookfield 2-7, St. Francis 5-4
The skinny: The game itself is somewhat overshadowed by the debut of Kuhn Memorial Stadium, which allows the Spartans to bring their home games back on campus. A ceremony will take place between the sophomore and varsity games to dedicate the new digs.
Extra point: There’s another big-time debut on tap as Spartans senior running back James Butler, a highly regarded Bartlett transfer, returns to action after sitting out last season due to the IHSA’s transfer policy.
DuSable (0-0) at Aurora Christian (0-0), 7 p.m. today
Last season’s records: DuSable 4-5, Aurora Christian 13-1
The skinny: Playing on their home turf – literally – the Eagles can expect to be extra toasty, which will be a challenge with several two-way performers. “To have this heat early in the season is only going to bode well for us later on if we can get through these first couple weeks in the heat, getting used to going both ways,” Eagles coach Don Beebe said. “It’ll bode very well for us to get in that kind of shape for the stretch run of our tough conference.”
Extra point: Beebe said he has enjoyed playing Chicago Public League teams over the years. “They are so respectful – such great kids,” Beebe said.
Oostburg, Wis. (0-1) at Aurora Central Catholic (0-0), 7 p.m. today
Last season’s record: Aurora Central Catholic 6-4
The skinny: Oostburg already is 0-1, having lost, 18-6, to New Holstein, north of the border last week. Facing a not-so-potent offense would be a nice way for the Chargers to ease in their new defensive coordinator, former Downers Grove South coach John Belskis.
Extra point: The Chargers would love to reprise their early win-stockpiling that powered them to the playoffs last season, considering Marmion and Montini loom in late October.
Wheaton Academy (0-0) at Westminster Christian, Mo. (0-0),, 7 p.m. today
Last season’s record: Wheaton Academy 4-5, Westminster Christian 8-3
The skinny: Lacrosse standout Scottie McLean has looked sharp in practice and appears poised to force himself into a Wheaton Academy running back rotation that includes senior John Gemmel and junior Camden Meade. The Warriors planned to depart at 8 a.m. today and take a few breaks to keep the blood flowing on the five-hour trip.
Extra point: The game originally was slated for a 5 p.m. kickoff but moved to 7 p.m. and to a school that has lights (nearby Clayton) because of the anticipated heat.
Hampshire (0-0) at Burlington Central (0-0), 7 p.m. today
Last season’s record: Hampshire 3-6, Burlington Central 5-4
The skinny: Central’s defense should be an early strongsuit with substantial experience in the linebacking corps and secondary, although the line of scrimmage outlook is fuzzier on both sides of the ball – especially the O-line, which is breaking in five new starters. “Hampshire’s got some big people up front on both sides of the ball,” Rockets coach Rich Crabel said. “We’re not real big so that’s hard for us to show our kids in practice.”
Extra point: Quarterback Casey Matthews will also play safety for the Rockets but Crabel said two-way starters will not be the norm for BC.