Wheaton North (1-0) at Geneva (1-0), 7:30 p.m. today
The buzz in the stands
The quarterback play. Both QBs enter tonight’s game feeling great about themselves after leading their teams to impressive opening night wins.
Vikings quarterback Daniel Santacaterina threw for 344 yards and four touchdowns in Saturday’s 29-27 win at Oswego, while Wheaton North QB Clayton Thorson, a Northwestern recruit, did nothing to diminish his big-time reputation as the Falcons ripped Cary-Grove, 42-18.
“Honestly, he’s a complete quarterback,” Falcons coach Joe Wardynski said of Thorson. “He can do just about anything you would ask a kid to do at that position.”
The marquee matchup:
Geneva’s secondary vs. Thorson and Co.
Wheaton North’s passing game is among the most prolific in the state, putting plenty of heat on a Geneva defensive backfield led by two-way standout Pace Temple, who had two interceptions against Oswego.
Vikings coach Rob Wicinski thinks his defense’s strongsuit is more on the line and at the linebacker level as opposed to the DBs.
He hopes the Vikings are able to pressure Thorson “maybe off the edge a little bit,” but he’s less encouraged by the matchups on the interior of the line, where injured, 275-pound Geneva junior defensive lineman T.K. Hood will be out for at least a couple of weeks.
In addition to Thorson, Wardynski trumpets the play of receivers Matt Biegalski and J.P. Forcucci. Biegalski had 11 touchdown receptions last season.
Both teams are looking to better establish their running games, something that Geneva badly needs to do to have a chance in this game.
The Vikings were held to less than 100 yards on the ground against Oswego, hardly the norm for a Wicinski-coached team.
“I can’t remember being this kind of disjointed with the running game,” Wicinski said. “We had 80 yards on 30 carries. I get 30 carries and I’m looking for three times that yardage. That’s a definite red flag. That’s a concern for us.”
While T.J. Miller is Geneva’s top option on the ground, Wheaton North is rotating several backs, but Wardynski is looking for one or two of them to emerge as go-to options going forward.
Best-case scenario for the Falcons
Play as well as they did last week against a usually formidable Cary-Grove program.
“They dismantled Cary-Grove,” Wicinski said. “I mean, this is not funny. I mean, it was bad, and I know Cary-Grove is not that bad.”
Wardynski said Wheaton North wants to come out of tonight’s game without lingering questions as it turns its attention to the DuPage Valley Conference schedule beginning in Week 3.
The Falcons also have some revenge on their minds as Wardynski referenced the Vikings’ 33-24 win over the Falcons in 2011 at Burgess Field.
“We went over to Geneva two years ago and got it handed to us pretty good,” Wardynski said. “They outplayed us in a big way, so we’ve talked about trying to go back over there and trying to redeem ourselves a little bit and hopefully represent our school a little bit better than last time. We know they’ll have a good crowd and they play well at home, so it’s a good opportunity for us.”
Best-case scenario for the Vikings
A win against Wheaton North would be sensational, but Wicinski isn’t setting the bar that high.
“We’ve got to come out healthy,” Wicinski said. “That’s probably the most critical thing because if we’re not healthy now, we don’t get the continuity and development you need to make a run at the end of the season. If we come out of this thing healthy and where they keep fighting, they don’t roll over or anything goofy like that, that’d be a real positive. Maybe a touchdown here or there would be nice.”
The Vikings are certainly capable of that, as receivers Kyle Brown and Temple will aim to exploit some seams in a Falcons defense with only two returning starters.
Jay Schwab’s prediction: Wheaton North 32, Geneva 20
Wicinski said dealing with an opponent like Wheaton North is “just too early for us,” but the reality is the Falcons are a program teams generally don’t want to face at any point of a season, as St. Charles East fans can attest from last year’s 7A playoffs (41-13, Falcons).
Geneva’s Oswego win was eye-opening, but there are precious few teams in the state capable of beating Wheaton North.
Week 2 Check-Downs
It's a great week to save gas money if you're a Tri-Cities football fan, with the unusual occurrence of Batavia, Geneva, Kaneland, St. Charles East and St. Charles North all playing home games tonight.
Marmion fans will do enough driving for everyone this week as the Cadets trek all the way to Ottawa.
Remember when …
The last time Plainfield Central visited St. Charles North, the North Stars lost in such excruciating fashion that last week's Elk Grove loss looks mundane by comparison.
In Week 2 of the 2011 season, the North Stars had a punt blocked on the final play of the game and the Wildcats recovered in the end zone for a stunning, 26-21 victory.
Sleeper game of the week
Richards at Batavia. As much hype as there was for Batavia-Glenbard North to start the season, there should be some left over for another high-level, nonconference opponent that will be visiting Bulldog Stadium.
In this all-Bulldogs battle, the boys from Oak Lawn have the firepower to potentially hand Batavia what would be its first regular season loss since 2010.
Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe, who will be leading his old team, the Buffalo Bills, on to the field Sunday in their NFL season opener against the New England Patriots, has the unenviable and bizarre task of preparing his team to play on three days' rest.
Then again, the Eagles' 64-0 win Tuesday against DuSable was called in the third quarter, and Chicago Urban Prep seems unlikely to be a team that can capitalize on the circumstances. The Urban Prep game was moved from Friday to Saturday because of the rapid turnaround.
St. Francis uncharacteristically missed the playoffs last season but started out the right way with Sunday's lopsided win over Riverside-Brookfield. A road win tonight at Plainfield South – which bagged an impressive, opening victory against Lemont – would put the Spartans in great shape leading into the rugged Suburban Christian Conference slate.
– Jay Schwab, firstname.lastname@example.org
WEEK 2 PREVIEW CAPSULES
Richards (1-0) at Batavia (1-0), 7:30 p.m. today
Last week’s results: Richards beat Harlan, 58-14; Batavia beat Glenbard North, 29-26.
The skinny: Special teams, more than any other phase of the game, likely made the difference in Batavia’s opening win. Not only did the Bulldogs take advantage of punting miscues by Glenbard North, but Batavia punter Tucker Knox boomed his opportunities. “Tucker’s punts were basically fair catches so what was amazing about those is they went in the air for 45 yards,” Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. “That wasn’t a roller or anything.” Another tight game that comes down to special teams could be on tap tonight. Piron called Richards a highly athletic, spread-offense team that is explosive on both sides of the ball. “When they get a pick, it’s to the house. They take it to the house,” Piron said. “It’s like their whole team gets energized.”
Extra point: Piron noted that, despite being credited with a team-high 16 tackles against Glenbard North, Bulldogs middle linebacker Anthony Thielk was a harsh self-critic. “It’s just kind of funny how disappointed he was in himself, and he had 16 tackles,” Piron said. “I just thought that was pretty ironic.”
Jacobs (0-1) at St. Charles East (1-0), 7:30 p.m. today
Last week’s results: Jacobs lost to Barrington, 22-15; St. Charles East beat South Elgin, 35-27.
The skinny: Jacobs quarterback Bret Mooney is drawing Division I attention, and is East coach Mike Fields’ greatest concern tonight. “They have a heck of a QB there,” Fields said. “He does a great job and he’s their leader. He really epitomizes what they’re going to do. Often, as he goes, they go, and from what I’ve seen of him, he goes pretty well most of the time.” Defensively, Fields said that end Luke Spicer, linebacker Michael Candre, cornerback Geno Rogers and safety Brannon Barry were among the most effective in setting the tone during the Saints’ win against South Elgin. Fields said Jacobs is a bigger team than South Elgin, so the Saints will need to muscle up along both lines. The Saints will look to play a sharper fourth quarter after squandering most of a 35-7 lead against South Elgin.
Extra point: Fields said a handful of missed assignments last week and other moments of confusion won’t be tolerated going forward. “We had a lot of things that just can’t be done if we want to continue to be successful,” Fields said.
Plainfield Central (0-1) at St. Charles North (0-1), 7 p.m. today
Last week’s results: St. Charles North lost to Elk Grove, 23-22 in overtime; Plainfield Central lost to Marmion, 25-7.
The skinny: Despite a flurry of turnovers in the passing game on Saturday, St. Charles North was squarely in the mix in its season opener, frantically rallying to force overtime before falling in the extra session. The obvious starting point for the North Stars is to take better care of the football, a bugaboo that was equally problematic for the Wildcats in their Week 1 loss at Marmion. Receiver Nate Newbill and tight end Garrett Johnson flashed some big-play potential last week for the North Stars, who also envision being a more effective running team than they displayed against Elk Grove, rushing for only 116 yards in the game.
Extra point: North’s kicking game surely was a point of emphasis in practice after a botched point-after try loomed large in overtime.
IC Catholic (1-0) at Kaneland (1-0), 7:30 p.m. today
Last week’s results: IC Catholic beat Chicago Noble Street Charter, 47-6; Kaneland beat Brooks, 27-7.
The skinny: Kaneland managed to win comfortably in its opener despite committing five turnovers, which illustrates how strong the Knights performed defensively. Kaneland limited Brooks to 58 rushing yards as the Knights’ younger additions to the defense, such as linemen Jake Gomes and Andrew Kray, melded comfortably with the unit’s elder statesmen. Another inspired performance could be even more valuable tonight against an IC Catholic offense that will be plenty confident after a robust, Week 1 output. On offense, Kaneland quarterback Drew David wasn’t as sharp as usual but still spread the ball around to seven targets, including Tyler Slamans, who led the Knights with 71 receiving yards on three receptions.
Extra point: The Knights play at home for the second straight week, and are in Maple Park for four of their first five games this season.
Marmion (1-0) at Ottawa (0-1), 7:30 p.m. today
Last week’s results: Marmion beat Plainfield Central, 25-7; Ottawa lost to Yorkville, 17-16, in overtime.
The skinny: Marmion played well in its season opener but Cadets coach Dan Thorpe expects a difficult road game tonight against a wounded opponent. “They don’t want to start out 0-2, they’re at home – we know we’re going to get their whole playbook,” Thorpe said. “I really like how they play. They’ve got a bunch of guys 190 to 210 [pounds], and they hit. They fly around.” Marmion’s defense gobbled six interceptions last week but the Cadets’ relatively small secondary will be challenged against what Thorpe described as a towering receiving corps for the Pirates. Senior cornerback Tyler Eberth, 6-foot-2, is the only of Marmion’s regular DBs who stands taller than 6-foot.
Extra point: Standout running back Jordan Glasgow will miss his second straight game with a high ankle sprain, said Thorpe, who is pleased with the team’s depth at running back in his absence. “But we definitely miss him,” Thorpe said. “He’s a difference-maker.”
St. Francis (1-0) at Plainfield South (1-0), 7 p.m. today
Last week’s results: St. Francis beat Riverside-Brookfield, 35-9; Plainfield South beat Lemont, 28-13.
The skinny: St. Francis boasts an elite running back in James Butler, but Plainfield South has its own high-caliber threat in the backfield. Cougars running back Josh Harris scored four touchdowns in the Lemont win and also proved to be a receiving threat out of the backfield. The Spartans also must contend with an opportunistic Plainfield South defense that forced five turnovers against Lemont.
Extra point: Spartans sophomore cornerback Justin Berry, of St. Charles, had an interception in his varsity debut last week.
Chicago Urban Prep (1-0) at Aurora Christian (1-0), 1 p.m. Saturday
Last week’s results: Urban Prep beat Maine West, 30-24; Aurora Christian beat DuSable, 64-0.
The skinny: The game was moved from Friday night to Saturday on Wednesday to give the Eagles more time to recuperate from a rare Tuesday game against DuSable. But the Eagles didn’t exert themselves too much in that one, as the game was called in the third quarter with the game well out of hand.
Extra point: The Eagles always have quick-strike capability, but scoring four touchdowns in less than a minute Tuesday was extreme even for them.
Aurora Central Catholic (1-0) at Chicago Bogan (0-1), 12:30 p.m. Saturday (at Lane Stadium)
Last week’s results: ACC was awarded a forfeit win against Oostburg (Wis.); Bogan lost, 40-12, to Chicago Dunbar.
The skinny: ACC is eager to hit somebody after the Chargers were unable to reschedule last week’s postponed opener with Oostburg, but ACC coach Brian Casey worries about the team’s inability to make the usual Week 1 to Week 2 strides without a game film to dissect. “There are still an awful lot of silly, first-game mistakes we have not made yet,” Casey said. “Any game you watched [last weekend], there were your share of illegal shift penalties and false starts and lining up in the neutral zone and illegal formations, stuff like that. Those are things you get ironed out.”
Extra point: Six of the remaining eight teams on ACC’s schedule won their season openers, including next week’s opponent, IC Catholic.
Burlington Central (0-1) at Stillman Valley (1-0), 7 p.m. today
Last week’s results: Burlington Central lost to Hampshire, 41-7; Stillman Valley beat Tinley Park, 49-21.
The skinny: Central coach Rich Crabel was dismayed by his team’s play at the line of scrimmage in a surprisingly lopsided opening loss to Hampshire. The Rockets will need to turn that around in a major way against a traditionally smashmouth Stillman Valley program.
Extra point: To the extent that enrollment matters, Central should be in good shape. Central has almost double the IHSA classification enrollment listed for Stillman Valley (590).
Noble Street Charter (0-1) at Wheaton Academy (0-1), 7 p.m. today
Last week’s results: Noble Street Charter lost to Chicago Urban Prep West, 36-6; Wheaton Academy lost to Westminster Christian (Mo.), 44-0.
The skinny: After a long trip to the St. Louis area and discouraging result opened Wheaton Academy’s season, the Warriors look forward to their home opener against a much more beatable foe.
Extra point: The Warriors would be well-served to win this one; Suburban Christian Conference juggernauts Montini and Aurora Christian loom the next two weeks.
– Jay Schwab, email@example.com