2021 record: 10-3, 2-1 Blue
Coach: Casey Quedenfeld
Worth noting: Quedenfeld takes over the program after learning about the Brother Rice community and Illinois high school football for a year from the sidelines. The new coach takes over the program after spending time as a coach in two top football programs in the nation — Episcopal High School in Bellaire, Texas, and Loyola High School in Los Angeles. Quedenfeld takes over for Brian Badke, who coached the Crusaders for 10 years. … Juniors Ryan Hartz, Jake Dugger and Marcus Brown are competing to replace Jake Lausch for the team’s starting quarterback position. Lausch signed with Northwestern last winter as the Crusaders will try to replace their leader both on and off the field. … Brother Rice will try to take its next step in the postseason this fall. The Crusaders lost in the Class 7A semifinals to eventual champion Wheaton North last season and fell in the state semifinals in 2019 and lost in the Class 8A state title game in 2018. … Senior Roderick “Trey” Pierce III returns to lead the Brother Rice defense after committing to Wisconsin over the offseason. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound defensive lineman returns after finishing with 58 total tackles and two tackles for loss.
2021 record: 12-1, 3-0 Blue
Coach: John Holecek
Worth noting: Loyola looks to reload after falling in the Class 8A semifinals to state champion Lockport. The Ramblers have played in 10 of the last 12 8A semifinal games, winning two state titles and appearing in six title games during that span. … Senior QB Jake Stearney returns after an impressive junior season. The Colgate commit was the CCL/ESCC Blue Offensive Player of the Year last year with 2,179 passing yards and 19 touchdowns while also rushing for 532 yards and five touchdowns. … The defending CCL/ESCC Blue champions will have plenty of new faces on defense, with only three returning starters from last season’s defense that allowed an average of 14.1 points per game. Michigan commit Brooks Bahr, John McGuire and Gabe Gyorgy are the lone returners. … Division-I bound tight ends Jack Fitzgerald and Jack Parker will lead a dynamic offense this season. Fitzgerald is committed to Northwestern and Parker has pledged to Western Michigan. … Loyola will start the season on Aug. 28 against Ohio powerhouse St. Xavier. The game will be broadcast on ESPN. … The Ramblers are still looking for a Week 2 opponent.
2021 record: 9-4, 0-3 Blue
Coach: Ron Dawczak
Worth noting: Marist is trying to take the next step in the program’s quest to win its first state championship. The RedHawks lost in the Class 8A semifinals for the third straight playoffs last season when they fell to Maine South. Marist lost to Maine South by two points after it couldn’t convert on a 2-point conversion to tie the game. Maine South picked up a first down to run out the clock. … Senior Dermot Smyth takes over as the team’s starting quarterback after spending the last couple seasons as a backup and scout quarterback. Smyth takes over after Dontrell Jackson Jr. graduated and is now in the Coast Carolina program after playing quarterback for Marist the past three seasons. The senior completed six passes last year on eight attempts for 35 yards, one touchdown and one interception. … Senior WR Ryan Sims will be an offensive leader after the Miami (Ohio) commit caught 10 touchdowns and finished with 759 receiving yards. … Senior CB John Nestor earned All-CCL/ESCC Blue honors last season. The Iowa commit had 63 total tackles last season, with four interceptions and 10 pass breakups. … Senior DL Jamel Howard Jr. returns after the Wisconsin commit finished his junior season with 27 total tackles in nine games, including four for a loss.
2021 record: 8-4, 1-2 Blue
Coach: Jordan Lynch
Worth noting: Mount Carmel will bring back an experienced group after 18 players made their first varsity starts last season. The Caravan fell to Brother Rice in the Class 7A quarterfinals last season and have reached the 7A semifinal round in three of the last four playoffs, including a state title win in 2019. … Senior QB Blainey Dowling returns after an impressive first varsity season last year. Dowling made plays both in the air on the ground last season and should be one of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in the state. … Junior RB Darion Dupree will be one of the best playmakers not only for Mount Carmel but in the state. Dupree has impressed with his speed and ability to cut to find holes. Dupree holds 16 scholarship offers, including seven Power Five offers. … Senior edge rusher Danny Novickas will be a key returner for the Caravan defense. The Ohio commit finished last season with 96 total tackles and 11 sacks. … Senior DL Asher Tomaszewski will be another defensive leader. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound lineman committed to Kansas State in August.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
- Brooks Bahr, Loyola, DL, sr.: Bahr will be a nightmare for quarterbacks with his explosiveness and 6-foot-6, 270-pound frame.
- Darrion Dupree, Mount Carmel, RB, jr.: The dynamic running back is a threat with his elite speed and he added pass catching to his repertoire this offseason.
- John Nestor, Marist, CB, sr.: Nestor brings experience in the Marist secondary that could force a large number of interceptions.
- Roderick Pierce III, Brother Rice, DL, sr.: Pierce will provide a burst off the line and plenty of varsity experience.
- Jamel Howard Jr., Marist, DL, sr.: The 6-foot-3, 320-pound lineman will be have an electric senior season.
FIVE CAN’T MISS MATCHUPS
Week 1 – St. Xavier (Ohio) at Loyola: A battle between two of the best Midwest high school programs battle on ESPN.
Week 2 – Brother Rice at St. Rita: A CCL/ESCC crossover game between two of the conference’s top teams.
Week 7 – Brother Rice at Joliet Catholic: Another big-time crossover game.
Week 9 – Marist at Brother Rice: The Battle of Pulaski never disappoints, and this season’s matchup will have a lot riding on it.
Week 9 – Loyola at Mount Carmel: The division could come down to this rivalry matchup once again.
STEVE SOUCIE’S PREDICTED FINISH
Source: The Daily Chronicle