FOOTBALL: Previewing Opening Night

August 23, 2018


Wilmington at Manteno

Gametime: 7 p.m.

Wildcats on offense: Everything starts with All-State running back Conner Dempsay. After piling up 1,759 total yards last season (1,539 rushing, 220 receiving) and 27 total touchdowns (22 rushing, five receiving), he will shoulder an even bigger load offensively. Wilmington replaces four starting offensive lineman, and with the run-based system, they will be the story to watch.

Panthers on offense: The system has changed with Shane Warren at quarterback. Manteno has evolved into more of a spread offense to maximize Warren’s arm and the talent surrounding him. However, it was the running game that earned the Panthers the 1-point win last season, so Warren’s legs could be a potential difference-maker.

Wildcats on defense: This is where the Wildcats might have an advantage to thwart the passing attack of Manteno. Although Brock Bloser, who had 23 pass breakups last year, is gone, Dempsay and Jake Rodawold return to their satefy spots, and Keaton Hopwood is back at corner. An experienced secondary bodes well in this matchup.

Panthers on defense: A number of solid pieces are gone from the Panthers, such as Nick Zawisza, Brendan Borkenhagen, Brandon Steele and Todd O’Dell. Now, it’s up to guys such as Hayden Crawford, Ryan Crockett and Camden Rodriguez to stop the Wilmington running attack. This game sets the bar for the Panthers’ defense moving forward.

Pick: Wilmington 27, Manteno 24

Herscher at Momence

Gametime: 7 p.m.

Preview: It’s young versus experienced. Junior quarterback Grant Goytia and a core of hungry Tiger players look to make an opening-season statement. For Momence, it’s a team of veterans, with quarterback Kobey Mazur, running back Jalen Williams and Minnesota commit Jason Bargy. The key for Herscher: creating holes for Matt Dorsey. The key for Momence: giving Mazur time to drop back and throw.

Pick: Herscher 27, Momence 22

Morris at Coal City

Gametime: 7 p.m.

Preview: This is a clash between two of the Top-10 teams in Class 4A (Morris No. 2, Coal City No. 9). It undoubtedly will get physical. Morris, which made it to the state championship last season, lost a number of important pieces but remains a huge threat because of its mass in the trenches. Coal City has a ton of skilled players and athleticism surrounding junior quarterback Payton Hutchings. However, the Coalers’ line is a slight question mark because of depth.

Pick: Morris 24, Coal City 14

Bradley-Bourbonnais at Grant

Gametime: 7:15 p.m.

Preview: This year’s core of Boilers got some experience at the tail end of last season, namely quarterback Keaton Schmidt. Schmidt took over quarterback duties in the middle of last season, gaining an understanding of varsity speed. Both teams are coming off 2-7 seasons, and Grant struggled to score for most of its campaign.

Pick: Bradley-Bourbonnais 37, Grant 24

Bishop McNamara at Bloom

Gametime: 6 p.m.

Preview: Bloom was a playoff team last season but lost standout quarterback Juan Green and his 2,600-total-yards and 26-touchdown production. But leading receiver Keon Green, a sophomore, is back after hauling in seven touchdown catches. On the opposite side, Bishop McNamara has the makings of a playoff caliber team, with Tyler Hiller under center surrounded by Tyshon King, Payton Gerberding and Wilson Netherton. This is a perfect test to start with for this Irish team.

Pick: Bishop McNamara 31, Bloom 21

Kankakee at Yorkville

Gametime: 7:15 p.m.

Preview: Scoring was not a very high priority in Yorkville’s 2017 season. It failed to score more than 10 points in a game fives times last season but ended on a high note by knocking LaSalle-Peru out of the playoffs. Kankakee is bringing a new bag of tricks, thanks to a new offensive system. But if it stalls, Antonio Pittman should see a good number of carries as the feature back. Running behind massive tackle Keegan Trost is always a good option.

Pick: Kankakee 20, Yorkville 12

Iroquois West at Bismarck-Henning

Gametime: 7 p.m.

Preview: Iroquois West is under new leadership with Cam Stone at the helm, but he has a tall task ahead of him in Bismarck-Henning. Running back Caleb Lahey is back after rushing for 1,659 yards and 22 touchdowns for the Blue Devils, who made the playoffs and won a playoff game. The Raiders have their work cut out for them.

Pick: Bismarck-Henning 52, Iroquois West 10

Watseka at Oakwood

Gametime: 7 p.m.

Preview: Similar to Watseka, Oakwood will break in a new quarterback. While that remains a mystery, Anthony Quinn takes over for Watseka, who has made the playoffs for the past two seasons. Luckily for Quinn, he has last rusher Justin McTaggart in the backfield and a big, experienced offensive line in front of him.

Pick: Watseka 27, Oakwood 20

Ottawa-Marquette at Dwight

Gametime: 7 p.m.

Preview: Dwight brings a nice roster to the table full of productive players featuring Logan Graham, Chris Bement, Dakota Wahl and Colton Holm. However, Ottawa-Marquette is bringing a reloaded, wing-T attack that includes nine returning starters from last season. After a shocking first-round exit in the playoffs after back-to-back state semifinal appearances, Dwight has a huge mountain to climb to pull the upset against the No. 9 team in Class 1A.

Pick: Ottawa-Marquette 48, Dwight 14

Peoria Manual at Peotone

Gametime: 7 p.m.

Preview: Talk about a David versus Goliath matchup. Manual was 1-8 last season and gave up 60 or more points six times, and Peotone was 9-2 and gave up just 14 points per game on average. The Blue Devils are breaking in new players at key positions within their double-wing attack. They have the perfect opponent on paper to test some things out and see where players fit. This one could get ugly.

Pick: Peotone 52, Manual 13

Georgetown-Ridge Farm at Central

Gametime: 7 p.m.

Preview: Central is one of the more unknown teams in the area because of the number of seniors lost. All-State running back Kollin Krumwiede no longer is there, neither is that experienced offensive line in the trenches. The Comets are going with two quarterbacks, which can be dicey, but with the tradition and system in Clifton, it shouldn’t be a problem for opening week.

Pick: Central 32, Georgetown-Ridge Farm 13

Reed-Custer at Fieldcrest

Gametime: 7 p.m.

Preview: Fieldcrest is ranked just outside of the Top 10 in Class 2A, which easily tells you it is loaded. Reed-Custer is under new leadership with Gavin Johnston, and what a first challenge the Comets have. If the Comets are to pull out the win on the road, time of possession is of the essence. But even that might not be enough for this one.

Pick: Fieldcrest 41, Reed-Custer 14

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