Scouting the MSL East
2021 record: 9-2, lost in 2nd round of 7A playoffs to Prospect
Coach: Jeff Vlk
Worth noting: The Bison are coming off a season where they were able to get every ounce of talent from their players. That resulted in their best season since 2017 when they also went 9-2. ... Graduation hit them hard, losing 37 seniors from a year ago. ... The Bison have just three starters returning. But that does not include several players who saw the field late in blowout wins that enabled them to get valuable varsity experience. ... The Bison will build around quarterback Michael Cervantes, who was an honorable mention all-area quarterback last year. Cervantes is very good thrower and even a more dangerous with the ball in hands, running a 4.60 40-yard dash and coming off a season where he rushed for over 1,100 yards ... Speed is also a key for wide receiver/linebacker Anthony Palano who has been clocked with a 4.7 40-yard. ... CJ Relias, who is the third starter returning, will anchor both sides of the line of scrimmage. Gavin Lee (senior, linebacker), John Saracco (offensive line) and Ryan Reid (offensive line) also figure to be key components. Junior quarterback Payton Diaz could also step in if Cervantes moves to running back.
2021 record: 7-3, lost to Jacobs in first round of 7A playoffs to Jacobs
Coach: Tom Nelson
Worth noting: Nelson is all the way back home after being named the new head coach in the offseason. Nelson was a star at Hersey before playing at Illinois State and played 5 seasons in the NFL before being an assistant at Hersey since 2013. ... The Huskies will have a trio of running backs in Brett Kersemeier, Chuck Meister, Nasir McKenzie to count on. They will also have a group of mainly untested wide receivers in Carson Grove, Ryan Stearns, Evan Naumowicz and AJ Wachowski. ... The key to the offense could be tight end Logan Farrell, a sophomore who transferred from Palatine. Farrell has already received interest from numerous D-1 schools. ... The quarterback spot is still wide open with Carter Hansen and sophomore Colton Gumino battling for the starting spot. ... Linebackers Johnny Ryg and Jack Armstrong will lead the defense which again is again under the direction of Mike Donatucci.
Coach: Miles Osei
2021 record: 3-6
Worth noting: The Grenadiers have not had a winning season since 2013. But there is reason for optimism this year thanks to several factors. ... Numbers are a huge part with 92 in the program this season, up from 55 a year ago. The Grens return 13 starters, including 9 seniors from a team that was competitive all year. ... Osei also is reunited with his former head coach from Prospect in Brent Pearlman, which should be able to significantly lower the points scored against the Grens from 35 from a year ago ... Mitch Jansczak returns at quarterback and should be very active in both running and throwing. ... Kachia Ugwu, Ramiro Valdivia Christian Tuiaana and Toni Brautigam all return on the offensive line while Mo Burt, T.J. Johnson, Mikey Milovich and Jeremiah Pickett give the Grens some depth ... Jacob Elsner, who saw some time at running back last season, also returns along with Sebastian Halilovic, Lucas Rogers, Logan Tosterud and Dominic Belmonte. ... Sophomore Dylan Berkowitz could be a key newcomer on the defensive line.
Coach: Dan DeBoeuf
2021 record: 10-3, lost to St. Rita in 7A state semifinals
Worth noting: Prospect's amazing run is even more incredible when the fact that they played its final two playoff games with an emergency fourth-string quarterback. That's after starting quarterback Frank Covey went down with an injury. ... Covey, who is a Northwestern-commit, is moving to wide receiver this season, a spot he had great success as a junior. Brad Vierniesel, who was a wide receiver last season, will by making the move to quarterback. He will also have Jake Parisi and Sean Koniezka, who both started last season, to throw to. ... The Knights will have a monster offensive line for him to operate behind. Ola Sulaimon (6'-3," 270), Chance Rolfe (6'-2," 285), Drew Heiss (6'-4," 270), Tommy Johl (6'-3," 270) and Malachi Tolliver (6'-3," 285) may be one of the biggest offensive lines in the state. ... The Knights defense struggled at times last season. They hope to turn things around this year. They will have five starters back in Jack Berman (DB), John Gavin (LB), Connor Mitchell (LB), Matt Schacke (DL/LB) and Ben Schenkenfelder (DL).
2021 record: 5-5, lost in first round of 7A playoffs to St. Rita
Coach: Sam Baker
Worth noting: The Mustangs were able to keep the streak alive last year when they qualified for the playoffs for the 11th playoff season in a row. It was also 18th appearance in the last 19 playoff seasons. ... Meadows is looking to be back in the field of 256 again this season. They return 8 starters from a team that lost three games by a total of six points. That group includes quarterback Evan Grace, who threw 24 touchdown passes last year. ... Ben Petermann and Stephen Schiele, who broke his leg last season in the second week of the season, should be Grace's top targets along with Jimmy Cox, Anthony Sansonetti and tight end Peyton Wiles. ... Skip Rozanski, who saw lots of action last year in the backfield, also returns. He will be running behind Joey Maloney, who is a D-II prospect along with George Barnett, Jack Stollfus, Dom Fallico and Harvey Goodwin. Maloney and Fallico will lead a defense that will have 9 new starters.
2021 record: 1-8
Coach: Peter Panagakas
Worth noting: Panagakas was a last-minute replacement as an interim head coach last season. Panagakas took a program on the brink of collapse, winning their first game of the season in one of the feel-good stories of 2021. ... The program continues on a high note now with 75 players out. That includes 17 seniors. ... Twelve starters return as the Wildcats look to make another step forward. ... The 'Cats have their backfield returning in quarterback AJ Marchetti and running backs Simon Micula and Diego Giles. ... They also have an experienced offensive line in Ulysses Robles, Christin Glowa, Dominik Palka, Omar Brito, Marco Mercado and Rafael Flores. ... Wheeling will have many players working both sides of the ball, so staying away from injuries will be a key factor, especially in conference play. ... The Wildcats have won five games in a season just one time in the last 14 years. But the feeling there is that this group is capable of matching that total.
Five players to watch
Frank Covey, Prospect, WR/QB, Sr. -- Northwestern commit who can do it all
Michael Cervantes, Buffalo Grove, QB, Sr. -- Dual threat quarterback and a very dangerous runner
Evan Grace, Rolling Meadows, TE, QB -- Threw for over 20 touchdowns last year
Logan Farrell, Hersey, TE, So. -- Despite a sophomore, garnering a ton of D-1 interest
AJ Marchetti, Wheeling, QB, Sr. -- Multisport athlete who is dangerous with the ball in his hands
Five Games Not to Miss
Week 1: Hersey at New Trier
Week 2: Barrington at Prospect
Week 4: Prospect at Maine South
Week 6: Rolling Meadows at Hersey
Week 9: Prospect at Rolling Meadows