No. 1 Loyola at No. 3 Brother Rice, 6 p.m. Friday
The state’s best conference, the CCL/ESCC Blue, kicks off league play with two games featuring four of the area’s top six teams. This one matches Loyola (3-0), fresh off statement wins over downstate power Rochester and St. Rita, and Brother Rice (3-0), aiming to make departing coach Brian Badke’s final season one to remember. Loyola quarterback Jake Stearney showed last week why coach John Holecek has been touting his college potential. With St. Rita committed to stopping the run, Stearney threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns in a 37-7 win. Quarterback Jack Lausch, who will be a preferred walk-on in baseball and football at Notre Dame, and running back Aaron Vaughn are playmakers for Rice.
No. 6 Mount Carmel at No. 4 Marist, 6 p.m. Friday
This is the other CCL/ESCC showdown of 3-0 teams. The Caravan were something of an unknown quantity coming into the season after graduating an exceptionally talented senior class, including current Temple starting quarterback Justin Lynch. But an opening win over St. Rita served notice that Mount Carmel remains an elite program thanks to the emergence of quarterbacks Blainey Dowling and Damarion Arrington among others. Coastal Carolina recruit Dontrell Jackson Jr. is one of the state’s premier dual-threat quarterbacks with 319 passing yards and five TDs to go along with 267 rushing yards and two TDs. Running back Jaylen Johnson is another playmaker with 175 rushing yards and five scores.
Providence at No. 5 Joliet Catholic, 7:30 p.m. Friday
Both of these Will County rivals have big playoff dreams — Providence (2-1, 0-0 CCL/ESCC Orange) is ranked No. 2 in 5A by the Associated Press, while Joliet Catholic (3-0, 0-0) is No. 1 in 4A. Providence’s only loss was to No. 14 Wheaton North, and the Celtics handed Fenwick its first loss last week. Joliet Catholic’s closest game so far was a 30-20 win over St. Louis power Cardinal Ritter in which the Hilltoppers opened a 23-0 lead. Malachi Hood, headed to Illinois as a linebacker, has been a productive two-way player for JCA.
No. 24 St. Charles North at No. 14 Wheaton North, 7:30 p,m. Friday
It’s a little early to say any game is a must-win, but neither the North Stars (2-1, 0-1 DuKane) nor the Falcons (2-1, 0-1) want to go to 0-2 in a league that has four teams in the Super 25. Both are coming off narrow losses: St. Charles North, 12-10 vs. WW South on a field goal with 4.5 seconds left, and Wheaton North, 23-20 in overtime at Batavia. Two-way standout Drew Surges had a TD and an interception for St. Charles North last week. Holy Cross-bound quarterback Mark Forcucci leads a balanced Wheaton North offense.
No. 20 Lockport at No. 19 H-F, 6 p.m. Friday
Both teams are 3-0 heading into their Southwest Suburban Blue opener and neither has been tested. They’ve outscored their opponents by margins of 132-7 (Lockport) and 112-8 (H-F). It’s been a while since Lockport’s loyal fan base, one of the area’s best, had much to cheer about. But former Lincoln-Way North coach George Czart has turned around a program that has only one playoff appearance since 2011, going 11-7 in two-plus seasons. H-F went to the 8A quarterfinals or beyond six times in 10 seasons under Craig Buzea and aims to remain a playoff power under his successor, Terrell Alexander.