No. 6 St. Rita at No, 1 Mount Carmel, 7:30 p.m. Friday
They haven’t been conference rivals for a few years, but this matchup of South Side powers — the 100th in the series — should be one of the regular-season games of the year. St. Rita has advanced to the state championship the past two offseasons (there were no playoffs in 2020 because of COVID) and is loaded with talent and experience once again. Edge rusher Pat Farrell, an Illinois recruit, and linebacker Matt Kingsbury lead the defense, while junior Ethan Middleton will run behind an offensive line anchored by 6-4, 310-pounder Nick Strelczyk. With 18 starters back, Mount Carmel also expects to be playing on Thanksgiving weekend. Quarterback Blainey Dowling is among the returning starters, as are a pair of FBS commits: defensive lineman Asher Tomaszewski (Kansas State) and edge rusher Danny Novickas (Ohio).
No. 2 Lincoln-Way East at No. 15 Crete-Monee, 6 p.m. Friday
Rob Zvonar, the only coach in Lincoln-Way East’s 22-year history, had one of his youngest teams last fall and still reached the Class 8A quarterfinals. The Griffins are aiming higher this season with 16 starters back. Linebacker Jake Scianna and rangy sophomore edge rusher Caden O’Rourke — who already has a D-I offer from Akron — are players to watch on defense. James Kwiecinski and Petey Olaleye are capable backs who will run behind an experienced and talented line. Crete-Monee is always one of the top teams in 6A and that isn’t likely to change this year. The Warriors have three two-sport athletes who are reigning state relay champs in track: quarterback Joshua Franklin, a Western Michigan recruit who accounted for 3,034 total yards and 32 TDs last year; receiver Lynel Billups-Williams (Miami, Ohio); and defensive back Edward Clark.
No. 10 Kankakee at Nazareth, 7:30 p.m. Friday
Kankakee defensive back Jyaire Hill is the state’s top uncommitted senior and a leader of both the Kays’ 5A football runners-up and 2A track state champs last year. Another track/football standout, four-time state sprint champ and junior running back Tony Phillips, has transferred across town from Bishop McNamara. Nazareth went young last season, with numerous freshmen getting lots of playing time. One of them, quarterback Logan Malachuk, passed for 1,806 yards and 18 TDs. Wisconsin-bound two-way standout Justin Taylor also returns.
No. 7 Glenbard West at No. 12 Marist, 1 p.m. Saturday
Last year was something of a wake-up call for Glenbard West, which finished third in the West Suburban Silver and lost in the second round of the playoffs. This fall, the Hilltoppers have a renewed sense of purpose, a big and experienced offensive line led by Wisconsin recruit Christopher Terek and a proven running back in Joey Pope. Marist has 10 starters back from a Class 8A semifinalist, including a trio of FBS commits: defensive back John Nestor (Iowa), defensive lineman Jamel Howard (Wisconsin) and receiver Ryan Sims (Miami, Ohio).
Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times
No. 11 Neuqua Valley at Oswego, 7 p.m. Friday
Neuqua Valley returns 17 starters from a 10-2 team, including a premier pitch-and-catch duo in quarterback Mark Mennecke and receiver Grant Larkin (North Dakota State). Jaden McGee’s running adds another dimension to the Wildcats’ offense. Linebacker Cole Dutkovich, who owns several Division I offers, leads the defense. Oswego hasn’t thrown the ball a lot over the years, but that may change this fall with Michigan-bound tight end Deakon Tonielli and quarterback Cruz Ibarra both back.