Our annual high school football season preview issue will be published on Aug. 28 (two days before the regular season starts). However, for diehards who can't wait till opening kickoff to satiate their thirst for any kind of football info, here's an advanced scouting report about Fenwick and Nazareth Academy and how they measure up in the newly-formed Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference.
OUTLOOK: In 2018, the Chicago Catholic League and East Suburban Catholic Conference decided to merge their football teams into one super conference with six divisions. Fenwick, Joliet Catholic, Marmion Academy and St. Ignatius make up the CCL/ESCC White Division.
Joliet Catholic claimed its 14th state championship last fall (more than any other school in Illinois high school football history). Although The Hilltoppers graduated plenty of talent from that squad, there are enough quality players returning to challenge for the White title, including lineman Conor Kovas and a 3-star running back prospect Kenyetta Williams, who missed last season due to injury.
Fenwick appears to be JCA's top challenger. The Friars are loaded with promising players, notably sophomores like quarterback Kaden Cobb, wide receiver Eian Pugh, fullback/defensive tackle Kevin Frazier and center Jimmy Liston. Additionally, the solid veteran core of two-way tackle Sean Carpenter, defensive tackle Tom Dvorak and kicker/punter Bryan Dowd (all three earned all-conference recognition in 2018) is intent on reversing the Friars' fortunes after an uncharacteristic 3-6 mark last fall. Linebackers Danny Farnan and Bryce Legan, along with cornerbacks Solomon Singleton (3-year varsity starter) and Mark Thomas, provide Fenwick a solid defensive foundation to build around.
Elsewhere in the CCL/ESCC White, Marmion Academy and St. Ignatius look to rebuild offensively. St. Ignatius' triple-option offense, which always presents a challenge for opponents, replaces nine starters this season. Led by linebackers Declan Callahan and Elijah Williams, the defense will need to carry the Wolfpack in the season's early going. Meanwhile, linebackers Major Haas (60 tackles, 16 TFL) is one of just five returning starters for Marmion, which is replacing 10 starters on offense this fall.
TOP 5 PLAYERS: Conor Kovas, OL/DL, SR, Joliet Catholic; Kenyetta Williams, RB, SR, Joliet Catholic; Sean Carpenter, OL/DL, SR, Fenwick; Bryan Dowd, K/P, SR, Fenwick; Major Haas, LB, SR, Marmion.
TOP GAMES: Joliet Catholic at St. Rita, Aug. 30; Immaculate Conception at Joliet Catholic, Sept. 6; Fenwick at Nazareth Academy, Sept. 13; Fenwick at Joliet Catholic, Sept. 20; Fenwick at St. Ignatius, Oct. 25
QUOTABLE: "I think it's going to be a great league. We all share the same values, and it's going to be exciting." – Fenwick coach Gene Nudo
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH: Joliet Catholic, Fenwick, St. Ignatius, Marmion
OUTLOOK: With a strong group of returners led by nationally-ranked junior quarterback J.J. McCarthy (Michigan commit), plus a batch of talented newcomers headlined by wide receiver Landon Morris (6-foot-6 junior transfer from Indiana), defending Class 7A champion Nazareth Academy is the clear-cut choice to win the CCL/ESCC Orange Division. The Roadrunners have one of the top receiving units in the Chicago area. Tyler Morris and Breven Reifsteck were starters on the championship team last season, and three junior transfers - Tanner Koziol from Lake Park, Billy O'Malley from Hinsdale Central and the aforementioned Morris deepen an outstanding wide receiving corps.
In addition to their explosive offense, the Roadrunners possess a physical, fast defense led by defensive tackle C.J. West, defensive end Ryan Keeler and linebacker Marcus Griffin, a four-year varsity starter. Jailon Welch and Alex Carrillo are other notable playmakers.
Elsewhere in the Orange, Benet Academy should have another solid team led by three-year starting quarterback Colin Gillespie. St. Laurence looks to return to the state playoffs under new head coach Adam Nissen (former assistant under legendary/former Mount Carmel coach Frank Lenti). Nissen comes over from Immaculate Conception, which has won back-to-back state championships. De La Salle, which barely missed qualifying for the playoffs in 2018, will need to replace several key players in order to compete for a postseason spot this season.
TOP 5 PLAYERS: J.J. McCarthy, QB, JR, Nazareth; Ryan Keeler, DE, JR, Nazareth; Tyler Morris, WR, SO, Nazareth; Myron Lewis, C/NT, SR, St. Laurence; Colin Gillespie, QB, SR, Benet Academy.
TOP 5 GAMES: Cardinal Ritter (St. Louis, MO) at Nazareth, August 31; Fenwick at Nazareth, September 13; Nazareth at Marist, October 11; Benet Academy at Loyola Academy, October 12; Nazareth at Benet Academy, October 26
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH: Nazareth, Benet Academy, St. Laurence, De La Salle