Most pundits felt last year that a young but talented Nazareth team would be a state title threat in 2018. But the Roadrunners had a sensational season in 2017, finishing with a 12-2 record and a runner-up finish in Class 6A. With several players returning from that team - including senior stalwarts Devin Blakely and Michael Love - Nazareth not only is the favorite to win the East Suburban Catholic conference, but is also a serious challenger for the Class 7A championship.
However, there are several teams in this highly competitive league that will challenge the Roadrunners. Marist, which won the title last year, returns a talented core led by quarterback Michael Markett and receiver Jadon Thompson. Benet also returns several players as the Redwings have been 7A semifinalists back-to-back seasons. After taking its lumps the last two seasons, perennial power Joliet Catholic looks poised to return to the playoffs. Marian Central is always a threat in 5A, and don't go to sleep on Notre Dame, St. Patrick and St. Viator; each team is quite capable of beating any of the top teams on any given Friday.
TOP 5 PLAYERS:
Devin Blakely, RB, SR, Nazareth
Michael Love, WR/DB, SR, Nazareth
Michael Markett, QB, SR, Marist
Jadon Thompson, WR, JR, Marist
Colin Gillespie, QB, JR, Benet
GAMES TO WATCH:
Joliet Catholic at Marist, September 21
Nazareth at Benet, September 21
Marist at Nazareth, October 5
DID YOU KNOW: Joliet Catholic has amassed the most state football championships in Illinois? The Hilltoppers have finished first 13 times.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH:
Nazareth, Marist, Benet, Notre Dame, Marian Central, Joliet Catholic, St. Viator, St. Patrick, Carmel, Marian Catholic