Glenbard West and Lincoln-Way East have proven they’re the class of Class 7A this season.
Glenbard West’s defense manhandles opposing offenses. Lincoln-Way East’s offense shames defenses. They’ll be the favorites to reach the state championship game.
Yet, this is still Wheaton Warrenville South’s title to lose.
While Wheaton Warrenville South doesn’t have the talent or experience of its past two state championship teams, the Tigers are still feared and can compete with anyone. Even when they endured a 1-3 start to the year, there wasn’t a major difference between them and their opponents. They lost by 14 points to Glenbard West in the season opener, by four points to Maine South in Week 2 and by three points to Naperville North in Week 4.
Class 7A may get a new state champion this year, but someone will have to knock off Wheaton Warrenville South to ensure that.
Best opening-round game
No. 9 Providence vs. No. 8 Wheaton Warrenville South: One of these two traditional powerhouses will be gone after the first round. Providence is coming off its upset win over Mount Carmel and is back in the playoffs after last year’s 2-7 record. Wheaton Warrenville South is the two-time defending champs.
Top 10 Class 7A teams
1. Glenbard West (9-0): The Hilltoppers possess possibly the state’s premier defense. Led by Penn State recruit Tommy Schutt, Glenbard West’s defense hasn’t allowed an opponent more than 14 points. Its defense has given up an average of 5.6 points a game.
2. Lincoln-Way East (9-0): The Griffins’ offense is comparable to Glenbard West’s defense. Lincoln-Way East has scored 38 or more points in seven games this season.
3. St. Rita (7-2): The Mustangs are looking to regroup after closing out the regular season with a 34-7 loss to Loyola. St. Rita’s defense has led the way this year.
4. Boylan (9-0): The Titans are the defending Class 6A champions. They held eight opponents to nine points or less and out-scored opponents by 38.8 points a game during the regular season.
5. Crystal Lake South (8-1): The Gators had one bad day in a lopsided loss to Prairie Ridge, but have been consistent otherwise. Their defense has allowed one opponent more than 14 points.
6. Addison Trail (8-1): The Blazers quieted any doubters with their 20-14 win over Downers Grove South in Week 9. Their only loss came to Glenbard West.
7. Wheaton Warrenville South (6-3): The Tigers responded after dropping three of their first four games. They’re not a team anyone wants to face right now.
8. East St. Louis (7-2): The Flyers have returned to the playoffs after being tossed from them last season due to ineligible players. They’re probably not as talented as last season, but they’re still an elite team.
9. Wheaton North (7-2): The Falcons had to settle for a share of the DuPage Valley title after losing to Wheaton Warrenville South in Week 9. They would only face Wheaton Warrenville South again if they both advanced to the championship game.
10a. Lake Zurich (7-2): The Bears bounced back from their loss to Stevenson and closed out the regular season with two wins. Their defense held eight opponents to 14 points or less.
10b. Geneva (7-2): It was too difficult to choose between Lake Zurich and Geneva for the final spot. Geneva also has the pieces to compete with anyone in the class.
Top 5 players to watch
1. Tommy Schutt, Glenbard West DL: Schutt is ranked No. 130 in the country by ESPN Recruiting. He’s headed to Penn State.
2. J.J. Robertson, Lincoln-Way East WR: Robertson is among the state’s premier playmakers. He’s committed to Illinois.
3. Dan Vitale, Wheaton Warrenville South RB: Vitale seems to touch the ball on every play. He’s a Northwestern recruit.
4. Jack Lynn, Lake Zurich LB: Lynn is one of the state’s biggest hitters. He’s also a capable wide receiver. He’s going to Minnesota next year.
5. Brad Walovitch, Crystal Lake South WR/DB: Walovitch does a bit of everything for the Gators. He’s a wide receiver, defensive back, kick returner, punter and kicker.
Elk Grove (8-1): The Grenadiers quietly had a stellar season. Expectations weren’t high for Elk Grove after the graduation of star quarterback Nick Meyer, but the Grenadiers are becoming a consistent program under third-year coach Brian Doll. They lost in Week 2 to Barrington and have won their last seven games.
Chuck Ahsmann, Crystal Lake South: “Class 7A is a tough field every year. Streamwood looks like a good team on film. We will have to be at our best. Glenbard West looks loaded and with the No. 1 seed will be the favorite.”
Todd Kuska, St. Rita: “I think as always the 7A bracket is going to be a challenge for everyone. There is a lot of diversity in the styles and types of football being played. Every week you can be preparing for a totally different team.”
Rob Wicinski, Geneva: “Year in and year out, I believe top to bottom the 7A field might be the toughest. However, every coach in his bracket probably feels the same way. We feel great to be invited to the dance. Right out of the shoot, we have what feels like a second- or third-round playoff game. It’s very exciting to play Lake Zurich.”
Road for defending Class 7A state champions: It’s not going to be easy for Wheaton Warrenville South it it’s going to win a third consecutive Class 7A title. If the Tigers can get by Providence, top-seeded Lincoln-Way East will likely be waiting for them in the second round.
Fun fact: Since the IHSA expanded the playoffs to eight classes, only one team has won a Class 7A state title with more than one loss. Prospect was 12-2 when it won the 2002 Class 7A title.
State championship prediction: Glenbard West over Lincoln-Way East