Willowbrook linebacker Tommy Iozzo grabs Maine West quarterback Danny Kentgen during an Class 7A second-round playoff game Nov. 3 in Villa Park.
Willowbrook linebacker Tommy Iozzo grabs Maine West quarterback Danny Kentgen during an Class 7A second-round playoff game Nov. 3 in Villa Park. — Jeff Krage for Shaw Media

Highland Park

Head Coach: David Lindquist (2nd season, 4-5)

Last year’s record: 4-5

Key returners: Chris Lee (OL/DL), Sam Fishman (OL/DL), Giovanni Volpentesta (LB/RB), Zion Griffin (RB/DB), Max Mauer (DB/WR), Jaden Holzman (DB/WR).

Notable newcomers: David Crane (QB), Tanner Mack (DB/WR).

Outlook: The Giants missed the playoffs in Lindquist’s first year, and will likely be on the bubble again this year. The schedule gets a little friendlier with Glenbrook North heading to the Central Suburban South, replaced by Niles North in Week 7.

Maine East

Head Coach: Robert Winkel (2nd season, 0-9)

Last year’s record: 0-9

Key returners: O’Neil Issac (RB/S), RB/MLB Mark Ibrahim (RB/MLB), Baltazar Cabrales (FB/S).

Notable newcomers: Yaser Alawadi (OL), WR Ilijah Hall (WR).

Outlook: Winkel heads into his second season hoping to build some momentum for the Blue Demons, who haven’t had a winning season since 1977. Winkel hopes having a full offseason under his belt to build his strength and conditioning program will help make Maine East, which was outscored 491-68 last season, more competitive this fall.

Maine West

Head Coach: Jason Kradman (6th season, 25-23)

Last year’s record: 9-2

Key returners: Danny Kentgen (QB), Emmanuel Ajose (TE/DE), Sean Collins (WR), Mike Bartusiak (OL), Jaden Dolphin (SS/WR), Isaiah Siem-Davis (DE), David Jackson (WR/DB), Louis Corey (DL), Josh Schacke (LB), Michael Wilson (OL).

Notable newcomers: Alex Peguero (RB/LB), Raul Ramirez (OL), Rodney Njoku (DL/FB), Jack Roback (OL), Hector Hernandez (LB).

Outlook: Maine West has increased its win total every year under Kradman, and is coming off a 5-0 conference record. Danny Kentgen, Mike Bartusiak and Jaden Dolphin are key returning pieces, but the Warriors will need to find a replacement for running back Jake Belizzi. A friendly schedule should set Maine West up for another playoff run.

Vernon Hills

Head coach: Bill Bellecomo (7th season, 26-25)

Last year’s record: 3-6

Key returners: Ryan Mann (RB/WR/LB), Gio Zullo (WR/DB), Brad Gothelf (OL), Kamrin Martin (RB/WR), Brad Gothelf (DL), Dan Shin (DB), Justin Morris (OLB), Vito Accettura (DL), Jackson Wiegold (LB), Josh Ludolph (LB).

Notable newcomers: Xander McGlothlin (OL/DL), Jake Pieper (WR/DB), Thomas Monken (QB), Erik Rimas (WR/LB), David Mun (DL/OL).

Outlook: The Cougars have missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons after reaching the Class 5A title game in 2016. Bellecomo brings back seven starters who are juniors or younger. Bellecomo said the Cougars are still young on both sides of the ball, but there is plenty of varsity experience here. The schedule sets up favorably through the first three weeks – Grayslake Central, Waukegan and Elk Grove Village combined for three wins last year – to allow Vernon Hills to get off to a fast start. There is certainly a path to five wins, but playoff points may be an issue if the Cougars can’t find a sixth win.

Editor's note: Deerfield and Niles North did not respond to requests for information.