The Hilltoppers hold up the IHSA Class 5A football trophy Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, after the IHSA Class 5A Football Championship at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill.
The Hilltoppers hold up the IHSA Class 5A football trophy Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, after the IHSA Class 5A Football Championship at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill. — Eric Ginnard -


Head Coach: Gene Nudo (8th season, 49-31)

Last year’s record: 3-6

Key returners: Sean Carpenter (OL/DL), Bryan Dowd (K/P), Marc Thomas (DB/ATH), Bryce Legan (LB), Tom Dvorak (LB), Danny Farnan (LB), Jamie Moran (OL), Jimmy Liston (C).

Notable newcomers: Isaac Novak (RB), Jonas Capek (WR), Kaden Cobb (QB), Rasheed Anderson (OL/DL), Kevin Frazier (DL/RB), Eian Pugh (WR), Jacque Walls (RB/DB), Quin Wieties (DE/TE).

Outlook: The Friars missed the playoffs for only the second time in the last seven years, and will be looking to get back this season. Fenwick is stout up front with sophomore center Jimmy Liston, junior tackle Jamie Moran and senior tackle Sean Carpenter, a three-year starter. These three guys will be key to protecting new starting quarterback sophomore Kaden Cobb. Cobb already has interest from Iowa, Minnesota and Northwestern. The Friars also return an impressive kicker/punter in Bryan Dowd. Carpenter, Dowd and linebacker Tom Dvorak were all-conference selections last season.

Joliet Catholic

Head Coach: Jacob Jaworski (2nd season, 13-10)

Last year’s record: 10-4

Key returners: Kenyetta Williams (RB), Conor Kovas (OL/DL), Joey Bueno (LB), Mac O’Connell (DL/TE), Isaiah Murphy (WR), Jabril Williams (DB), Ja’Aire Mack (RB).

Notable newcomers: Julian Perez (FB/DE), Johnny Ehrsam (WR/DB), Devean Washington (DB/RB).

Outlook: The Hilltoppers are the reigning Class 5A champions, joining 2008 IC Catholic and 2009 Montini as the only teams to be a four-loss state champion. The first obstacle to a repeat will be figuring out how to replace 17 of 22 starters. Of course, there cupboard isn’t bare. JCA will bring back terrific senior running back Kenyetta Williams, who has offers from MAC schools and some Big Ten interest. Ja'aire Mack and Julian Perez will also see time in the backfield. Conor Kovas is the only returning offensive lineman. The Hilltoppers will be tested early with a trip to St. Rita in Week 1 before hosting IC Catholic in Week 2.


Head Coach: Dan Thorpe (15th season, 80-64)

Last year’s record: 3-6

Key returners: Brandon Bryan (OL), Major Haas (LB), Michael Gatz (DB), Garrett Durian (DB), Jack Scales (DB).

Notable Newcomers: Padraig Fitzgerald (QB), Jia Rui Yang (OG/DE)

Outlook: The Cadets are coming off of a down year and only return five starters: one on offense and four on defense. Marmion will miss senior tight end/defensive end Nate Johnson, who transferred to St. Charles North. Thorpe is encouraged by the progress shown by senior running back/linebacker Major Haas. It could be tough sledding for the Cadets as Thorpe mixes and matches personnel early in the season.

St. Ignatius

Head Coach: Matt Miller (3rd season, 13-7)

Last year’s record: 6-4

Key returners: Declan Callahan, Elijah Williams, Mofolarin Walter-Johnson, Shaz Mathew, Jack Coolidge.

Notable newcomers: Cam Roberson, Leo Rugai, Evan Stuart, EJ Talarico, Damian Lassak.

Outlook: The Wolfpack returns only six starters from last year’s playoff team with two returners on offense and four on defense. St. Ignatius has two FCS recruits in senior running back/linebacker Declan Callahan, offered by Butler, and senior fullback/linebacker Elijah Williams, offered by Valporaiso. The Wolfpack have made the postseason every year since 2015, but an inexperienced roster and a formidable schedule will make it a challenge to extend that streak.