These are some of the top high school football players in the metro-east
For the first time this high school football season, when the Althoff Crusaders look across the field, they won’t see a defending state champion.
They will see a tradition rival, however, in the Mater Dei Catholic High School Knights.
“It’s a rivalry game between to very good football programs,” Althoff coach Ken Turner said. “(Mater Dei) Coach (Jim) Stiebel and I were both assistants here (at Althoff), so we know each other well. They got us pretty good last year and so I know our kids will be fired up and ready.’’
The game will be the 2019 home opener for Althoff (0-2). The Crusaders lost to defending Illinois Class 4A state champion Elmhurst IC, 52-7, in a game played at Illinois Wesleyan University in Normal in week one. Last week, they gave defending Missouri Class 5A state champion Vianney everything it could handle before falling 34-20.
“It’s about working hard and getting better each and every week,” Turner said. “Elmhurst IC has a good thing going on right now and they’ve got a lot of talent. But we learned from that loss and we were a much better team in week two then we were in week one.
“That’s what we’re trying to do — get a little better each day and each week. If we continue to do that there is no doubt in my mind that this football team will have success.’’
Mater Dei is 1-1 after a come-from-behind 28-10 win at home last week against Marquette. The Knights, led by a four-touchdown 210-yard rushing night from senior running back Zach Napovanice, rallied with 28 second half points for the win.
Napovanice was one of the top wide receivers in the area last year, finishing with 42 catches for 534 yards and three touchdowns.
“Why the move to running back? He is just so dynamic and with our offensive line, we just felt this was the right move for our football team,’’ Stiebel said. “I thought we (as a football) team played better last week, especially in the second half. I thought we were tight early.’’
Stiebel, who played at Althoff, thinks the Crusaders are a good team despite their 0-2 start.
“They played two very good football teams the first two weeks, but they are big and they are physical,” Stiebel said. “Plus they have a big running back (Curtis Sharp) and have a couple of wide receivers (Nick Alberico and Jhayden Fridge) with good speed.’’
West, East return home
The big Friday night of high school in Belleville will also include home games for both Belleville East and Belleville West. Both teams are looking to get back on track after falling a week ago.
Belleville East (0-2), which has fallen against Chaminade and Highland the first two weeks, will host Aurora Metea Valley (0-2) at 7 p.m. A member of the DuPage Valley Conference, Metea Valley has suffered losses to Wheaton Warrenville South and Roselle Lake Park the first two weeks.
Lancers first year coach Michael Harrison said that despite the loss to Highland that he saw improvement.
“We definitely performed better and showed some improvement from Week 1 to Week 2.,’’ Harrison said. “Getting some game experience helped along with getting a few guys back from injury. The key is that we have to continue to improve each day, each game. The road in front of us does not get any easier so we have to continue to work to get ready for that. ‘’
Belleville West (1-1) gave perennial Class 6A power Washington a battle last week before falling in the final seconds, 33-32. The Maroons will be playing their home opener when they tangle with the Fort Zumwalt West Jaguars (1-1) beginning at 7 p.m.
Like Harrison, Belleville West coach Bryan Edgar thinks his team continues to show signs of being a very good football team
“I am seeing a young competitive team with a lot of potential that can fly around and make plays,’’ Edgar said. “ The greatest thing about these guys is that they hate to lose.
“What I’m also seeing from our program is a group of young men that are getting better every week. I have told you before our goal is to get 1% better every day, and I think our players have accepted that challenge. They are becoming better students in both the classroom and in the hallways, and I think that discipline is going to find its way onto the football field. ‘’
Flyers, Eagles still soaring
Two of four metro-east area football teams ranked in the Associated Press State Football poll, the East St. Louis Flyers and Columbia Eagles face still tests in week three of the regular season.
Top-ranked in Class 5A and coming off an impressive 32-0 win over St. Louis Trinity Catholic last week, East St. Louis returns to the Chicago area for the second time in three weeks and will take on unbeaten Naperville Neuqua Valley (2-0).
Neuqua Valley received votes in the Class 8A poll this week.
Columbia (2-0), ranked sixth in Class 4A, will host Salem (1-1) in its Cahokia Conference opener.
Other games involving state-ranked teams will include Nashville (2-0), ranked eighth in Class 3A, hosting Wesclin (1-1). The Hornets have scored 127 points in the first two weeks.
Edwardsville, ranked 10th in Class 8A, will play at undefeated DeKalb (2-0) in a 7:15 p.m. game Friday.
Four other schools which will attempt to improve to 3-0 on the young season this week.
Surprising Red Bud (2-0), which has allowed only 14 points the first two weeks, will host winless Carlyle (0-2), while Freeburg (2-0) will host winless Central (0-2). Both are Cahokia Conference games.
Civic Memorial (2-0) faces a stern test when it hosts Cahokia (1-1), while fellow Mississippi Valley Conference team Triad plays at winless Mount Vernon (0-2).
Looking for two in a row
Competing in eight-man football for the first time, the Metro East Lutheran Knights will look to improve 2-1 Friday when they travel to Millford (Coop) 2-0.
The Knights broke the ice a week ago with a 55-0 win at Champaign’s Judah Christian.