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Maine South's quarterback Matt Alviti, 10, avoids the pressure from Deerfield's Michael Maki, 23, during their game Friday September 7, 2012 at Maine South High School in Park Ridge, IL. | Adam Alexander~For Sun-Times Media
How far along are we in the prep football season?
There are two ways of looking at it. On the one hand, most of the area's top conferences – including the SouthWest Suburban Blue, DuPage Valley, East Suburban Catholic and Suburban Christian Blue – remain wide open. One premier league, the Catholic League Blue, doesn't even begin play till Brother Rice and St. Rita kick off at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the opener of MeTV's six-game broadcast schedule.
But looking at it another way, the year is already a third done and we're less than six weeks away from seeing the IHSA playoff brackets.
What those pairings will look like is anyone's guess in a normal year. But there's even more uncertainty this fall because of the Chicago Public Schools teachers strike, which has halted all sports in the state's largest district and could play havoc with the chances of Public League teams making the state playoffs if a lot of games are cancelled.
The state's two largest classes look a little different, playoff-wise, from this vantage point.
Class 8A still seems wide open three weeks into the season. Defending champ Bolingbrook hasn't had a game closer than 27 points en route to a 3-0 start against teams with a combined record of 1-8. Just how good quarterback Aaron Bailey and the Raiders are will be a lot clearer after they get through a challenging two-week stretch of
facing Homewood-Flossmoor at home in Week 5 and Lincoln-Way East on the road a week later.
Maine South (3-0), led by another exceptional quarterback in Matt Alviti, has been tested a bit more with a 28-14 Week 1 win over Warren and a 19-13 victory a week later at Wheaton Warrenville South. But the Hawks haven't lost a Central Suburban South game since David Inserra took over as head coach and it wouldn't be a surprise if their next challenge doesn't come till the postseason.
That's not the case for Mount Carmel, also 3-0. The Caravan needed some time to shake off pesky St. Patrick in Week 1 at Soldier Field, but its schedule is seriously backloaded with games at Brother Rice, home against Loyola and St. Rita and at Providence all in the final five weeks of the season.
The Class of 7A looks to be a 3-0 Glenbard West club coming off a 49-7 win over a good Lyons team in which the Hitters made big plays on offense, defense and special teams. Glenbard West still has some big games ahead in the West Suburban Silver against Hinsdale Central this week and later against always dangerous Proviso West and resurgent Downers Grove North. But the Hitters definitely look like the team to beat in the league and beyond.
Another team to keep an eye on in 7A is Lincoln-Way East (3-0), which already has wins over Carmel and Montini. If the Griffins can survive a rugged three-game stretch against H-F, at Sandburg and home to Bolingbrook in Weeks 4-6, they clearly deserve to be in the 7A conversation as well.
Game of the week
Marist 24, Nazareth 21: The RedHawks survived a big challenge from the host Roadrunners, who jumped ahead 14-0 and tied the score at 21 late on Rudy Romagnano's second TD run of the game. Cillian Hannon won it for Marist with a 32-yard field goal on the last play of the game.
By the numbers
0 – Points allowed by Lemont through three games. The Indians and Williamsville are the only teams in the state to start off the season with three straight shutouts.
95 – Length in yards of a touchdown reception by Lake Park's Kevin Teglia against Metea Valley last week. He also had a 94-yard scoring catch in Week 1.
1974 – The last time Niles West started 4-0. The 3-0 Wolves play at 0-3 Highland Park this week.
Week 4 lookahead
The Catholic League Blue race starts to take shape with the beginning of the league schedule as Brother Rice visits St. Rita Friday and Loyola hosts Providence on Saturday. Glenbard West heads to Hinsdale Central Friday night for the biggest game in the western suburbs, while Nazareth tries to bounce back from its last-second loss to Marist when it plays at Joliet Catholic on Friday night.