Players to watch
Malik Dunner, Dundee-Crown, RB-WR-DB, sr.
Dunner (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) did not get a lot of offensive touches last year, but when he did, opponents often paid. He’s one of the fastest players and committed to Ball State over the summer. He’ll play more offense this season.
Josh Esikiel, Huntley, WR, sr.
Esikiel (5-11, 185) caught 44 passes for 495 yards and three touchdowns last season for the Red Raiders and should be one of the area’s top receivers again this fall.
Michael Gomez, Cary-Grove, sr., OL-DL
Gomez (6-0, 270) likely will play on both lines this season. He was an anchor on defense with his strength, and he likes guard better than tight end, so he’ll be back inside on offense.
Tyler Pennington, Cary-Grove, FB-LB, so.
Pennington (5-9, 190) may assume the role Kyle Norberg had in 2012 by playing fullback and linebacker. He energized the offense as a freshman with 1,006 yards rushing last season.
Trevor Ruhland, Cary-Grove, OL, sr.
Ruhland (6-4, 270) committed to Notre Dame in the spring and is regarded as one of the top linemen in the state. He is a third-year starter and a player defenders dread to see coming.
Josh Walker, Jacobs, RB, sr.
Walker was the McHenry County 100 meters champion in the spring and is one of the most dangerous backs around with his shiftiness and speed. He rushed for 1,054 yards last season and caught 21 passes.
Huntley at Cary-Grove
You can be certain that Huntley is itching for another shot at C-G after last year’s heartbreaking 20-16 loss. C-G’s Jason Gregoire hit Larkin Hanselmann with a 60-yard pass late to win that game.
Crystal Lake South at Dundee-Crown
South lost to D-C, 14-13, in Week 3 last season, a game that set a tone for both teams. D-C won close games, while South lost close ones.
Cary-Grove at Jacobs
Jacobs is the defending FVC Valley champion, but C-G has most of its starters returning, three of whom played on the Class 6A state runner-up two years ago.
The Trojans return the majority of their starters on both sides of the ball and have the talent to be one of the state’s best Class 6A teams. Third-year starters Matt Sutherland, Michael Gomez and Trevor Ruhland are integral leaders for C-G.
The Golden Eagles won their first FVC title since 1979 last season, led by quarterback Bret Mooney, the Northwest Herald Player of the Year, who graduated. Coach Bill Mitz has taken Jacobs to the playoffs three consecutive seasons and may have enough to challenge for another division title.
The Red Raiders’ defensive line is strong and experienced and could help them back to the playoffs after a frustrating 4-5 season. Huntley’s first four losses last season were by seven or fewer points.
Jacobs 6-0 7-3
Cary-Grove 5-1 7-4
Dundee-Crown 3-3 6-4
Prairie Ridge 3-3 7-5
Huntley 2-4 4-5
Crystal Lake South 2-4 4-5
McHenry 0-6 2-7
– Joe Stevenson