Our Take: Crystal Lake South at Marian Central

Northwest Herald sports writers make their picks for Friday’s football game between Crystal Lake South and host Marian Central.

Joe Stevenson

Crystal Lake South’s past two season openers were rough, to say the least. The Gators could not stop Marian Central’s offense, but, even worse, they could not score any offensive points, either.

QB Billy Bahl, who’s committed to Miami (Ohio), is back to lead a Marian offense that should again be difficult to stop. He will be the Hurricanes’ fourth consecutive quarterback to go to an NCAA Division I school.

The Hurricanes will have several new receivers, but Bahl’s experience will be a huge factor in making the offense click. Marian has an experienced linebacking group and good size on both lines.

South has been one of the area’s top programs over the past decade and saw its impressive 12-year playoff string halted last season. The Gators are eager to get back and start another postseason streak.

Score: Marian 31, CL South 7

Mike DeFabo

Last season Marian Central quarterback Billy Bahl rolled into Crystal Lake South and lit up the scoreboard with two long touchdown passes on the way to a 28-2 Hurricanes victory. Can the Gators slow down Bahl’s Hurricanes and change the narrative in this match up? That’s a tall task.

Billy “Bahl-so-hard” Bahl (yes, I just made up that nickname) is the Northwest Herald’s consensus pick for offensive player of the year. But don’t take our word for it. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder committed to Miami (Ohio) after passing for an area-best 2,510 yards and 29 touchdowns last season.

Crystal Lake South will count on returning defensive back Joey Ahsmann to lock down on receivers and returning defensive linemen Josh Andrae and Steven Anchor to make the Marian QB feel uncomfortable in the pocket.

But with another year of experience under his belt, Bahl will be able to handle the pressure and lead Marian victory on its home field.

Score: Marian 24, CL South 10

Joey Kaufman

It hasn’t exactly been pretty the last time these two teams squared off, with Marian Central winning by a combined score of 59-2. And the East Suburban Catholic League power again figures to boast a potent offensive attack led by the strong-armed senior QB Billy Bahl, who threw for 2,510 yards and 29 touchdowns last season. They should put up points. Signs seem to point toward another rout.

But not so fast, my friends.

Expect Crystal Lake South, which had its 12-season playoff streak snapped last fall, to come out firing, looking to enter 2014 on a positive. The Gators boast a tough defense with five returning starters, including three-year starting linebacker Alex Gardeck, that could make things tough on Bahl and Co. In a season opener, with teams potentially working out the kinks, look out for an upset.

Score: CL South 21, Marian 20

Lester Johnson

Crystal Lake South and Marian Central will feature two defenses that are both trying to get better fast in order to compete in their respective conferences.

The Gators, who are known for defense, need to slow a potent Hurricanes offense that is well balanced and capable of the big play. I think Marian will see a South offense trying to become more balanced, as they have favored the run for some time and had some trouble scoring.

The Hurricanes have the edge on offense with senior QB Billy Bahl and an ability to take what the defense gives them. The Gators need to open up the offense and get points on the board any way they can.

Watching the linemen battle in this game will be awesome. Size and strength on both sides of the ball, for both teams. It will be won or lost in the trenches.

Score: Marian 28, CL South 10

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