It may be June, but visit local football fields at the right time and you may catch Trevians, Ramblers or Giants putting in work.
Summer practices have begun for some local football programs, and though limited, the practices are a sign of things to come in less than three months.
With that in mind, The Record talked with local coaches about their season schedules and their hopes for this summer.
New Trier, which made the postseason for 16 straight seasons until 2019, missed the postseason two of the last three tries and is looking to return to the playoff bracket in 2023.
But their schedule will not do them many favors.
The Trevians open the season with four non-conference opponents (Hersey, Yorkville, Prospect, Barrington) with a combined 2022 regular-season record of 30-5. All four made the postseason, and New Trier will hit the road for three of the matchups.
After that, New Trier opens its conference slate against Maine South.
“I think our first five games are about as difficult as anyone’s in the state,” Trevians coach Brian Doll said.
The Trevs won’t go in defenseless, however. They are poised to feature an experienced an dynamic offense with returners all over the field, including quarterback Patrick Heneghan, wide receivers Miles Cremascoli and Trey Meyers, and tailback Jackson McCarey, who missed most of ’22 with injuries.
Three starting offensive linemen, including tackles John McGurk and Francesco Youkhana, are also set to return.
“It’s probably as healthy of a group as I’ve had coming back,” Doll said. “… The offseason has been really good for us and the kids have gotten a lot stronger.”
New Trier’s schedule also includes Central Suburban League South regulars Glenbrook North (homecoming, Oct. 6) and South (Oct. 13), as well as rival Evanston (Sept. 29), but Deerfield is a new addition. The Warriors swapped divisions with Niles West in a CSL shakeup.
The Trevs will finish the regular season with the Warriors, who were 6-3 a year ago, on Oct. 20.
Yorkville is another surprise schedule insert. The Trevians will travel to the far-west-suburban school in Week 2, after Doll said many more-local options didn’t pan out.
New Trier begins summer camp on Monday, June 12, before joining with local schools, like Loyola Academy and St. Charles North, for unique combined practices this summer. The Trevs will also participate in a handful of 7-on-7 competitions, including a CSL showdown in July.
While New Trier has the summer to prepare for Week 1, Loyola Academy gets an extra week — at least as of press time (June 8).
The Ramblers have an open slot in Week 1, evidence of a growing trend of large and successful programs struggling to find nonconference opponents.
“We’re working hard to try to find someone to play us,” Loyola coach Beau Desherow said. “We’ve reached out to several schools but are in a holding pattern until we get an agreement in place.”
The rest of Loyola’s schedule, per usual, is a bear. Coming off an IHSA Class 8A championship, the Ramblers have added to their schedule perennial powers Naperville North (Week 2) and IC Catholic (Week 7), which won the Class 3A title a year ago. Benet Academy (Week 8) and St. Rita (Week 6) are also on the slate for CCL/ESCC division crossovers, and St. Patrick (Week 5) rounds out the noncon schedule.
The Ramblers will have regular conference opponents Marist (Week 3) and Brother Rice (Week 4) early and battle Mount Carmel (Week 9) to cap the regular season in a rematch of maybe the state’s most notable game of 2022.
Desherow is in his first year at the helm of Loyola Academy, and like his predecessor John Holecek, believes in high-level competition.
“I love tough schedules,” he said. “You’re battle-tested when playoffs come around. Playing in the Catholic League … makes you have to do a great job of repairing your team. You find out through that schedule where your holes are and what you need to improve on. It’s tough, it’s a grinder.”
The Ramblers graduated plenty from their championship unit, but the cupboard is hardly bare.
As the state has seen many times, even after a significant graduating class, Loyola Academy reloads, and Desherow is ready to get to work.
“Main goals for me this summer is one, establish our culture,” he said. “A lot of us have been part of this program for two decades and want to continue the winning tradition and culture that we’ve had.
“That’s No. 1. No. 2 is that we get better every opportunity we get out there. … We take advantage of every single rep, every segment of practice so when we do get a Week 1 opponent, we’re ready.”
Highland Park High School’s journey toward playoff eligibility begins this summer.
The Giants have recorded four straight 4-5 seasons — not including their 2-2 season in the COVID-delayed spring 2021 season — and are hungry to return to the postseason.
“We always want to make the postseason and win the conference. Always the goals,” said Anthony Kopp, who is entering his second year as head coach. “As long as we play tough, it’s possible. But it’s going to take a lot of hard work.”
Kopp will have plenty of familiar faces around him to chase those goals. A sizable group rising Highland Park seniors will enter their third season of varsity football. They include All-Conference players quarterback David Finfer, running back/defensive back Nikko Rosenbloom, wide receiver/defensive back Nick Blumer and linebacker Tyler Glezer.
“We have a strong senior group,” Kopp said. “They’ve been doing a great job working out in the offseason and we have a ton of guys who played multiple sports. We’re definitely looking for a strong year from them.”
The Giants add playoff team Conant (Week 4) to their 2023 nonconference schedule to go with Leyden (Week 1) and Rolling Meadows (Week 3). Deerfield (Week 2) is also now a nonconference foe after transferring to the CSL South.
Niles West (Week 7) is the new league opponent, joining Maine West (Week 5), Niles North (Week 6), Maine East (Week 8) and Vernon Hills (Week 9). Highland Park went 2-3 in the CSL North last year with losses to Deerfield, Maine West and Vernon Hills.
Kopp said Highland Park football continues to see an increase in participation after a dip following the onset of COVID-19. He said around 100 students have already signed up to play in the fall, which is about 25 more than last year and nearly double what it was a couple years ago.
“We are very, very happy with the numbers,” he said.
NEW TRIER 2023 SCHEDULE (2022: 5-4`)
Opponent (2022 record) Day, Date Home/Away Last year’s result Hersey (9-0)* Friday, Aug. 25 Away Loss: 31-0 Yorkville (8-1)* Friday, Sept. 1 Away N/A Prospect (8-1)* Friday, Sept. 8 Home N/A Barrington (5-4)* Thursday, Sept. 14 Away N/A Maine South (0-11)*^` Friday, Sept. 22 Home W: Forfeit (L: 24-17 [OT]) Evanston (4-5)^` Friday, Sept. 29 Away Win: 17-10 Glenbrook North (4-5)^` Friday, Oct. 6 Home Win: 24-17 Glenbrook South (8-1)*^` Friday, Oct. 13 Away Loss: 24-7 Deerfield (6-3)*^ Friday, Oct. 20 Home N/A
^ Conference opponent
` Record impacted by Maine South’s 10 forfeited wins
LOYOLA ACADEMY 2023 SCHEDULE (2022: 11-1; IHSA Class 8A champions)
Opponent (2022 record) Day, Date Home/Away Last year’s result OPEN – – – Naperville North (7-2)*^ Friday, Sept. 1 Away N/A Marist (6-3)*^ Friday, Sept. 8 Away Win: 28-17 Brother Rice (5-4)*^ Saturday, Sept. 16 Home Win: 57-21 St. Patrick (4-5) Saturday, Sept. 23 Home Win: 53-7 St. Rita (7-2)* Friday, Sept. 29 Away Win: 34-14 IC Catholic (8-1)* Friday, Oct. 6 Away N/A Benet Academy (4-5) Saturday, Oct. 14 Home N/A Mount Carmel (9-0)*^ Saturday, Oct. 21 Home Loss: 42-37
^ Conference opponent
HIGHLAND PARK 2023 SCHEDULE (2022: 4-5)
Opponent (2022 record) Day, Date Home/Away Last year’s result Leyden (2-7) Friday, Aug. 23 Away Win: 28-25 Deerfield (6-3)* Friday, Sept. 1 Home Loss: 20-0 Rolling Meadows (4-5) Friday, Sept. 8 Home N/A Conant (5-4)* Thursday, Sept. 14 Away N/A Maine West (5-4)*^ Friday, Sept. 22 Home Loss: 34-6 Niles North (2-7)^ Friday, Sept. 29 Home Win: 29-6 Niles West (3-6)^ Friday, Oct. 6 Home N/A Maine East (1-8)^ Friday, Oct. 13 Away Win: 46-7 Vernon Hills (5-4)*^ Friday, Oct. 20 Away Loss: 50-34
^ Conference opponent