(Last year's record in parentheses)
1. Mount Carmel (13-1)
The Caravan lost quite a bit, including three-year starter Jason Gasser and quarterback Don Butkus, from their Class 8A state championship team, but return one of the state's top backs in Illinois recruit Matt Domer. Mount Carmel also has two Big Ten commits in defensive lineman Enoch Smith (Michigan State) and Steve Richardson (Minnesota). Marko Boricich steps in at quarterback and is a good passer. The Caravan will get a test Saturday morning at Soldier Field when it will play St. Patrick. The key for Mount Carmel is to play together like last year's team.
2. Crete-Monee (14-0)
The defending Class 6A state champs lost Times Offensive Player of the Year in Laquon Treadwell (Ole Miss), plus quarterback Marcus Terrell (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) and wide receiver Lance Lenoir (Western Illinois). However, the defense is loaded, led by linebacker Nyles Morgan and LBs Kwante Bright and Omari Stringer. Linemen Chris Slayton and Rudy Antuna, and backs Jonathan Draper and Deon Benton make this as tough of a defense as the one which shut down teams last year. Running back DeShaun Smith is primed for a great year. Crete-Monee has a big opener tonight at T.F. South.
3. Thornton (8-3)
The Wildcats have plenty of good players at the skill position and some good linemen. They do not have an easy schedule as they open with Morgan Park tonight then travel to Naperville North for Week 2. There is a lot of experience, and this team won last year, so they know what it takes to be successful. Quarterback Jowahn Brown has two great receivers in Iowa State recruit Jauan Wesley and D'Andre Fuller.