Roosevelt Panthers

Coach: Craig Buckingham, fourth season

Last season: 4-7

2018 postseason: Lost 48-0 to Whiting in Class 2A sectional semifinals

Top returning offensive players: QB/S/K DaVarius Hyde, RB/DL CheQuon Cook, WR/LB Jackie McPherson

Top returning defensive players: QB/S/K DaVarius Hyde, RB/DL CheQuon Cook, WR/LB Jackie McPherson

What you should know: The Panthers are led by senior DaVarius Hyde, who is the team’s starting quarterback, safety and kicker. In his final prep season, Roosevelt’s co-captain said he is willing to shoulder as much responsibility as his 5-foot-10, 215-pound frame can handle.

“I gotta give it all I got,” Hyde said. “I’m not trying to lose against West Side, and I’m not trying to lose homecoming. It’s all or nothing this year.”

Fellow senior CheQuon Cook is the Panthers’ other co-captain, and he will be relied on heavily, too. Last year, he mainly played at guard and fullback on offense, but this season he is Roosevelt’s starting running back and eyes a deep postseason run.

“This is my last year,” Cook said. “I’ve never actually seen the third round of sectionals, so I gotta go all the way through.”

The senior plans to be one of the top rushers in the Region, and also hopes to set a great example for the younger players on the team.

Coach Craig Buckingham acknowledged that the Panthers don’t have as many players or resources as other programs in the area, but he believes that has only made his squad tougher. Regardless of their circumstances, he said his athletes have always focused on what they do have rather than what they don’t.

“A lot of the time, me and my assistant coach have to drop kids off and feed them before practice and stuff like that,” Buckingham said. “But we adapt, and those are the kind of kids I want because they’ll go out there and do everything for you. All they want from you is to show them a little love.”

Marian Catholic Spartans

Coach: Erick Middleton, second season

Last season: 1-8

2018 postseason: Did not qualify

Top returning offensive players: RB Tajheem Lawson, WR/DE Justin Stallworth

Top returning defensive players: DB Joshua Coats

What you should know: It's year two of Marian Catholic's rebuild under coach Erick Middleton, who played for the Spartans during their glory days in the '90s.

There is some experience, with 13 starters back — including nine on defense. And there's talent too. Junior running back Tajheem Lawson has recruiting interest from Minnesota, Iowa, Iowa State, Boston College and Northern Illinois, while senior defensive back Joshua Coats has interest from Bowling Green, and junior wide receiver/defensive end Justin Stallworth is getting looks from Northwestern and Boston College.

Numbers, though, are low with around 36-40 expected on the varsity roster. And the Spartans are dealing with the legacy of a 68-game losing streak in conference games.

But Middleton is upbeat. "Looking to turn it all around this year," he said.

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TF North Meteors

Coach: Tristan Stovall, second season

Last season: 3-6

2018 postseason: Did not qualify

Top returning offensive players: RB Kendi Young, QB Caleb Green, SB Malik Beasley, WR Miles Scott, WR/FS David Green, LT Christopher Lockridge

Top returning defensive players: OLB Donte Green

What you should know: TF North will be piling up frequent flier miles as long as coach Tristan Stovall is in charge.

The second-year coach took the Meteors to South Carolina this summer for a 7-on-7 event that drew coverage from ESPN. He plans to return next year, and looks to go to another 7-on-7 in Las Vegas. 

"Now every kid has a Twitter page and all the offers — they got a chance to see what that competition really looks like," Stovall said of his players. "These are the people you are competing against to get that scholarship."

There might be another long road trip to open the 2020 season. "We're negotiating the possibility of playing our first game (in South Carolina)," Stovall said. 

"It's about being on the national stage."

TF South Rebels

Coach: Bob Padjen, third season

Last season: 6-4

2018 postseason: Lost 38-0 to Mount Carmel in Class 7A first round

Top returning offensive players: RB Jamarrion Gaines, WR/DB Chawn Wilson, WR Khullen Jefferson

Top returning defensive players: LB Michael Smith, DE/WR Chris Cox

What you should know: There's no shortage of speed in Lansing this fall.

"It's a very talented group, very fast group," TF South coach Bob Padjen said. "Not very, very deep, but there are athletes everywhere."

Senior tailback Jamarion Gaines, has 10.7 speed in the 100 meters, is back healthy after missing the last four games of the 2018 season with a broken fibula.

"He's a burner," Padjen said. "When he gets out in the open, nobody's catching him."

The Rebels' receivers can fly, too. Senior Khullen Jefferson was fourth in the Class 3A 400 at state track in May, while Chawn Wilson Jr. was a national qualifier in AAU track.

"We're going to have a lot of speed, hopefully a lot of weapons," Padjen said. "Hopefully the line holds up a little better than last year."

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Lake County Sports Reporter

James Boyd is the Lake County prep sports reporter for The Times. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a proud native of Romeoville, Illinois. Before anything else, his main goal in life is to spread love and light.