This weekend, thousands of area fans will be heading out to stadiums to watch the start of the 2015 high school football season in Illinois.
And they won’t have far to go.
Seven of the 10 area schools in the Reporter-Regional area will host opening games and the other three are not terribly far away.
Just four of the 10 games are rematches from the 2014 opening week.
Brother Rice hosts Michigan power Brother Rice out of Bloomfield Hills. Last year, the Michigan squad beat the Crusaders 40-34 but that convinced members of the Chicago team that they could play with the big boys and they went on to knock off Loyola, Mt. Carmel and St. Rita to earn a tie for first in the Catholic League Blue. The visitors are ranked 16th in Michigan by the MLive website and had a 33-game winning streak snapped last year in a Division 2 Regional game.
Evergreen Park hosts Lake Station (Ind.) and last year the Mustangs held a 14-0 early lead when rain and lightning postponed the game to Saturday and they didn’t miss a beat, completing a 55-13 victory.
Shepard hosts Niles North in Palos Heights and hopes to avenge a 49-14 road setback from last year.
Chicago Christian hosts Westmont and last year, the Knights opened the season with a 56-34 road setback.
The other six games will feature teams not as familiar with each other.
Marist plays Mount Carmel at Soldier Field and it promises to be a tough game for a RedHawks team that missed the playoffs last year for the first time since 2007. The Caravan won 12 state titles and last year went a disappointing 5-4 in the regular season and was in danger of missing the regular season but won three postseason games and reached the Class 7A semifinals before bowing to eventual state champ Providence.
St. Laurence, which qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2009 last year, had opened the past two seasons with the historic Battle of Burbank against Reavis but this year the Vikings will battle Benet. The up-and-down Redwings have gone 1-8, 11-2, 6-4 and 6-4 the past four seasons.
Richards heads to Frankfort to take on Lincoln-Way North, a team that has gone 24-8 the past three seasons. Two weeks ago, the Lincoln-Way school board voted to close North after the school year so this figures to be an emotional season for the Phoenix as they prepare for their final campaign.
Oak Lawn hosts Lane out of the Chicago Public League. Lane was 4-5 last year. Area teams played four Public League teams in the two weeks of 2014 and won all four games by a combined score of 135-6, including Oak Lawn’s 49-0 rout of Kenwood.
Stagg, which opened its season with Hillcrest the past two years, switched up and will host Minooka this year. The Indians were a power from 2009-2011 but the past three seasons they have failed to finish with a winning record. Stagg is hoping to avoid its 10th straight losing season.
Sandburg, which opened the past two seasons against Lincoln-Way Central, visits Naperville North. North was 2-7 last year but had made it to the playoffs 17 straight years prior to that including a Class 8A state title in 2007. It was North’s first losing season since 1983. Sandburg made it to the playoffs six straight seasons but fell short in 2014.