Seven teams that surprised with Week 1 victories

Preseason prognosticating is always difficult, but certain high school football programs tend to win much more consistently than others.

Lincoln-Way East wasn’t particularly sharp in the first quarter Saturday against Kenwood at Gately Stadium, but the Griffins didn’t panic and went on to dominate. Coach Rob Zvonar made an interesting comment after the game.

‘‘Sometimes when you have adversity, you can lean on tradition a little bit,’’ Zvonar said.

There are very few programs in the area with a tradition as successful as Lincoln-Way East. But several teams found a way to defy expectations and pull out unexpected victories in Week 1.

Here are seven teams that surprised in the opening week.


The Kays played for a state title in 2021 and finished 8-3 last season. It was likely that new coach Miles Osei would get Kankakee into the Super 25 at some point this season. The team has several talented players, including running back Tony Phillips, quarterback Larenz Walters and lineman Marques Easley, a Georgia recruit.

But the Kays’ 33-26 victory against then-No. 5 Nazareth on Friday was eye-opening. The reigning Class 5A champion Roadrunners were expected to be one of the best teams in the state this season, regardless of class. They still might be, but add Kankakee to that list, as well.

Joliet West

The Tigers beat Shepard 34-14 in Week 1. It was the school’s first victory in a season opener since 2015 and first at home since 2012.

Coach Dan Tito’s team was led by quarterback Juan Rico, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third. Joliet West, 4-5 last season and 3-6 in 2021, was the only team in the Southwest Prairie East to win its opener.


There’s a ton of hype surrounding freshman quarterback Trae Taylor, who already has scholarship offers from several colleges, including Miami and Michigan.

But it was senior quarterback Johnny Weber, a Southeast Missouri recruit, who led the Corsairs to a 24-0 victory against Crete-Monee. Weber threw three touchdown passes.


The Wildcats were 5-5 and made the playoffs last season, but their 22-13 victory against Lemont in Week 1 was still unexpected.

Lemont advanced to the Class 6A semifinals last season and is traditionally one of the best programs in the area.

Libertyville had several underclassmen step up, including junior receiver Steven Gavric and sophomore running back Blaise LaVista.


The Broncos have an established, successful program that experienced a rough patch in the last two seasons. They didn’t make the playoffs last season and were 5-5 in 2021.

That blip is over. Barrington knocked off preseason No. 8 Warren 40-33 in the season opener.

Junior Nick Peipert connected with senior Matt Marusich for the game-winning touchdown pass.


The Fighting Irish took down Wilmington 27-21 in Week 1. Wilmington’s last nonconference loss had come in 2001. Kyle Farrell rushed for 171 yards and three touchdowns for Seneca, a Class 2A school.


The Panthers, 3-6 last season, knocked off Neuqua Valley 13-0 in Week 1. The Wildcats had won eight consecutive season openers, the last two against Oswego.

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