By Joe Henricksen

Best bang for the high school buck

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With the preseason football rankings out the CitySuburban Hoops Report started thinking: Who are the Illinois high school versions of Ohio State, Florida, Michigan and Louisville, college programs with the best dual threats this year in both football and basketball.

Look no further than Stevenson when trying to find the best football/basketball combination in Illinois for 2013-2014. In football the Patriots are the preseason No. 1 team in Class 8A and ranked No. 2 in the Chicago Sun-Times preseason rankings. Coach Pat Ambrose's basketball program is fresh off a state runner-up finish in Class 4A last March and will likely be a top five lock when preseason rankings are released in November.

Headed by Stevenson, here is a look at the top combination of football and basketball programs in the Chicago area to watch over the next seven months.

1. Stevenson
Football: The Patriots haven't missed the playoffs since 1988. On paper, this team looks to be a state title contender in 2013, led by Michigan State recruit Matt Morrissey, who is also a starter on the basketball team.
Basketball: Superstar Jalen Brunson returns after helping the Patriots to Peoria last March and a second-place finish in 4A. Brunson, Connor Cashaw and a pair of football standouts, Morrissey and junior Cameron Green, will keep the Patriots in state contention this winter.

2. Loyola Academy
Football: The football program has turned into a juggernaut, going 57-10 since 2008 with four straight trips to the state semifinals, including a state runner-up finish in 2012. This year the Ramblers are tied for the top spot in the Class 8A AP rankings and sit at No. 4 in the Sun-Times preseason rankings.
Basketball: The basketball team will be a sleeper. The Ramblers welcome back three key players in the backcourt from a 22-win team. The Hoops Report projects coach Tom Livatino's team to be among the top 25 in preseason rankings

3. St. Rita
Football: The Mustangs, ranked among the top 25 teams in the Sun-Times preseason football rankings, should be a playoff team after missing the postseason last year for the first time since 1999.
Basketball: Is this the year the Mustangs get over the hump and make a statement? The talent and experience is in place, led by Northwestern recruit Vic Law and super sophomore Charles Matthews. Coach Gary DeCesare's team will be a consensus preseason top 10 team when the season begins.

4. Bolingbrook
Football: State champions in 2012 and an 8-win playoff team last season, the Raiders are again ranked in the Sun-Times preseason Top 25 and No. 6 in the AP preseason rankings in 8A.
Basketball: Like the football team, 'Brook's basketball team will also be among the top 25 teams in the preseason rankings. There is a wealth of overall talent, led by juniors Prentiss Nixon and 6-8 Julian Torres and senior guard Gage Davis.

5. Benet Academy
Football: After an 11-2 record and state semifinal appearance a year ago, the Redwings are flying high behind star-studded junior quarterback Jack Beneventi. Benet is ranked No. 17 in the Sun-Times preseason rankings and will be a threat in 7A when November rolls around.
Basketball: With the return of 6-9 Sean O'Mara, one of the top dozen prospects in the Class of 2014 and also a starting lineman for the football team, Benet will again be among the top teams in the Chicago area and the loaded East Suburban Catholic Conference.

6. Neuqua Valley
Football: Neuqua football got over the hump a year ago and made a big November splash, going 12-1 and reaching the 8A state semifinals in the greatest season in school history. Illinois recruit Mikey Dudek returns for a team ranked No. 3 in the Class 8A preseason rankings and No. 12 in the Chicago area.
Basketball: The Wildcats may not be the state ranked power they were from 2006-2009 (sectional titles in 2008 and 2009), but winning 20-plus games and winning conference and regional championships is like clockwork. There is still enough talent in place for Neuqua to reach those marks again this winter.

7. Hinsdale Central
Football: The Red Devils are poised for a big fall on the gridiron, ranked 11th in the Sun-Times preseason rankings and No. 4 in the AP Class 8A state rankings. Is this the best Red Devils football team since the 2009 state runner-up?
Basketball: The defending West Suburban Silver Conference champs and winners of 18 games a year ago, coach Nick Latorre's club could be even better. Junior Matt Rafferty, a Division I prospect, is back, along with a host of other contributors from a year ago.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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1 Comment

4-6 is a toss up. Like all three schools, but I'd like Neuqua Valley at 4, Benet 5, and Bolingbrook 6. NV football is better than the other two, and its basketball is as good as Benet and a tad better than the Brook due to past history.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on August 30, 2013 6:58 AM.

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