Friday night lights (in the fall, as it’s supposed to be) returns to Illinois high schools on Friday night, August 27, and Downers Grove North High School will welcome the team and fans from Hoffman Estates High School for their season opener, as Illinois high school football takes at least a shot at normalcy.
The Downers Grove North Trojans play in the West Suburban Conference, Silver Division, and the Hoffman Estates Hawks play in the Mid-suburban Conference, West Division. Both the Trojans and the Hawks won two games and lost three in the shortened 2020-21 modified spring season.
But that was then.
Both teams have a regular nine-game season planned for this fall, and it gets under way for them both in Downers Grove in just 19 days.
Games at Downers North usually pack the stands, including some 200-plus members of the marching band, which has a storied history of making more noise in the stands, I can personally attest, than any other marching band in the state.
Although the band doesn’t typically compete in a marching band circuit like Bands of America, the pre-game and weekly updated halftime shows keep fans entertained, and the noise keeps opposing teams distracted. Friday night football is more fun in Downers Grove than just about anywhere else.
A regular football season is also getting under way this fall in California, a week earlier than in Illinois, but the nation’s top-ranked high school team, according to MaxPreps, Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California, may have to cancel its first game if the school can’t find a replacement for their anticipated opponent, Centennial High School in Corona, where two players tested positive for Covid-19.
According to a report in the Orange County Register, the team is still hoping to find an opponent so they can play a game on the weekend of August 20.
“I’m the eternal optimist,” head coach Bruce Rollinson was quoted as saying. “Maybe someone will come play us at home, or maybe we’ll have the opportunity to go out of state. There’s a lot of research to be done.”
Rollinson expects Centennial lost more than four players to quarantine, given California safety protocols. Like Illinois, California high schools played football in the spring and limited the 2020-21 season to five games.
No Illinois schools are listed in MaxPreps’ top 25, and only one team from Maryland made the cut: St Frances Academy in Baltimore, which is ranked 10th.
St Frances canceled its 2020-21 season. The Panthers will travel to Concord, California, on October 1 to take on 17th-ranked De La Salle High School and to Bradenton, Florida, on November 19 to take on second-ranked IMG Academy.