5 games to watch by Mike Helfgot

No. 2 Glenbard West at No. 17 Wheaton Warrenville South

When: 7:30 Friday.

On the offensive: Glenbard West no longer has invaluable 6-foot-5 tight end Nathan Marcus (Vanderbilt) to lean on, but with the return of running backs Scott Andrews and Devonte Toney and North Carolina State-bound lineman Eric Shute, the Hilltoppers' offense should be able to stand on its own. Hoping to bring out the best in quarterback Ryan Graham, who endured an up-and-down junior season, Wheaton South will utilize the option.

On the defensive: Dominant line play was a Glenbard West trademark the last couple of years, and while the Hilltoppers aren't as strong there, they could be even better at linebacker and in the secondary. Wheaton South managed just seven points in each of its season-opening losses to Glenbard West the last two years, so it needs to keep the score low and take advantage of GBW quarterback Drew Vogg's inexperience.

The talk: Glenbard West may not possess as much individual talent as its past couple of teams. Wheaton South failed to qualify for the playoffs last year for the first time since 2002 and second time since 1987.

The number: 5. Combined Class 7A championship game appearances by the schools in the last four years. Wheaton South beat Glenbard West 31-24 (2 OT) in 2009, repeated in '10 and lost to Rockford Boylan in '11. Glenbard West is the reigning champ.

Helfgot's pick: Glenbard West 19-6. Stanford-bound kicker Hayden Lekacz is the leading scorer.

No. 6 Maine South at No. 7 Montini

When: 7:30 Friday.

On the offensive: There may not be two other programs in the state who throw as often and as successfully. Montini returns QB Alex Wills (1,900 yards passing last season) but is breaking in a new offensive coordinator and a new group of receivers and backs. New Maine South QB Alec Basso has a quality group of receivers and backs to lean on, though he may be without the protection of Vanderbilt-bound tackle Brendan Brosnan (broken finger).

On the defensive: There was a time in the not-distant past that Montini won in spite of its defense. This game may have to be won because of it. Look for the Broncos to attack Basso with pressure from Dylan Thompson (Ohio State) and Oak Park transfer Nile Sykes (12 sacks in six games last season). The Hawks figure to come after Wills as well.

The talk: Neither team has to worry about finding the five victories necessary to make the playoffs, so each is hoping to catch the other on its 'A'game to benefit from the experience — win or lose. Both won a state championship in 2010 despite an 0-2 start.

The number: 25. Maine South's regular-season winning streak.

Helfgot's pick: Maine South 24-21. Depth is a factor as the Hawks win a tough one on the road.

Providence at No. 20 Joliet Catholic

When: 7:30 Friday.

On the offensive: While JC lacks the star power it has boasted in recent years, Providence has a pair of home-run hitters in receiver Miles Boykin and running back Dominic Lagone, who was pressed into quarterback duty last year but returns to his natural position. Boykin could be Chicagoland's breakout star this season if the Celtics can settle their quarterback situation.

On the defensive: This unit has prevented Joliet Catholic from adding to its record 13 state championships in recent years, but a new coordinator could signal a willingness to mix up its looks and put some of the better athletes on this side of the ball. Providence has depth and experience on its side.

The talk: Senior Sam Abraham and junior Justin Hunniford could split time at quarterback for Providence. Joliet Catholic RB Mike Ivlow, the son of Bolingbrook coach John Ivlow, is primed for a big year behind a strong offensive line.

The number: 9. Previous meetings between the storied programs, despite being located fewer than 10 miles apart. Providence improved to 7-2 in the series with a 40-34 victory in 2012.