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Metea Valley's goals are simple: a conference championship, a playoff berth, a playoff victory.
Common for established football programs, they've yet to happen in the Mustangs' brief, two-year varsity history.
"They kind of want to leave their legacy, because no one's done it yet," said first-year head coach Ben Kleinhans, the former Waubonsie Valley quarterback hired out of Neuqua Valley's program to replace Ted Monken.
"That's really their motivation that they rely on, on a daily basis."
Kleinhans hopes greater consistency, and the ability to run the football and prevent opponents from doing so, will reap benefits. The pieces are in place. Returning is Cameron Wilcox, injured after running for 152 and 215 yards his first two games last year and still finishing with 622 yards and 7 touchdowns. Kleinhans sees a solid 1-2 punch with Wilcox and fellow senior back Chase Nelson.
The offense remains a spread set, and receiver Alex Hagemaster returns for a third year at receiver. He and Blaze Miller will be the primary targets for junior quarterback Blaise Bell, a poised move-in from Texas.
"He has the upside and potential to be pretty good," said Kleinhans, who developed three all-Upstate Eight quarterbacks at Neuqua.
The crux is always up front. Initially concerned, Kleinhans feels "pretty excited" about his offensive line. Sophomores Matt Fitzgerald and 280-pound Brett Boddy join seniors Sam Freedlund, Andrew Pable and returning starter Mike Schapen. Four of the five are listed above 200 pounds; when Metea first played varsity ball only six Mustangs were listed above 200 and now 19 are.
Most of the bulk is on the offensive side, Kleinhans said, but if the defensive line can occupy blockers, three-year starting linebackers Jake Murawski and Donovan Rowsey should clean up.
"I think we just need to improve our day-in, day-out process and the grind of practices," Kleinhans said, "understanding what it takes each and every day to achieve these goals that we have set out for us."
— Dave Oberhelman
Coach: Ben Kleinhans (first year).
2011 record: 4-5, 1-5, sixth in the Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division.
Top players: Blaise Bell (QB, 6-2, 175, Jr.), Alex Hagemaster (WR, 5-10, 165, Sr.), Breon Hoosier (DB, 6-0, 180, Sr.), Blaze Miller (WR, 5-11, 165, Sr.), Jake Murawski (LB, 5-11, 180, Sr.), Chase Nelson (RB, 5-6, 160, Sr.), Donovan Rowsey (LB, 5-10, 210, Sr.), Mike Schapen (OL, 6-1, 192, Sr.), Cameron Wilcox (RB, 5-10, 180, Sr.).
Fri, 8/24, Plainfield East at Metea Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 8/31, Metea Valley at Glenbrook South, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/7, Metea Valley at Lake Park, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/14, Bartlett at Metea Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Sat, 9/22, Metea Valley at South Elgin, 1:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/28, Neuqua Valley at Metea Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/5, East Aurora at Metea Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/12, Metea Valley at Geneva, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/19, Metea Valley at Waubonsie Valley, 7:30 p.m.