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If you were to start a high school team with one player, who would it be?
Glenbard North may just have the guy.
Senior running back Justin Jackson offers a little bit of everything for the Panthers — including many sleepless nights for opposing defenses. The reigning Gatorade Illinois Player of the Year is back for his third varsity season after rushing for 2,600 yards and 35 touchdowns in leading Glenbard North to last year's Class 8A title game.
While Jackson's backfield abilities border on jaw-dropping, the Northwestern recruit actually might be a better defensive back. With Jackson's astounding skill set leading the way, Glenbard North is primed for another run at the DuPage Valley Conference title and beyond.
It won't be easy given Glenbard North's many graduation losses, but having perhaps the best player in the state is a tremendous start for any team.
"When you bring back the Gatorade Player of the Year you'll have some high expectations," said Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens. "He's going to carry the load."
Linemen Chris Edwards, Eric Graham and tight end Bryan Leckner are back, lending even more reason to believe Jackson, like last season, will carry the ball 40 times in some games.
The Panthers welcome a new quarterback to replace graduated two-year starter Brian Murphy. At 6-foot-3, 205 pounds junior Brett Gasiorowski brings a differing style to the position, but he'll be aided in the passing game by receivers Kendall Holbert, Colin MacGaffey and Leckner.
Four starters return defensively, including all-DVC defensive back Sam Kriese and lineman Connor Dombrowski. Linebacker Joe Fierro shifts from defensive tackle while junior Jamique Davis is back after being promoted to varsity for the playoffs last season.
Of course, you'll also see Jackson at times in the secondary in addition to Holbert and MacGaffey. It'll be spot duty, but the Panthers will need their best players on the field to vie for a repeat DVC title.
"The team that took second in the state is gone," Wilkens said. "We lost some guys that are tough to replace. It's a brand new year."
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Fri, 8/30 Glenbard North at Batavia 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/6 Carmel at Glenbard North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/13 Naperville North at Glenbard North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/20 Lake Park at Glenbard North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/27 Glenbard North at Glenbard East 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/4 West Aurora at Glenbard North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/11 Glenbard North at Naperville Central 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/18 WW South at Glenbard North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/25 Glenbard North at Wheaton 7:30 p.m.