When Metea Valley started playing varsity football in 2010 six players were listed on the roster at 200 pounds or more. No longer is that the case.
Offensive guard Walter LaGambina is what Mustangs coach Ben Kleinhans called a "power guard" who tilts the scale at 320 pounds. He and returning 295-pound left tackle Brett Boddy are among 21 players at 200 and up.
More beef may give senior quarterback Blaise Bell space to use his big arm under control. After moving from Texas, in 2012 Bell completed 121 of 229 passes for 1,673 yards and 12 touchdowns. Against Geneva he threw for 337 yards, 305 against Neuqua Valley.
He also threw 16 interceptions. More consistency is sought from a passing game that returns receivers Peyton Mitchell, a three-year starter, and junior Nick Dodson.
"We always felt we could match up skill-wise, but we'd get beat up and worn down on the line," Kleinhans said. "I'm hoping it'll take pressure off a guy like Blaise and the other skill kids."
Metea Valley graduated program rushing leader Cameron Wilcox, who ran for 1,280 yards and 15 touchdowns last fall. Those numbers will be hard to replace and attempted more by a committee including Wilcox's younger brother, Christian, and Jay Parker, who ran for 106 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 4 carries.
Offensive balance is the goal so Bell needn't average 25 passes a game. Still, after a solid off-season he and the offense will be asked to carry the load until an inexperienced defense jells.
New defensive coordinator Matt Fehrmann returns just a few players who got significant 2012 reps, such as cornerback Christian Wilcox and linebacker Paul LaBarbera. Promising defenders among this tightknit team include nose tackle Matt Fitzgerald and a pair of defensive backs, Mitch Waller and Tommy Ensminger.
"If you come to watch us practice you'll see more depth and talent on the field than we've ever had," said Kleinhans, seeking the Mustangs' first winning season. "Whatever that means, we'll see."
Coach: Ben Kleinhans (second year, 2-7).
2012 record: 2-7, 1-5, sixth in the Upstate Eight Valley.
Top players: Blaise Bell (QB, 6-2, 185, sr.), Brett Boddy (OL, 6-4, 295, jr.), Nick Dodson (WR, 5-10, 155, jr.), Matt Fitzgerald (DL, 6-2, 230, jr.), Paul LaBarbera (LB, 5-9, 190, sr.), Peyton Mitchell (WR-DB, 5-11, 160, sr.), Jay Parker (RB, 5-10, 195, sr.), Christian Wilcox (RB-DB, 5-9, 175, sr.).
Fri, 8/30 Metea Valley at Plainfield East 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/6 Glenbrook South at Metea Valley 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/13 West Chicago at Metea Valley 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/20 Metea Valley at Bartlett 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/27 South Elgin at Metea Valley 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/4 Metea Valley at Neuqua Valley 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/11 Metea Valley at East Aurora 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/18 Geneva at Metea Valley 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/25 Waubonsie Valley at Metea Valley 7:30 p.m.