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A year ago Downers Grove North football coach John Wander said that if he could get 11 games out of his young team, then watch out next year.
Well, next year is here.
Wander got 12 games out of his junior-heavy team before suffering a heartbreaking loss to Benet in the Class 7A quarterfinals. Fifteen returning starters make the Trojans a serious threat to win a state title.
"This is a unique senior class," Wander said. "They're just fun to coach. It's a very special class."
Defensive lineman-receiver Vontae Diggs and receiver Richard Olekanma both committed to Toledo. They and linebacker Dan Izewski and defensive lineman Joe Hill enter their third varsity season.
Junior quarterback David Edwards, who has offers from Vanderbilt, Indiana and Illinois, is well on his way to a three-year varsity tenure. As a sophomore he rushed for 650 yards and 8 touchdowns while throwing for another 480 yards and 3 scores. At 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, he'll be a load for defenses to bring down.
It's no secret Downers North thrives with a punishing ground game. Kyle Leto, who rushed for 760 yards and 7 touchdowns, will run in front of an experienced offensive line ready to improve upon last season's impressive team total of 2,500 rushing yards.
"What you do well, you do often," Wander said. "So we'll definitely be running the ball a lot again."
Like last season, surviving the West Suburban Silver — home of defending Class 7A champion Glenbard West and only one team that didn't make the playoffs — would be the perfect springboard to a postseason run.
Last season Wander hoped for 11 games. This season he'd like three more.
"You're only as good as your weakest link, and in our conference teams find your weakest link," Wander said. "As much talent and as much experience as we have, we're going to have to be at our best every week to be competitive."
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Fri, 8/30 Downers North at Lockport 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/6 Hinsdale South at Downers North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/13 Glenbard West at Downers North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/20 Downers North at Oak Park 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/27 Lyons Township at Downers North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/4 Downers North at Downers South 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/11 York at Downers North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/18 Downers Grove North at Proviso West 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/25 Downers North at Hinsdale Central 7:30 p.m.