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Offense wasn't an issue for Jacobs last season. The Golden Eagles averaged 28.7 points and 388 yards per game.
With returning weapons like all-area senior quarterback Bret Mooney, all-area receiver Hunter Williams and fleet-footed junior Josh Walker back to lead the offense, scoring points shouldn't be a problem this season either.
However, for the Golden Eagles to challenge for the title in the rugged Valley Division of the Fox Valley Conference, the defense must improve. In 2012, the Golden Eagles allowed averages of 27.6 points and an area-high 363 yards per game.
Veteran coach Bill Mitz, who set a school record for consecutive playoff appearances by leading Jacobs to the postseason in each of his first three seasons, addressed the defensive issues late last season by plugging in sophomores at key positions. The result was a competitive first-round playoff game against Boylan in which the Titans finally pulled away late for a 28-10 victory.
"I think our kids learned a lot last year and we got better as the year went on," Mitz said. "Against Boylan we played good defense. Against Cary-Grove (a 45-14 loss in Week 5) we didn't play any defense. We've just got to build on that progress, and a lot of that comes with attitude and effort. I really believe the kids are going to do the job."
The defense will be led by senior returnees Greg McLeod (5-foot-11, 195 pounds) at linebacker and Tommy Savage (5-10, 180) in the secondary. Cody Ferencz (5-6, 140), a wrestler who played safety the second half of last season, also returns.
There are two notable additions to the defense. Matt DiFecchio (6-0, 190) is a physical player who sat out last season. The other is promising junior Jamal Wilson (6-3, 245). He is the cousin of former Simeon and University of Illinois standout Martez Wilson, now playing defensive end for the New Orleans Saints.
"I won't pull any punches; I think Jamal Wilson has the potential to be a Division I football player," Mitz said. "I can't wait to see what he does."
The offense already has a Division-I recruit in Mooney, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior who was offered a scholarship over the summer by Colgate, which began issuing football scholarships last season. As a junior Mooney used his strong arm and feathery touch to complete 131 of 240 attempts (54.6 percent) for an area-high 2,086 yards and 16 touchdowns for the area's second-most productive offense. He was intercepted 14 times.
Mooney returns an improved quarterback. In addition to running track last spring to improve his speed, he attended multiple college camps and took private instruction from Jeff Christensen of Throw it Deep Quarterback and Wide Receiver Academy in Lockport.
"Bret did a great job this summer of balancing things with our team and his own personal things with Jeff," Mitz said. "He was at all of our practices, all of our seven on sevens, and then he would drive down to Lockport and work with them. You can learn something from every individual. He worked hard. And Bret's whole body looks different."
Mooney will throw to Williams (6-0, 200), the area's leading returning wide receiver. He finished second in the area last season with 747 receiving yards on 31 catches (24.1 avg) and he scored 7 touchdowns. Entering his third varsity season, Williams has an offer to play for Division II football at St. Cloud State in Minnesota.
Other targets include senior tight end Jake Dziewulski (6-2, 210), who caught 4 passes for 72 yards and 3 touchdowns last year, and junior Ryan Sargent (6-1, 185), who as a sophomore had 6 receptions for 62 yards. Sargent also kicks off and puts the ball in the end zone with regularity.
Walker (5-6, 160) burst onto the scene last season in Week 6, when he was elevated to the varsity as a sophomore for the Huntley game. He relied on his speed to rush for 329 yards and 3 touchdowns on 56 carries (5.9 avg.). Walker returns with an additional 20-25 pounds of weight room muscle, according to his coach. He'll run behind an offensive line strengthened by returnees Blake Broz (6-4, 260) and Mark Mamola (5-9, 225).
The Golden Eagles face no cupcakes, thanks to a beefed-up schedule that includes Barrington on opening night and a Week 2 tilt at St. Charles East leading into the FVC Valley wars.
"I really believe to get us ready for our league we've got to play good, physical teams, nothing against the teams we played before," Mitz said. "This conference is loaded. There are no cakewalks. There's a lot of balance in this league.
"We have a lot coming back. I told our seniors 'We walked in the doors with you guys so you're special to us.' This is our first group we've had all the way through, and a lot of them have been in playoff games already. Our kids are excited."