Daily Herald's 2017 Season Coverage
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updated: 8/26/2013 10:56 PM

IEC going airborne

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Maybe the Interstate Eight Conference needed a little shaking up.

We're not talking about Streator coming in and Dwight leaving after the current school year. We're talking about Otto Zeman arriving as coach at Westmont.

The Illinois High School Football Coaches Association 2005 Hall of Fame inductee figures to inject some flair to the Interstate Eight Small Division, where Lisle and Wilmington -- and Sandwich in the Large Division -- remain throwbacks to traditional ground-based offenses.

Zeman not only was a vocal proponent behind the enrollment multiplier that attempted to contain nonpublic schools' championship success, at Riverside-Brookfield he sent footballs flying at unprecedented pace as an early adopter of the spread offense.

Four of the IHSA's seven highest marks for pass completions in a game, including Nos. 1-2, came under Zeman's watch in 2008. His top quarterback, Tim Brasic, is up there in several passing categories, No. 1 at 589 yards in a 2001 game. Receiver Mark McDonagh is No. 1 in season receptions, 165 in Zeman's final season at R-B in 2009.

After an unceremonial end to his R-B coaching career, a year off, then assisting at Fenton, at Westmont Zeman succeeds former Lisle player and assistant coach Mark Orszula, now the coach at Streamwood.

Zeman's arrival won't stop Wilmington from being tabbed as Interstate Eight Small preseason favorite. Future Hall of Fame coach Jeff Reents has led the Wildcats to five straight titles. Wilmington is 25-0 in the division since 2007 and on a 17-season playoff string.

Reents said his team is "a little green," returning only fullback Austin Skoryi and center Dexter Fierro as offensive starters and safety Alex Slomie and linebackers Skoryi and Trevor Delehanty on defense.

"We'll be young, but I think we'll play our best football a little later," said Reents, who picked Plano, Coal City and Sandwich as teams to beat in a tight Large Division race.

Zeman could make things loose in the Small Division. As he said: "I just love coaching football. I kind of like being kind of the crazy guy."

"I guess he's got the numbers out," said Lisle coach Dan Sanko, who returns a solid nucleus of experience in all-conference linebacker Kevin Coppin, quarterback Griffin Huba, running back Cliff Krause and linebacker Bailey Welch. Each of those players, and others, promise to go both ways for a Lions team that has 25 players on its roster, seven less than Westmont.

As with most rivals you can throw the records out when Lisle hosts Westmont for the Old Plank Road Trophy on Oct. 11. With Zeman they may try to throw the Old Plank Road Trophy.

"Since I've been there," Sanko said, "it does not matter who's good or bad. ... That's what rivalries are for, I guess. It's always a close game."

Westmont's Tim Doll was arguably the best quarterback in the Interstate Eight Small as a junior. He's back to target returning all-conference back Danny Logiurato, Greg Pietrzak, Deshun Williams and 6-foot-5 Brett Sible.

"When I came here the cupboard was not as bare as I anticipated," said Zeman, who admits the Sentinels will still have their hands full.

Wilmington will reload. Seneca returns offensive lineman Brad Wyss and running back Bo Taylor from a team that made its own turnaround from numbers problems. Lisle will be tough to beat.

The Lions return several key linemen, including junior Jared Arellano and seniors Kyle Dwyer and Billy Loconsole. Lisle's personnel must remain healthy to have a shot at a conference title.

Regardless of Zeman's arrival at Westmont, the buck stops in Wilmington, where Lisle travels Oct. 4.

"I hope we can compete with them this year, even though we've got them over there," Sanko said.

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