A drop-off in offensive production would be understandable for Glenbard East's football team.
The Rams graduated 10 starters from a unit that broke multiple program passing records, returning only junior lineman Ben Sullivan. Rebuilding seemed like a given.
In Saturday's opener against Willowbrook, however, Glenbard East's offense looked like it'd been playing together for years. And, in fact, most of the players have been playing together for years.
Powered by a core group of juniors rising through the ranks of the freshman and sophomore teams, Glenbard East rolled up nearly 400 yards of offense in Saturday's 28-21 win over the Warriors. Running the show is first-year starting quarterback Drake Pusateri, a junior who ran for 110 yards and threw for 225 while accounting for his team's final 3 touchdowns.
"It's continuity," said Rams coach John Walters. "These kids have been playing together for three straight years. They're comfortable with each other."
Glenbard East faces Oswego East this week in anticipation of the program's final campaign in the DuPage Valley Conference. Taking a 2-0 record into a Week 3 game against West Aurora would create huge momentum for the Rams.
"The biggest thing for us was could they handle the speed and the pressure of Friday night," Walters said. "So far they have."
With four straight Class 5A state championships to its credit and a fifth in 2004 Montini obviously is among the state's elite football programs. With their 21-19 win over 8A power Maine South, the Broncos may have topped themselves.
"Basically I told the kids, if it wasn't the biggest win it was the most significant win because programs like Maine South, they're just always good," Montini coach Chris Andriano said. "And it's a big program and well-respected, so it carries a lot of weight."
He said "people who know football" understand the significance of the win over Maine South. Now Montini travels to the City of Champions triple-header in East St. Louis. The Broncos play the marquee matchup against the hosts.
"It's a big test again, just in a different way, and another part of the test is the travel part of it, and how mature our kids are," Andriano said. "It's not easy to do and it's an eye-opener for some of these guys to get off the bus after five hours and play a game."
To get acclimated, Andriano joked that he'd pack his players into a bus and have defensive coordinator Mike Bukovsky drive around for hours in the parking lot telling jokes. Then the trip to East St. Louis wouldn't seem so bad.
After more than two decades running the Wing-T offense as a head coach in Iowa and at St. Francis, Spartans coach Greg Purnell unveiled a new look Sunday against Riverside-Brookfield.
Headed by tailback James Butler, the Spartans' one-back and Pro offenses racked up 275 yards on the ground. Fullback T.J. Jackson, a 220-pound junior, ran for 63 yards and when Butler needed a breather in came junior Steven Fassnacht at tailback for 70 yards rushing.
"We were going to make a move last year but I just think we decided not to because of all the kids we had coming back," Purnell said after St. Francis' 35-9 victory. Credit goes to Purnell for veering from a scheme he grew up with and said he loves still.
"I felt it was better for St. Francis and the future of St. Francis if we changed our offense and got a little more spread and started using a one-back concept a little bit more," Purnell said.
Left tackle James Kalfas, a three-year starter on St. Francis' offensive line, supports the move though it's been a lot of work learning it.
"It's got its ups and downs, you know," Kalfas said. "We get to pass the ball a little bit more, which I like from an offensive lineman standpoint. It's a little bit easier than pulling around all the time. A lot of running in the Wing-T."
Kalfas admitted the team has "been yelled at a couple times" practicing the new offense, but likes it.
"I'm glad," he said. "It's a good change for St. Francis."
Nothing to see over here:
Looking at Wheaton North's offense, the obvious focus for opposing defenses is the passing combination of Northwestern-bound quarterback Clayton Thorson and receiver Matt Biegalski.
True to form, the tandem teamed up for 8 catches for 80 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Falcons' 42-18 victory over Cary-Grove. What wasn't expected, though, was the instant impact of junior receiver J.P. Forcucci.
Thorson found the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder for 6 catches, 93 yards and 3 touchdowns. Not a bad varsity debut.
"If he can keep getting opportunities like that," coach Joe Wardynski said, "he'll take more pressure off Biegalski."
Forcucci, the program's starting quarterback at the freshman and sophomore levels, is Thorson's backup behind center. But because of Forcucci's importance catching the ball, he doesn't get many practice reps at quarterback -- just enough to stay familiar with the offense.
"He'd be the next quarterback, so he needs to stay ready," Wardynski said. "He's a talented kid. We have to keep finding ways to get him the ball."
Watching Mikey run:
Neuqua Valley co-captain Mikey Dudek's;http://rivals.yahoo.com/edgytim/football/recruiting/player-Mike-Dudek-142261 sub-4.4 speed hurts teams not only at receiver but also returning kickoffs. The the Wildcats' 34-27 Week 1 victory over Naperville North the Illinois-bound senior returned 4 kicks for 141 yards on top of his 51 yards and 3 touchdowns receiving.
"He's fast and he is not afraid to get hit, and I think those two things you need as a kick return guy," Neuqua coach Bill Ellinghaus said. "He's fast and he mixes it up and good things happen from there."
Against Naperville North, Dudek returned one kick 56 yards, and averaged 35.3 a return. As a junior he averaged 34.8 yards with 2 touchdowns. Surprisingly, he was third on the state semifinalist in kickoff return average behind Joey Rhattigan and Josh Prescher, who also each scored twice on returns.
With numbers like those, it's natural teammates don't get too excited in the film room watching him Dudek run.
"They've been around long enough that they kind of expect it out of him," Ellinghaus said.
In the right places:
Granted, losing the opener is not where West Chicago or any team wants to be. After watching film of the Wildcats' 20-16 loss to King, however, coach Bill Bicker said his defense was in the wrong alignment only once all game.
"That's good," said the second-year head coach. "Now we need to make a play."
Junior linebacker made Parrish Benton made some. Bicker had said Benton was a sideline-to-sideline playmaker, and Benton followed through with 11.5 tackles and a sack.
"He stepped up more than I think any of us ever imagined," Bicker said of his coaching staff.
A middle linebacker doesn't operate in a vacuum. Bicker noted that for Benton to rack up numbers, players like linebackers Michael Otzwirk and Wes Kassaros and defensive end Mike Favia have to handle their assignments. (Favia suffered a leg injury and is questionable Friday at Larkin.)
"If they do their job Parrish is going to get a lot of tackles," Bicker said. "And they did their jobs."
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