Paul Murphy's Waubonsie Valley Warriors show no sign of letting up.
The Warriors have made the playoffs in eight of nine years under Murphy, the last seven straight.
This season provides challenges such as a retooling offensive line and a little tougher schedule. Six returning defensive starters and the program's typical speed will meet the challenges.
"We feel like we always have very, very good skill players on offense," Murphy said. "It's a question of how fast can we bring around the offensive line since we've only got one true starter back on offense."
Junior Tyler Caldwell moves to center after playing offensive guard as a sophomore. Bailey Burns started the first three games before an injury knocked him out for a month. Senior Drew Kulikowski and junior Brandon Porter were among Murphy's line candidates with preseason camp in full swing.
Quarterback Zach Bennema should spy receivers Keaton Casey, Will Buford and tight end Justin Rich regardless of who lines up in front of him.
The 6-4 Bennema is pocket passer-size but Murphy said the senior's deceptive speed fits the Warriors' option-based spread offense. It'll be hard to top graduate Jack Eddy's 18 touchdown passes to 1 interception, but Bennema got reps as Eddy's backup so he should comprehend varsity speed.
Aided by fullback Ryan Berg, sprinter Tony Durns is the featured back, set to add to last season's 681 yards rushing, 9 touchdowns and 11 yards per carry.
Returning kicker Josh Polhill has special teams in good shape; the defense also returns much. Murphy said all-conference returner Kurtis Chione, fourth on last year's squad in tackles and tied for first in sacks, could dominate at defensive tackle and end in the 4-3 scheme. Lineman Nick Horn, linebackers Kenny Woodruff and Ryan Strick and defensive backs Josh Scudder and Jake McCabe all started in 2013.
Another aspect Murphy likes is something you just can't coach.
"We've got great leadership so far, and we're becoming a good, tight group," he said.
Coach: Paul Murphy (10th year, 63-30; 25th overall, 157-85).
2013 record: 8-3, 5-1, second in Upstate Eight Valley.
Top players: Zach Bennema (QB, 6-4, 200, sr.); Tyler Caldwell (OL, 6-1, 250, jr.); Keaton Casey (WR, 6-0, 175, sr.); Kurtis Chione (DL, 6-2, 220, sr.); Tony Durns (RB, 5-8, 165, sr.); Max Ihry (LB, 5-11, 210, sr.); Josh Polhill (K-P, 6-0, 160, sr.); Josh Scudder (DB, 6-0, 180, sr.); Ryan Strick (LB, 5-10, 185, sr.); Kenny Woodruff (LB-DB, 5-11, 170, sr.).
Fri, 8/29 Naperville Central at Waubonsie Valley 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/5 Waubonsie Valley at Oswego 7 p.m.
Fri, 9/12 East Aurora at Waubonsie Valley 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/19 Waubonsie Valley at Bartlett 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/26 Waubonsie Valley at Glenbard East 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/3 Metea Valley at Waubonsie Valley 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/10 West Aurora at Waubonsie Valley 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/17 Waubonsie Valley at Neuqua Valley 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/24 South Elgin at Waubonsie Valley 7:30 p.m.