Wheaton Warrenville South is traditionally at its best with a rock-solid defense, so it's no surprise expectations are once again high this football season.
With Northwestern-bound linebacker Tommy Vitale leading an experienced unit, the Tigers will maintain their status as perennial DuPage Valley Conference and state-title contenders.
"We should have a dynamite group of linebackers," said WW South coach Ron Muhitch. "That'll be the strength of the defense."
Vitale, who last season had 41 tackles, slides to middle linebacker and will be flanked by Andrew Ives and Brett Miller. With Anthony Melton and Joe Metzger, who combined for 86 tackles, returning to the line, the Tigers' front seven should be stellar against the run.
Like with Vitale on defense, the offense has a standout in receiver Keishawn Watson, a Western Michigan recruit who led last year's team with 23 catches for 510 yards and 4 touchdowns. Josh Prueter, who played primarily at receiver last season, moves to quarterback to direct the offense.
Offensive consistency was difficult to achieve a year ago, and much of that was due to a ground game that struggled at times. Mike Campos, who didn't play last season, is one of the prime candidates to be the feature running back. Juniors Jonathan Johnson and Austin Hartnett are also in the mix.
Tom Hutchison is the lone returning starter to the offensive line. The rest of the group is an interesting mix that includes Dan Knight, shifted from defense, Beau Jablonsky, who suffered an ACL injury last year, and Pat Staunton, who didn't play football the last two seasons.
It's an offense that should benefit greatly from an influx of talent not available last season.
Blending it together may take time, but the Tigers always seem to find the right combinations.
"I think people will be surprised at how good we are at certain spots," Muhitch said. "They're starting to jell together pretty well."
Coach: Ron Muhitch (13th year, 118-29).
2013 record: 8-3, 5-2 tied for second in DuPage Valley Conference.
Top players: Keishawn Watson (WR, 5-11, 165, sr.); Tommy Vitale (LB, 6-3, 222, sr.); Josh Prueter (QB, 5-10, 170, sr.); Anthony Melton (DL, 6-2, 260, sr.); Joe Metzger (DL, 6-1, 202, sr.); Tom Hutchison (OL, 6-2, 270, sr.); Mike Campos (RB, 5-6, 175, sr.); Andrew Ives (LB, 5-11, 171, sr.); Brett Miller (LB, 6-0, 200, sr.).
Sat, 8/30 WW South at Glenbard West 1:30 pm
Fri, 9/5 Maine South at WW South 7:30 p.m.
Sat, 9/13 WW South at Morgan Park 3 p.m.
Fri, 9/19 Naperville North at WW South 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/26 WW South at Wheaton North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/3 Lake Park at WW South 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/10 WW South at Naperville North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/17 Glenbard North at WW South 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/24 WW South at Naperville Central 7:30 p.m.