Wheaton Academy's roller-coaster ride never ended last season.
Nine games of feast and famine resulted in four blowout wins and five blowout losses. The all-or-nothing campaign made Brad Thornton's first season as the Warriors' football coach a wild one.
"That was a big-time challenge for our kids," Thornton said. "But I give our kids a lot of credit for meeting that challenge. I know it wasn't easy for them."
The first four weeks were especially grueling as the Warriors endured a 1-3 start with lopsided losses to Westminster, Mo., Montini and Aurora Christian. With the Warriors set to embark upon their first season out of the Suburban Christian Conference and in the Metro Suburban, Thornton is confident his second year will be much smoother.
"It's their second year in the system, and I think that'll help," he said. "Just having the knowledge of what we're trying to do, we feel like we're a step ahead of where we were last year."
Unfortunately, last year's strength has become this season's project because Wheaton Academy graduated its entire offensive line that returned five starters a year ago. The good news, though, is the skill positions are in great shape.
Injuries forced junior quarterback David Thrasher into action last season, and that experience will pay off. With receiver Sam Martinez and all-conference tight end Marino Costello also returning, the passing game should be more effective.
That's assuming the young linemen step up. In addition to protecting Thrasher, they'll be plowing holes for returning running backs Camden Meade and Scottie McLean.
As Wheaton Academy establishes its defensive line in the opening games, it'll lean on a back seven featuring Meade and McLean at linebacker and lockdown cornerback Luke Doncel. Nose tackle John Acosta will be among the two-way players helping on the offensive line.
"We have a lot of guys coming back who know what it's like to face that tough competition," Thornton said. "With that year under their belt we're looking for them to play faster and more aggressive."
Coach: Brad Thornton (second year, 4-5).
2013 record: 4-5, 3-4 third in Suburban Christian Gold.
Top players: David Thrasher (QB, 5-11, 180, jr.); Camden Meade (RB-LB, 6-1, 225, sr.); Marino Costello (TE-DL, 6-3, 210, sr.); John Acosta (DL-OL, 6-0, 220, sr.); Sam Martinez (WR-DB, 6-1, 170, sr.); Scottie McLean (RB-LB, 6-0, 190, sr.); Evan Williams (DL-OL, 6-3, 200, sr.); Luis Ramos (LB-RB, 5-10, 185, sr.); Luke Doncel (DB-WR, 6-0, 160, sr.).
Fri, 8/29 Walther Lutheran at Wheaton Acad. 7 p.m.
Fri, 9/5 Wheaton Acad at Chicago Bulls Acad. 7 p.m.
Sat, 9/13 Wheaton Academy at Guerin Prep 1 p.m.
Fri, 9/19 Chicago Christian at Wheaton Acad 7 p.m.
Sat, 9/27 Riverside-Brookfield at Wheaton Acad 2 p.m.
Fri, 10/3 Wheaton Academy at Glenbard South 7:15 p.m.
Sat, 10/11 Wheaton Academy at IC Catholic Prep 1 p.m.
Fri, 10/17 Fenton at Wheaton Academy 7 p.m.
Fri, 10/24 Aurora Cen.Cath. at Wheaton Acad 7 p.m.