Daily Herald's 2017 Season Coverage
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updated: 8/26/2014 4:52 PM

Scouting the Willowbrook Warriors

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It's probably a safe bet that Willowbrook's football team won't have the record-setting offense of last season.

The Warriors, though, shouldn't need it. Not with a defense that's expected to be much improved.

"We were real young on defense last year, and we had five or six guys going both ways," said Warriors coach Nick Hildreth. "They've transitioned pretty well. You can't substitute varsity experience, but it doesn't guarantee success."

Linebackers David Harris, Elijah Rochel and Jake Henderson are among the players a year more experienced -- and a year better. With Andrew Kanelos returning up front, the defense is eager to bounce back from a season when seven times it allowed at least 28 points.

The Warriors still won seven games despite the inconsistent defense, in much part because of an explosive offense that graduated quarterback Brian Johnson, who threw for 3,300 yards, receivers Hayden Adams and Devin Childress and running back Jeremy Barnes. The vast majority of last year's 500 yards a game is gone.

"Last year was last year," Hildreth said. "With the new guys we have, there's a lot more competition. There's no first group right now. Everyone's getting reps."

The reps at quarterback are being shared by Billy Degnan and M.J. Ranieri while running back possibilities include Harris, Josan Murphy and even a freshman in Jack Jessen. Offensive experience is limited to receiver Kyle Rushing, who had 12 catches last year, and linemen Kyle Martyniuk and Christian Chavez.

If the defense can carry the load while the offense gets its varsity legs, the Warriors will stay on track for a third straight playoff appearance. The ultimate goal is to be balanced on both sides of the ball.

"Getting the tempo we want is tough while we're working in new guys," Hildreth said. "Every team forms its own identity. They just need to get the best from their abilities. It's different, but it's good."

The breakdown

Coach: Nick Hildreth (fourth year, 13-16).

2013 record: 7-3, 5-1 second in West Suburban Gold.

Top players: Kyle Rushing (WR, 6-5, 215, sr.); Kyle Martyniuk (OL, 5-9, 230, jr.); Christian Chavez (OL, 6-3, 236, sr.); Andrew Kanelos (DL, 6-0, 230, sr.); Elijah Rochel (LB, 5-11, 190, jr.); Jake Henderson (LB, 5-10, 209, sr.); David Harris (LB-RB, 5-9, 180, sr.); Jack Jessen (RB-LB, 5-10, 180, fr.).


Fri, 8/29 Glenbard East at Willowbrook 7:30 p.m.

Fri, 9/5 Lyons Township at Willowbrook 7:30 p.m.

Fri, 9/12 Hinsdale South at Willowbrook 7:30 p.m.

Fri, 9/19 Willowbrook at York 7:30 p.m.

Sat, 9/27 Morton at Willowbrook 1 p.m.

Fri, 10/3 Willowbrook at Proviso East 6:30 p.m.

Fri, 10/10 Willowbrook at Downers Grove South 7:30 p.m.

Fri, 10/17 Leyden at Willowbrook 7:30 p.m.

Fri, 10/24 Willowbrook at Addison Trail 7:30 p.m.

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