Naperville North's football team has developed a reputation for churning out quality offensive linemen.
That won't change this year. Only now the Huskies have a defensive line that's just as strong.
Chris Zhang and Tyler Bushman return as starters while Edi Delazi and Tom Rizzi are back after gaining valuable varsity experience as sophomores. The talent goes 6-8 deep up front, which has created pretty good practice showdowns against the Huskies' offensive line.
They'll also create havoc for opponents as Naperville North vies for an 18th straight playoff appearance.
"These guys match up pretty well together," said Huskies coach Sean Drendel. "We're older and experienced up front now, and we feel pretty good about that."
The attention demanded by the defensive line should ease the pressure on an inexperienced secondary that returns starting safety Ryan Carlson. Colin Herbstritt and Tom Higgins return at linebacker for what will be a more aggressive and physical unit.
With Jake Bashaw, Joe Gissler and Jake Prucha back on the offensive line, you'll see plenty of the Huskies' ground game. Depending on the health in the backfield, as many as six different runners may get carries early in the season.
"We're going to be a little bit more of a thumper on offense," Drendel said.
Chris Gajcak saw time at quarterback last season, as did Evan Kujawski. They'll be tasked with bringing balance to the offense through the air, something that'll be easier with a deep group of receivers headed by returning starter Austin Mezmar.
Will it be enough to keep Naperville North's playoff streak alive? The Huskies like their chances.
"The kids recognize where we're at and they know what we need to do," Drendel said. "We've got some big games at the start of the season, and we need to execute coming out of the gate."
Coach: Sean Drendel (fifth year, 23-19).
2013 record: 5-5, 4-3 tied for fourth in DuPage Valley Conference.
Top players: Chris Zhang (DL, 6-1, 240, sr.); Tyler Bushman (DL, 6-4, 235, sr.); Jake Bashaw (OL, 6-0, 280, sr.); Austin Mezmar (WR, 6-3, 185, sr.); Colin Herbstritt (LB, 6-0, 190, sr.); Chris Gajcak (QB, 6-2, 180, sr.); Tom Higgins (LB, 6-0, 215, sr.); Evan Kujawski (QB, 6-1, 175, sr.); Leon Hardy (RB, 6-1, 195, sr.).
Fri, 8/29 Neuqua Valley at Naperville North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/5 Naperville North at Thornton 7:30 p.m.
Sat, 9/13 Naperville North at Phillips 3 p.m.
Fri, 9/19 Glenbard North at Naperville North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/26 Naperville North at Lake Park 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/3 Naperville Central at Naperville North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/10 WW South at Naperville North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/17 Naperville North at Wheaton North 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/24 Naperville North at Glenbard North 7:45 p.m.