How does a team replace nearly 2,000 yards and 31 touchdowns?
That is the question facing Schaumburg and coach Mark Stilling as the Saxons head into this season without last year's all-area team football captain and athlete of the year, quarterback Stacey Smith.
"The obvious answer is you don't replace a guy like him," Stilling said. "Stacey is one of a kind. We have to be different, and be better in other areas."
Stilling will be turning over the quarterback duties to sophomore Danny Galovich.
"He's a smart kid and very athletic," Stilling said. "He is very mature and we have lots of confidence in him."
The Saxons won the MSL West and advanced to the state quarterfinals in Class 8A last year, finishing 10-2 on the season. They will look to get the ball to tailback Justice Macneal-Young, who rushed for 989 yards on 140 carries last year, frequently.
"Justice ran the ball really hard last year," Stilling said. "He is not perceived as a breakaway threat in the same sense that Stacey was. But we are still counting on Justice to be a huge factor on offense."
Stilling emphasized the need to spread the ball around this season. So the Saxons will look to get wingbacks Dakari Ferguson, Michael Jones and Olijah Sally more involved in the offense. Wide receiver Terry Gray, who is a sophomore, along with returning starter Jarman McMillon should also figure in the offense.
"We need to get the ball in other peoples' hands and share the football," Stilling said. "We have some kids that are very explosive and we need to get them the ball as well."
The other key to the Saxons' offense is the ability to replace the four starters that graduated from an offensive line that enabled Schaumburg to rush for over 4,000 yards last year. Michael Bruno (6-foot, 195) is the lone returning starter. He will be joined by Tylor Alanis (6-3, 245), Payton Buchanan (6-3, 260), Thomas Karaindros (5-10, 205) and sophomore Andres Ortiz (5-11, 225).
"We are looking to emphasize the fundamentals," Stilling said. "It is more about rounding things out this year, so there is a big push to pay attention to the finer points of the game."
The Saxons will be counting on speed in their 4-3 defense to keep opposing offenses in check.
Three defensive linemen return in Christopher Abruzzo, Brett Hildebrandt, and Noah Miller. They will be joined by Vernial Trotter. Julian Akogu and Steve Herigodt will play outside while Matt Eaker and John Macneal-Young will be splitting time in the middle.
Shandall Thomas returns at corner while Shaun Palmer and and Michael Marino are battling for the other spot. The safeties will be Olonzo Sally and sophomore Austin Anzelmo.
Schaumburg, which could start six sophomores, will open its season by hosting New Trier.
"This is a good Week 1 game for us," Stilling said. "They offer us many challenges."