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It's the biggest "W" in Wauconda history, and a celebration awaits.
Splashed in the middle of Wauconda's new turf field is a giant, purple "W," which is uniquely Wauconda's own. Unlike the school's old "W," the new block letter won't be potentially confused with that of the universities of Wisconsin or Washington.
The varsity football helmets sport a "moving Bulldog" logo, also uniquely Wauconda's, and a "W 100" decal, the latter of which represents the school's centennial.
Cue the marching band. Crank the music. A party is about to start.
"It's one of those things where everything is going ‘boom' all at one time," coach Dave Mills said. "It's making for a fun, exciting, talked-about time."
"Hopefully people like the look," junior quarterback Kevin Malisheski said. "I like it."
Question is, Will fans like the football team?
"I think they will," Malisheski said. "I don't think people are going to look at us as a big-time team, but who cares? We're going to go out there and give our best and probably catch a few teams off-guard."
"I think all this new stuff is awesome," senior offensive tackle Michael Bianchi said. "I think it's going to be a great year."
The Bulldogs can't practice on their new turf until Sept. 1. They have their home opener against Chicago Roosevelt on Friday, Sept. 5 (7 p.m. kickoff).
"I think it's fantastic," junior middle linebacker Grant Rodgers said. "I'm sure it will bring some energy to the team. I'm super pumped about playing the first game on the turf."
The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Malisheski returns to run the offense and will operate out of the shotgun frequently -- that's a change, too -- after taking snaps mostly under center last year. As a first-year starter last year, he threw for 929 yards, 9 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.
"Kevin is everything you'd want from a kid who started as a sophomore," Mills said. "He had a learning experience as a sophomore. Right now, he's where you'd like your senior quarterback to be. When I call a play, if I leave a word off, he makes the adjustment and puts it in."
Malisheski's wide-receiver targets will include senior Josh Anderson, junior Jake Grobelny, senior captain Joey Schaer, junior Marc Vucovich and junior Parker Fink, who was a late-season call-up last year. Junior Connor Mitchell, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, will play tight end.
The 6-1 Anderson is another reason why Wauconda should be excited.
The speedster established himself as a playmaker and vertical threat last season, leading the team with 28 receptions, including 7 TDs. Mills said Anderson ran a 4.5 40-yard dash time at a Northwestern camp.
"That's not some high school coach trying to give someone something to impress. It's a college coach timing that," Mills said. "That's as good of speed as we've ever had at wide receiver, by far."
Senior veteran Alex Payne returns to inflict pain at running back, after rushing for a team-best 574 yards last season. The offensive line includes hulking left tackle Bianchi (6-6, 306), junior tackle Logan Bulich and senior center/guard Mike Camarena. Connor Kuhn, Jake Conour and Austin Foley are also in the mix.
The biggest loss on defense is Nate Magiera, who piled up 20 tackles for loss last season. Payne will play in the secondary. Sophomore Tyler Stankiewicz was playing regularly after getting called up in Week 7 last year. Senior captain/defensive back Steve Ciolek is coming back from injury. Michael Lezon has moved from offensive to defensive line.
"We might be a little smaller in our D-line, but our linebackers and everybody else are quicker," said Mills, whose team plays a 3-5-3 scheme. "We're a little more athletic."
Mitchell, who continues to grow physically, will play linebacker.
"He's big enough to where he's almost ready to put his hand in the mud," Mills said. "Or turf."
Last season ended poorly. In position to secure a playoff berth, or at least a winning record, the Bulldogs lost their final three games to finish 4-5, denying them a second-straight postseason berth.
"We were talking about it all last winter so it's been pushing us in the weight room and on the field," said Bianchi, an O-line starter since his sophomore year. "It's helped us get ready for this year."
Added Mills: "The kids understand it. So when we're asking them to do one more thing at practice, it's easy to bring that up."
Mills and his staff don't harp on last season, however. The 2014 Bulldogs want to establish their own identity and enjoy what will be, regardless of the team's won-lost record, a historical season.
"I'm very excited to see how it turns out," Rodgers said. "I think it will be really good."