St. Charles North has the speed and physicality to make a statement, yet its team motto is a question.
Why not us?
As coach Rob Pomazak said, why can't St. Charles North be a playoff contender, a great football team?
Why not? In his first season as a head varsity football coach, the 5-4 North Stars finished over .500 for the first time since 2009. Denied a playoff spot due to the playoff point tiebreaker, two of the losses came in overtime. Pomazak accepted responsibility and pledged to stress detail so the North Stars can excel in "big moments."
"(The goal) is to keep the kids in a position where the pressure is on so that if the moment does arrive it's not too big for them," the coach said.
This team will be less veteran, returning seven starters. The North Stars said goodbye to several program anchors including running back Evan Kurtz, program career tackles leader Reece Conroyd and Michigan State freshman lineman Chase Gianacakos.
The returning starters will be sprinkled on both sides of the ball and handed key assignments. Except for junior receiver John Legare and junior back Dom Sidari, on the varsity last year, the juniors come off an 8-1 sophomore season in which they tied with Batavia and St. Charles East for the Upstate Eight River title.
"We had a great summer, six weeks of camp. It was very much like a season," Pomazak said. "This group is really close, extremely hard working. They play for each other."
The coach said several players are getting college looks, including: all-conference linebacker Carson Schmitt, who made 66 tackles, 12 for loss; another 6-foot-4 senior, linebacker/rush end Jordan Bergren, who made 44 tackles with 9 for loss; and 250-pound junior defensive end Jack Glavin.
Junior offensive lineman Nick Koenig goes 6-7, 300, and interests Northern Illinois, Michigan State, Northwestern and North Carolina State. Another prospect, Sidari, takes over Kurtz's mantle as top ball carrier. He pairs size with what Pomazak called "legit" 4.4 speed, "probably the fastest kid I've ever coached," he said.
Senior Brendan McCarthy returns at left guard to lead the offensive line. Senior Jack Callaghan, off a solid, confidence-building basketball season, looks to impact the offense at tight end and returns to start at outside linebacker.
After a competition that lasted through the team scrimmage, Pomazak named junior Kyle Novotney his starting quarterback over senior Nathan Didier, who threw 2 touchdown passes and ran for another in seven games last season in a spot start and as Erik Miller's backup.
The two quarterbacks get things done differently but each can run and throw the football. Pomazak previously said he might contemplate playing both since they complement each other, but he's more of the philosophy of choosing one for leadership purposes.
St. Charles North's staff is schooling this blend of youth and experience in the details and getting them up to Friday-night speed.
"I'm cautiously optimistic that if we (coaches) do our job and have a good game plan and prepare the kids the right way we'll be in every football game we play in." Pomazak said.