Neuqua Valley is talented, experienced ... and deep at captain.
Six seniors -- Tommy Ciesla, Anthony Ippolito, Donny Navarro, Jon Rhattigan, Isaiah Robertson and Jake Zeiler -- earned their teammates' votes, two more than usual.
"We had six kids who were just way on top of everyone else (in voting), which is kind of neat," said Wildcats coach Bill Ellinghaus.
This team should be neat. It returns 15 starters, including Navy-bound receiver Owen Piche and the program's top-ranked player ever, receiver-free safety Robertson.
In the spring Rivals.com ranked the Notre Dame recruit No. 3 among Illinois' Class of 2017, 188th in the country and the 19th-rated "athlete."
A Class 8A Coaches All-State pick, it's noteworthy Robertson caught 50 passes for 803 yards and 9 touchdowns yet coaches named him an all-DuPage Valley Conference defensive co-captain. He made 81 tackles with 4 interceptions and a 94-yard touchdown return, adding 339 yards on special teams.
"The sky's the limit," Ellinghaus said. "I'm expecting him to continue to develop as a real leader on this football team. We know what he can do athletically on the field in all areas."
While the offensive and defensive lines need to jell a bit, defensive end Ciesla's 5 sacks led Neuqua and the O-line returns starters Zeiler, Joe Backe and 6-foot-5, 290-pound Kevin Luna.
Linebacker Ippolito was the 2015 team's No. 2 tackler with 85. After getting hurt last year in Week 2 another Neuqua legacy, Rhattigan, is back at linebacker along with Casey Larson. JaQuere Williams is a lockdown corner.
Returning running backs Greg McClellen and Griffen Philgren should get more work. Quarterback competition remains between senior Jack Bastable and junior Jake Eskoff.
"The key is really staying healthy," Ellinghaus said. "If we stay healthy this season I think we've got as good a chance as anybody."
Coach: Bill Ellinghaus (fifth year, 35-11).
2015 record: 7-4, 5-3, third in the DuPage Valley Conference.
Top players: Joe Backe (OL, 6-0, 215, sr.), Tommy Ciesla (TE-DL, 6-3, 240, sr.), Jackson Keating (DL, 5-11, 205, sr.), Casey Larson (LB, 6-0, 205, sr.), Anthony Ippolito (LB, 6-0, 205, sr.), Greg McClellan (RB, 5-11, 205, sr.), Donny Navarro (WR, 5-10, 180, sr.), Owen Piche (WR-DB, 6-3, 210, sr.), Jon Rhattigan (LB, 6-2, 220, sr.), Isaiah Robertson (WR-DB, 6-3, 195, sr.), JaQuere Williams (DB, 5-11, 165, sr.), Jake Zeiler (OL, 6-4, 280, sr.).
Fri, 8/26, Metea Valley at Neuqua Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/2, Naperville Central at Neuqua Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/9, Neuqua Valley at Waubonsie Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/16, Wheaton Warrenville South at Neuqua Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/23, Neuqua Valley at Bishop Chatard (Ind.), 6 p.m.
Fri, 9/30, Neuqua Valley at Naperville North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/7, Wheaton North at Neuqua Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/14, Neuqua Valley at Lake Park, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/21, Neuqua Valley at Glenbard North, 7:30 p.m.
One to watch: Week 3
Neuqua Valley owns a 13-6 series lead over Waubonsie Valley in the Indian Prairie Classic. This should be one of the best games in the District 204 rivalry.