Waubonsie Valley aims to author an even better ending after its sweetly surprising playoff run in 2015.
Sixteen starters return from the team that went from a No. 30 seed in Class 8A to a state semifinalist, beating Edwardsville, Neuqua Valley and Naperville Central.
"Obviously, the enthusiasm's pretty high coming off last year," said Warriors coach Paul Murphy.
About the only thing to temper that enthusiasm is the need to replace all-state linebacker-tailback Max Ihry and quarterback Jack Connolly, who represented 85 percent of the Warriors' offense.
Still there are many options for a sprint option team that should be faster overall than last year -- running backs Quaid Gill, Josh LeMoine, Tae Lowe and Metea Valley transfer Nate Ashford included.
New quarterback Tanner Westwood was a hit at slotback last season, rushing for 175 yards and hitting big passes against Naperville Central and Edwardsville. As a freshman he quarterbacked an unbeaten sophomore team and last season also served as the Warriors' junior varsity quarterback.
Westwood gets to pass to Waubonsie's top 2015 receiver, tight end Charles Robinson, and has returners LeMoine, Richie Puls and Kyle Schroeder to target -- while protected by returning starting linemen Dan Dominiak, Corey McKnight, Alex Stone and Connor Forrest.
Defensively, among others Waubonsie returns three-fourths of its defensive line, ace linebacker Josh Dominiak (Dan's kid brother), Toledo recruit Derric Lee at cornerback and active safety Connor Yukna, who made 102 tackles with 5 interceptions. Six of the Warriors' top eight tacklers from last season are back.
There are questions -- who emerges in the offensive backfield, for one -- and this team needs a short memory entering a new season.
Yet there appear to be more answers.
"We have an idea of what to expect on the varsity level," Murphy said.
-- Dave Oberhelman
Coach: Paul Murphy (12th year, 80-37; 27th year overall, 174-92).
2015 record: 8-5, 4-4, tied for fourth in the DuPage Valley Conference.
Top players: Dan Dominiak (OL, 6-2, 290, sr.), Josh Dominiak (LB, 6-1, 195, jr.), Quaid Gill (DB-RB, 5-9, 170, sr.), Will Isdell (P-WR, 6-0, 170, sr.), Jake Julian (DL, 5-8, 170, sr.), Derric Lee (DB, 6-0, 150, jr.), Corey McKnight (OL, 5-11, 240, sr.), Charles Robinson (TE, 6-4, 210, jr.), Kyle Schroeder (WR-LB, 6-0, 170, jr.), Alex Stone (OL, 6-1, 250, sr.), Tanner Westwood (QB, 5-10, 155, jr.), Connor Yukna (DB, 5-11, 175, sr.).
Fri, 8/26, Waubonsie Valley at Lake Park, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/2, Waubonsie Valley at Glenbard North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/9, Neuqua Valley at Waubonsie Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/16, Waubonsie Valley at Naperville Central, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/23, Metea Valley at Waubonsie Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/30, Waubonsie Valley at Wheaton Warrenville South, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/7, Waubonsie Valley at Hamilton Southeastern, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/14, Naperville North at Waubonsie Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/21, Wheaton North at Waubonsie Valley, 7:30 p.m.
One to watch: Week 3
With North Central College no longer hosting the Indian Prairie Classic, the Warriors host Neuqua Valley for the first time in Paul Murphy's tenure.