Who's ready for an encore?
Glenbard West's football team might be, although it's tough to imagine matching last season's unbeaten run to the Class 7A title. So much talent graduated -- including record-breaking running back Sam Brodner, now at Wisconsin -- but those outside the program may not realize how much talent remains.
"There's a quiet confidence around this group," coach Chad Hetlet said. "These guys know what the responsibility is and they know it's their turn to carry the torch. We've got a lot of things to figure out, but I really like this group."
Hetlet says this is as good a defense as he's had, and it's clear the strength lies with returning linebackers Mark Mattson, Eric Samuta, Chris Langan and Yanni Pappas. That linebacker depth allowed Jackson Goleash to move to the critical safety spot.
Cornerback Justice Bradley and defensive end Dionte Moorehead also return.
"We're not going to blow anyone away with our size, but we'll be super-fast and they're great football players," Hetlet said. "Jackson was good last year, but now he's a freak. He's going to be very special."
There's no freak like Brodner on offense, but Glenbard West's system is too powerful to doubt it'll move the ball effectively as always.
Even with Brodner dominating last year's rushing stats, D.J. Ficarella ran for nearly 400 yards despite missing several weeks due to injury. Moorehead and Goleash add power to the run game, and the backs go even deeper with juniors Dre Thomas and Ryan Diver.
John McDonnell and Will Farley return to the line. An unknown is at quarterback, where seniors Cole Brady and Kolin Kennebeck and junior Alex Hollensbe are competing.
Unknowns aren't ideal, but Hetlet isn't worried about much with this team -- especially with a senior class that hasn't lost a high school game.
"There's no doubt our defense is going to have to carry our offense until we get into a rhythm," Hetlet said. "But I'm sure we'll get there."
One to watch: Week 1
The defending Class 7A champs face an immediate test with a trip to Bolingbrook.
Coach: Chad Hetlet (10th year, 102-13; 12th year overall, 120-25).
2015 record: 14-0, 6-0, first in West Suburban Silver.
Top players: Jackson Goleash (DB-RB, 6-1, 190, sr.), Dionte Moorehead (DL-RB, 6-4, 210, sr.), D.J. Ficarella (RB, 5-11, 180, sr.), Mark Mattson (LB, 6-0, 190, sr.), Chris Langan (LB, 6-1, 190, sr.), Eric Samuta (LB, 5-11, 205, sr.), Cole Brady (QB, 6-3, 180, sr.), Kolin Kennebeck (QB, 6-2, 175, sr.), John McDonnell (OL, 5-11, 220, sr.), Will Farley (OL, 6-2, 225, sr.), Alex Pihlstrom (TE, 6-5, 220, sr.), Justice Bradley (DB, 5-9, 150, sr.), Dre Thomas (RB, 6-1, 177, jr.), Yanni Pappas (LB, 5-11, 175, sr.), Alec Pierce (WR, 6-4, 185, jr.).
-- Kevin Schmit
Fri, 8/26, Glenbard West at Bolingbrook, 7 p.m.
Fri, 9/2, Glenbard West at Hinsdale South, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/9, Glenbard West at York, 7:30 p.m.
Sat, 9/17, Downers Grove North at Glenbard West, 1:30 p.m.
Sat, 9/24, Lyons Townhip at Glenbard West, 1:30 p.m.
Sat, 10/1, Glenbard West at Hinsdale Central, Noon
Sat, 10/8, Oak Park-River Forest at Glenbard West, 1:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/14, Glenbard West at Proviso West, 7:30 p.m.
Sat, 10/22, Addison Trail at Glenbard West, 1:30 p.m.