It didn't take long last season for Benet to realize it had a special defensive football player in Alec McEachern.
The Redwings realized how special when they also put him in the offensive backfield.
McEachern bulled his way to 300 yards in the final three games, a surprising addition to a batch of skill players who also included quarterback Jack Sznajder and speedy running back Marty Dosen.
All three remain in the mix as Benet aims to compete for a East Suburban Catholic Conference title and extend its unprecedented streak of four straight postseason appearances.
"It's going to be one of those 'high expectations' kind of years," said Benet coach Pat New. "We've got a quarterback going into his third starting season and an inside-outside attack with our running backs."
Dosen, who will shift to a hybrid position in the slot as McEachern stays in the backfield, rushed for 607 yards while Sznajder, who's started 21 straight games, threw for 1,784 yards and 14 touchdowns. Linemen Tom Walsh and John Phillipp and receiver C.J. Birck also return to the unit that has the potential to vault past the 24 points a game it averaged last year.
"This is the first time in my seven years we've had a senior starting quarterback," New said. "Probably not a lot of quarterbacks in the state have that many starts, so we're pretty excited."
The same star power may not exist on defense, but it's still a typically stout group with experience at each level. John D'Angelo and Ryan Liszka are back at linebacker while McEachern, Danny O'Malley and Erik Jones return to the secondary. Brett Kerger and Steven Arrowsmith saw time on the line.
Facing the usual gauntlet of ESCC teams -- two-time defending state champion Nazareth and Class 8A finalist Marist just for starters -- is never easy, but this group has the ability to hold up to the challenge.
"This is the most talented skill group we've had since I've been here," New said. "We really have a chance to do something this year."
One to watch: Week 5
The first four weeks are tough, but Nazareth is a whole different beast in the ESCC.
Coach: Pat New (seventh year, 37-26).
2015 record: 8-3, 5-2, tied for third in East Suburban Catholic Conference.
Top players: Alec McEachern (RB-DB, 6-1, 220, sr.), Jack Sznajder (QB, 6-2, 205, sr.), Marty Dosen (RB-WR, 5-10, 190, sr.), John D'Angelo (LB, 6-4, 217, sr.), Ryan Liszka (LB, 6-2, 195, sr.), Danny O'Malley (DB, 6-0, 195, sr.), Erik Jones (DB, 5-11, 180, sr.), Jack Eschenbach (WR, 6-7, 190, jr.), Thomas Walsh (OL, 6-4, 300, sr.), John Phillipp (OL, 6-1, 220, sr.), C.J. Birck (WR, 5-11, 185, sr.), Ben Cooney (DB-RB, 5-10, 155, jr.), Brett Kerger (DL, 5-10, 215, sr.), Steven Arrowsmith (DL, 6-3, 240, sr.).
-- Kevin Schmit
Fri, 8/26, St. Laurence at Benet, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/2, Benet at Notre Dame College Prep, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/9, Benet at Marian Central, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/16, St. Viator at Benet, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/23, Nazareth at Benet, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/30, Benet at Marian Catholic, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/7, Joliet Catholic at Benet, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/14, Benet at Marist, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/21, Carmel at Benet, 7:30 p.m.