Aurora Central Catholic's new football coach is no stranger to the program.
And Luke Brauweiler couldn't be more thrilled in leading his alma mater into battle on Friday nights.
Brauweiler has been part of ACC as a student-athlete, coach and administrator for 17 years. He played for former longtime Chargers coach Mike Curry and has been a coach in the program for the last 9 years. Last year he was involved with both the offense and defense as well as being the head JV coach. Brauweiler is currently ACC's assistant athletic director and alumni director.
"This is pretty awesome," he said. "I'm really excited to get back out there and make an impact with these kids. I remember walking off the field as a senior and wanting to get back out there on the sidelines in whatever way I could."
The Chargers, who went 9-2 last year, finished second in the Metro Suburban Conference Red Division with a 4-1 mark and advanced to the second round of the state playoffs, return 4 starters on offense with the likes of seniors Elijah Woodward (5-9, 250, C), and Ryan Cerza (6-0, 170, RB), along with juniors Jeff Albert (5-8, 155, RB) and Charlie May (6-0, 250, OL).
Junior quarterback Max Ariano (6-0, 175) and senior fullback Jackson Robbert (6-0, 195) also will help the Chargers in the backfield.
Cerza ran for 1,000 yards last year, while Albert had several 300-plus-yard games at the JV level.
"Our running game has to be a strength with Jeff and Ryan," said Brauweiler. "They can carry the ball extremely well. Our running game will take the pressure off with us having a junior quarterback getting used to the speed of the varsity game. If we can run the ball with those guys, we are going to be all right. We have Elijah anchoring the line. We're looking from big things from him, as well as Charlie, who is a returning starter."
Robbert (LB) and Albert (FS) are the only two starters returning on defense for Brauweiler, but the team will be additionally bolstered by the presence of defensive linemen Eli Castillo (5-10, 280) and Frankie Herrera (5-6, 205).
Outside linebackers Tom Hannon (6-1, 165) and Noah Padilla (5-8, 165) both were on the team a year ago and will be counted on heavily this season.
"We have outside linebackers who play with speed and space. Both of them have stepped up in those spots," the coach said. "Our team speed isn't great, but our strength is we have speed in spots where we need to have speed."
ACC will roster 32 players on the varsity. "Probably everyone you have talked to will say their numbers are down," said Brauweiler. "We'll have five or six sophomores who will play in the sophomore game as well. A key for us is staying healthy."
Brauweiler added another key will be adapting to new philosophies on both sides of the ball. "Getting kids to adjust to a new system is going to be important," he said. "They are grasping new concepts quickly and hopefully by game time it will become second nature."
Brauweiler also has been pleased with the swiftness of the coaching staff meshing together. "I'm really pleased with our coaching staff," he said. "We have a couple of new hires who have come in and are ready to go already. It didn't take a lot of time to get them accustomed. We also have a lot of guys back from last year. That has helped ease the transition for some of the newer guys."
After facing town neighbor Aurora Christian in its Week 1 opener, ACC then faces three schools in a row with four-digit enrollments (St. Francis, Glenbard South and Riverside-Brookfield) before opening MSC Red play.
"Our schedule is tough," said Brauweiler. "Glenbard South and R-B always are tough. Both are very successful 6A schools. With these bigger schools, we'll have our work cut out for us."
Brauweiler said the team's game against Ridgewood Oct. 6 in Norridge will be a game of interest. Ridgewood handed ACC its only regular-season loss last year.