For all the playmakers Willowbrook's football team graduated, Jack Jessen returns for a third season.
Whether he's at running back or linebacker, the Northwestern-bound wrestler rarely will be on the sideline.
But even after rushing for 1,671 yards and 21 touchdowns and notching 138 tackles on defense, Jessen can't do it alone.
Filling in for those graduated playmakers won't be easy.
"Technically we don't return a lot," coach Nick Hildreth said. "A lot of these guys had varsity snaps but they were playing behind some pretty special players. Now it's their turn to show what they can do."
Two-way play will be critical for Willowbrook's playoff hopes -- and matching or exceeding last year's run to the Class 7A quarterfinals.
Third-year starters Jessen and linemen Brandon Loth and Kevon Dobbins stand at the forefront of that strategy. A rotation of about eight will pitch in on the lines, a list featuring Edgar Quintas, Christian Washington, Matt Knudtson, Nick Rushing. Tyler Guerrero and Ryan Ranieri.
The secondary, where the Warriors need to replace standouts Jon Kelso, Khalif Copeland and Freddie Clay, will benefit from Sikander Zafar's two-way play.
Zafar primarily will be a feature receiver with John Taylor taking over at quarterback. Jessen has some help as well with Chris Diaz, who rushed for 639 yards and 6 scores.
That's about 2,300 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns coming back but, like last year, the Warriors hope to spread out teams with the pass.
"This group has its own high expectations," Hildreth said. "They've put that accountability on themselves and they're ready to create their own identity."
One to watch: A new WSC crossover opponent awaits in Week 2: defending Silver champion Hinsdale Central.
Coach: Nick Hildreth (seventh year, 28-31).
2016 record: 8-4, 4-2, tied for second in the WSC Gold.
Top players: Jack Jessen (RB-LB, 5-11, 199, sr.), Sikander Zafar (DB-WR, 6-3, 187, sr.), Kevon Dobbins (DL, 6-1, 202, sr.), Brandon Loth (OL-LB, 6-0, 215, sr.), Chris Diaz (RB, 5-9, 175, sr.), Edgar Quintas (OL, 5-9, 202, sr.), Scott Tumilty (DB-WR, 5-10, 166, jr.), John Taylor (QB, 5-11, 176, sr.), Christian Washington (DL, 6-0, 251, sr.), Matt Knudtson (DL, 6-0, 270, jr.), Jacob Entwistle (DB, 5-11, 180, sr.), Nick Sabatino (DB, 5-10, 170, sr.).
-- Kevin Schmit
Fri, 8/25, Grayslake North at Willowbrook, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/1, Willowbrook at Hinsdale Central, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/8, Willowbrook at Leyden, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/15, Addison Trail at Willowbrook, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/22, Willowbrook at Hinsdale South, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/29, York at Willowbrook, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/6, Willowbrook at Morton, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/13, Proviso East at Willowbrook, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/20, Downers Grove South at Willowbrook, 7:30 p.m.