Streamwood's Alex Morrow is one of the top returning running backs in the area.
RICK WEST | Staff Photographer
Coach Cal Cummins has spent five years trying to build a winning program at Streamwood High School. His sixth team could be the one that turns the corner.
"I feel much better about this team than I have at any point since I've been here certainly," said Cummins, who led Freeport to the playoffs 11 times in 17 years between 1989-2005. "We've got good players coming back and we've had a good off-season in the weight room.
"The (roster) numbers are in the 35-45 range again, but the kids fit into positions so well that we are literally two-deep no matter what position you look at on offense or defense. There are definitely some positives for us as we go into the year."
One major reason for optimism is the return of powerful senior running back Alex Morrow (5-10, 195), whose breakaway speed resulted in long touchdown runs last season against Dundee-Crown, St. Charles North and East Aurora. As a junior he rushed 111 times for 748 yards and 7 touchdowns in only 5½ games before an ankle injury ended his season. Morrow set a school record with 300 yards rushing in a win over Dundee-Crown.
Also returning is senior quarterback Dalton Lundeen (6-2, 194), who pitched last spring for Streamwood's Class 4A sectional champion baseball team. The left-hander completed 83-of-195 pass attempts for 1,345 yards and 7 touchdowns as a junior. He also threw 11 interceptions. Lundeen was pushed in camp by up-and-coming junior quarterback Jordan McFeggan (6-2, 173).
The Sabres' top receiver is speedy junior Blake Holder (6-2, 189), who made 16 receptions for 224 yards last year. Holder is the reigning Class 3A sectional champion in the 100-meter dash (10.85 seconds).
Junior Austin Mugnai (5-10, 170) was called up for the final two games of last season. He surpassed 100 yards receiving and led the team in catches in those two games.
Junior receiver Sean Patterson (6-2, 168) qualified for the state track meet last spring on the same 400-meter relay team as Holder.
"We have a lot of speed at the receiver position and a lot of them are juniors," Cummins said. "We could have brought a couple of them up last year but chose not to. Our skill positions are very strong."
Senior Peter Samoska (6-3, 243) and junior AJ Mitchell (6-0, 242) return to anchor an offensive line two-deep at every position. Both players will also see time on the defensive line, though Cummins said fewer players will go both ways full time than in recent seasons. Jarrod Garcia (5-10, 213) gained some experience on the defensive line last year.
Holder saw significant playing time in the secondary and Morrow will again play in the defensive backfield in certain situations. They'll be joined by juniors Steve Brown (5-10, 170) and Deji Giwa (6-0, 171)
Ryan Cook (6-0, 205), who also plays tight end, returns to play outside linebacker. Playing inside linebacker will be Kushtrim Berisha (5-11, 181), who impressed in a late-season call-up by notching 11 and 15 tackles in games against Geneva and Batavia while wearing a cast.
Is the assemblage of talent enough to qualify the Sabres for postseason play for the first time since 2002?
"I certainly think it's possible," Cummins said. "One of our goals is to get back to that level. We probably can't make it on (playoff) points, so we've got to shoot for 6 wins. That's within the realm of possibility. "The key is getting off to a good start early, gain confidence and momentum.""
The Sabres open the season against Hoffman Estates (1-8), Dundee-Crown (0-9) and Elgin (6-4).