West Auroras Anthony Oros (10) and Tyler Thomas celebrate a touchdown last year against St. Charles East. Both return this year for their senior seasons.
Rick West | Staff Photographer
West Auroras ongoing pursuit is securing the elusive playoff appearance, which hasnt happened since 1994.
The combination of having graduated 10 of 11 defensive starters and the typically rugged DuPage Valley Conference schedule will make this the usual challenge.
Blackhawks coach Nate Eimer is certainly up for it.
I think weve got to play like a team. I think thats one thing we lacked at times last year, he said. And the other part I think of, and this has been a problem with West High football even going back to when I played, weve got to handle adversity. Were going to be down in some games and itll be interesting to see how the kids respond.
Particularly on defense, where West Aurora graduated all-DuPage Valley Conference players Javonte Black and Brandon Warren and only linebacker Matt Williams returns. Its a good start, as the senior ranked fourth on last years squad in tackles and led in tackles for loss with 15, nearly a third of his 49 overall.
Blessed with an abundance of linebackers in 2011 when the Blackhawks played a 3-5 base, theyll shift to a 4-3 this season. Trevon Williams and Jeremiah Gaines, who both backed up at linebacker last season, will move up front this year and may even be joined at times by the Blackhawks top receiver a year ago, Cole Childs, at defensive end.
Senior Charles House, a quality triple jumper for Cortney Lambs track squad last spring, has made advances in the secondary.
He had a phenomenal summer playing cornerback, Eimer said. Great work ethic. Hes going to be a very good cornerback in our conference and in our area.
The coach called House one of his teams most improved players, and another he saluted was quarterback Quintez Jones. One of four quarterbacks the Blackhawks used in 2011, this year the 6-foot-4 athlete is the man.
The sole signalcaller from last years squad to throw more touchdown passes than interceptions with 4 to 2, and also averaged 3.6 yards a carry, Jones will head a spread offense that offers the most experience.
West graduated versatile receiver Nate Zinzer but returns Childs, who caught 24 passes for a team-high 310 yards and 4 touchdowns; receiver Tony Oros, who averaged 20.4 yards a catch; and tailback Booker Ross, who shook off a season-long injury bug last year to run for 122 and 193 yards in the last two games. Eimer also said hes bringing up a freshman safety-receiver, Drake Spears, related to the former outstanding running back Leon Spears.
Tyler Thomas is the sole returning starter on the offensive line; he graded out second only to All-Area graduate Chase Beebe among Wests 2011 starting linemen. Jorge Ramirez, Denzel Davis and the 6-foot-5, 300-pound Shaquille Redman add heft and some agility up front.
Our philosophy is weve got to spread people out and make them defend our speed, Eimer said. And then weve got to run the ball.
Keys include developing depth out of a bunch of question marks, Eimer said, improving upon last seasons 30 percent third-down conversion rate, and a familiar goal at West Aurora: consistency.
At the end of the day, its a little cliché, but we need to get better every day, we need to be consistent, Eimer said. And I think if that happens it could be a very fun year for us.