"I've got a big smile on my face every day."
That's because first-year West Aurora coach Nate Eimer is right where he wanted to be.
Despite a rough road annually for the Blackhawks in the grueling DuPage Valley Conference, he called returning to his alma mater to succeed retired Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Famer Buck Drach "a dream come true."
"Sometimes it's hard to believe that you're doing what you've always wanted to do," said Eimer, estimated by West historian Neal Ormond to be the 33rd head coach in a program that dates to 1893. A three-year Blackhawks starting tight end who graduated in 2001, Eimer knows full well West Aurora hasn't reached the playoffs since 1994. The Blackhawks went 2-7 in both his junior and senior years, though they were 5-4 in a non-playoff season when he was a sophomore on varsity.
He returned to West after successfully coordinating Oswego East offenses on the varsity and sophomore levels. His history includes academic awards won as an educator and a student-athlete at West Aurora as well as Edinboro University.
For Eimer's 70-man squad to successfully navigate the DuPage Valley Conference gauntlet (plus a crucial nonconference game against St. Charles East) and snag that elusive playoff berth, he said consistency will be the key particularly concerning technique as Drach had said before him.
Despite returning lineman Austin Beebe, promising sophomore Marco Guarnizo, two-way starters Nate Zinzer and Booker Ross and wideout Cole Childs, the offense still seeks identity. Senior Richie Renner, who won a lengthy quarterback battle against fellow returners Josh Campbell and Curtis Townsend plus sophomore Quintez Jones, aims to provide the leadership.
Eimer is very pleased with the defensive unit; he called it "phenomenal." Defensive coordinator Tony Melchiori's 3-5 scheme returns nine of 11 positions, including four of five linebackers plus all-conference nose tackle Javonta Black. He led the 2010 Blackhawks in tackles with 33 and in tackles for loss with 5.
Headed by Black, West Aurora returns its top six tacklers three-year starting linebacker Brandon Warren, Booker Ross, D.J. Nelson, Nate Zinzer, Kendall Williams and seven of eight including cornerback Jonny Gosong.
"They are very fast and they are very physical, and they get to the ball as a team," Eimer said. "It's a very good defense, and it's a bit of a headache calling the offense (in practice)."
West Aurora never lacks talent, particularly in the skilled positions. Eimer knows that's not enough in the DuPage Valley Conference.
"You've got to be consistent," Eimer said, "and it starts in practice."
West Aurora breakdown
Coach: Nate Eimer (first year).
2009 record: 4-5, 2-5, sixth place in conference.
Postseason: Last playoff appearance in 1994.
Last five years (starting in 2006): 2-7, 4-5, 3-6, 3-6, 4-5
2011 Enrollment: 3426
Date Opponent Time
8/26 at East Aurora 7:30
9/2 St. Charles East 7:30
9/9 at WW South 7:30*
9/16 Naperville Cen. 7:30*
9/23 at Glenbard No. 7:30*
9/30 Wheaton North 7:30*
10/7 Naperville North 7:30*
10/14 at West Chicago 7:30*
10/21 Glenbard East 7:30*
* denotes conference game
Pos. Name Ht/Wt Yr.
QB Richie Renner 5-10/175 Sr.
RB Booker Ross 5-11/195 Jr.*
WR Nate Zinzer 5-7/150 Sr.*
WR Cole Childs 6-3/190 Jr.*
WR Anthony Oros 5-10/160 Jr.
TE Spencer Thomas 6-1/210 Jr.
LT Robert Drager 5-11/220 Sr.
LG Marco Guarnizo 5-11/245 Jr.
C Tyler Thomas 5-10/225 Jr.
RG Austin Beebe 6-1/270 Sr.*
RT Darryl Stewart 6-4/280 Sr.
K Bryan Watkins 5-9/150 Jr.
Pos. Name Ht/Wt Yr.
NT Javonta Black 5-8/235 Sr.*
DL Terrence Pierce 6-0/215 Sr.*
DL Alexander Pope 5-8/220 Sr.*
OLB Greg Roache 5-11/180 Sr.
ILB Brandon Warren 5-10/200 Sr.*
MLB Kendall Williams 5-10/224 Sr.*
ILB Matt Williams 6-1/180 Jr.
OLB Booker Ross 5-11/195 Jr.*
S Nate Zinzer 5-7/150 Sr.*
CB Jonny Gosong 6-1/195 Sr.*
CB Alex Jaquez 5-10/160 Sr.
P Alexander Pope 5-8/220 Sr.
* denotes returning starter