Lisle, Westmont primed to grind through IEC
It's tough to judge your competition until you see it firsthand.
By the end of last season -- his first in the Interstate Eight Conference -- Lisle football coach Paul Parpet Sr. definitely came away impressed.
"It's a good league," said Parpet, the Lions' second-year coach who spent the bulk of his 30-year career at Addison Trail. "There are a lot of well-coached teams, a lot of great players. I learned a lot about how tough the Interstate Eight is."
Lisle felt the brunt of the IEC's power last season, and not just in its small school division.
Wilmington won its seventh straight division championship and went on to win the program's first state title with a win over Williamsville in the Class 3A final. Herscher was an eight-game winner in the small division while three large-school division teams on the Lions' crossover schedule also reached the playoffs.
The grind no doubt wore down Lisle as it lost eight straight games to end the year, and it looks like it'll be another grind this season.
Wilmington, led by 1,000-yard rusher Nick Hawkins, is again favored to win the small division title and make a deep playoff run. Herscher also figures to challenge for another playoff berth after giving the Wildcats their toughest game last regular season.
Beyond the two favorites, it'll be interesting to see who emerges.
Lisle was decimated by injuries last season, but the Lions are deep and experienced. They're headed by running back-defensive back Mark McGrath and quarterback Alec Van Volkenburg, who were both all-conference honorees last season.
A healthy roster in the 30s puts Lisle in much better position to compete with the IEC powers.
The most-interesting team in the IEC small division might be Westmont, which last season came a win shy of its first playoff berth since 2006. Ten starters returning to 16 starting positions could make this a breakthrough season for the Sentinels.
The offense will be especially strong with quarterback Kyle Domin, receiver Marquis Thomas and two-way lineman Bubba Griffiths returning to the pass-heavy offense. Last season 455 of Domin's 1,387 passing yards went to Thomas.
If the defense shores up from the 42 points a game its allowed last season, Westmont will make it awfully tough on the rest of the IEC.
Time will tell, however, if anyone can deny Wilmington its eighth straight conference title.
"We've got our hands full in conference, but we'll be ready," said Westmont coach Otto Zeman. "Obviously, Wilmington will be the favorite, but we're hoping to give them a run."
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