West Aurora's linebackers deliver, as expected

Updated 8/31/2016 7:49 PM
  • St. Charles East's Zachary Mitchell (17) dives in for the Saints' second touchdown last Friday against South Elgin.

      St. Charles East's Zachary Mitchell (17) dives in for the Saints' second touchdown last Friday against South Elgin. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Linebacker figured to be a position of strength for West Aurora this season.

The Blackhawks returned four starters at the position, plus senior Chandler Behrens, who rotated in last year behind the fifth starting linebacker, Drake Spears, now at Western Michigan.

The veteran unit delivered as expected in a 33-3 season-opening victory at Yorkville last weekend, a game played over two days due to a lightning continuance.

Senior linebacker DaVion Cross intercepted a pass at his own 48-yard line and returned it for a touchdown right before halftime to stake West Aurora to a 19-3 lead.

Behrens, who started the last two years at fullback but now concentrates solely on defense, led the Blackhawks with 13 tackles.

Overall, West held Yorkville to 138 total yards and stopped 10 of the Foxes' 53 plays for a loss.

"When DaVion took that pass and scored, it carried over to Saturday," West Aurora coach Nate Eimer said. "Not only were we dominating them defensively, but we scored on defense, too."

The Blackhawks aim for a 2-0 start in Saturday's 1:30 p.m. nonconference game at Waukegan, to be played at Weiss Field, located six blocks east of Waukegan High School. A 2-0 start would be West Aurora's first since 2011, Eimer's first season as coach.

The Bulldogs are 1-0 after knocking off North Chicago 31-27 a week ago. Waukegan benefitted from 7 North Chicago turnovers. Senior defensive back Shawntrell Hayes (6-0, 185) accounted for 4 of those turnovers. Hayes intercepted a pass and recovered 3 fumbles, one of which he returned 72 yards for the opening score.

"We have to play fundamentally sound, limit our mistakes and make them tackle us," Eimer said. "We have to be careful with them. They have some guys in the secondary who can go get it."

Shut out, not down: The Burlington Central offense didn't get many chances to score in a 20-0 loss to Byron last week.

First-year coach Brian Melvin said the Rockets were able to run only 30 plays due to Byron's clock-eating wing-T option, the hallmark of which is ball control.

Central's new coach didn't dwell long on the final outcome considering the quality of the opponent. Byron reached a Class 3A quarterfinal last season and a 3A semifinal in 2014.

"To play Byron like that wasn't disappointing at all," Melvin said. "I was intrigued how we played. That's a team that has gone semis, quarters, and we're a team that went 1-8 last year with a new coach. And we had our chances."

The Rockets get their next chance on Friday at rival Hampshire, which allowed 392 rushing yards in a 35-28 win at Dundee-Crown.

Ch-ch-ch-changes: Changing the game football helped the St. Edward reverse its fortunes in muggy Florida last Friday night.

Playing against Christ's Church Academy of Jacksonville at Disney, St. Edward fell behind 7-0 as quarterback Dylan Mlinarich was intercepted 3 times.

That's when the Green Wave realized the older football they were using was soaking up humidity like a sponge and getting heavier as the game progressed. They switched to a new ball and rallied to win 30-20.

"We knew there had to be a reason because Dylan hasn't thrown like that all summer or in two years as a starter," St. Edward coach Mike Rolando said. "Old footballs get slimy and hold the moisture. From the series we put in the new ball he was on target with hitches and timing routes. Everything was better."

Mlinarich completed 11 of 29 passes for 214 yards and 2 touchdowns. His top receiver was Jimmy Harkins (5 catches, 105 yards, TD).

Hammer time: Huntley coach Matt Zimolzak couldn't help but gush about his defense in the aftermath of a 35-0 win at Jacobs.

Illinois-bound defensive end Lere Oladipo grabbed the early spotlight by sacking Bowling Green recruit Chris Katrenick on back-to-back plays, but the constant pounding from Huntley's linebackers stood out in the shutout.

Senior linebacker Tyler Szekely led the way with 7 solo tackles and 2 assists

Junior Charlie Zornow had 4 solo tackles and a sack and junior Nick Dennis registered 4 solos and 2 assists.

Dennis won the team's weekly hammer award for his ability to fill holes.

"He's an under-the-radar guy in one of the key areas we needed to pay some attention to during the off-season," said Zimolzak, who notched his first win as coach. "That unit showed us this week they are the real deal."

Hard nosed: The Bartlett football program has enjoyed its share of tough overachievers. The entire 2016 team is cut from that kind of cloth, according to Eric Ilich, who gained his first coaching victory last week with a 6-0 shutout of Conant.

"This Bartlett team is full of guys who compete hard, as hard or harder than any team I've been around," Ilich said. "They are just relentless competitors, so we have that on our side. We'll just focus on getting a little better every day and let the chips fall where they may in the middle to end of the season."

The quote: "We're really looking forward to traveling up there. Anytime you can play a team that was in a state championship game the year before, that's a special thing." -- Batavia coach Dennis Piron on playing at 2015 Class 7A runner-up Libertyville on Friday.

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