Versatility will be a key for South Elgin
The beauty of having an athlete the caliber of Nate Gomez back at quarterback for a third season is the flexibility he lends South Elgin's offense.
When the Storm fielded a bigger offensive line last year, coach Pat Pistorio let the big-armed baseball star heave the ball deep. Once he became the full-time quarterback early last season, Gomez completed 65 of 104 attempts (62.5 percent) for 899 yards and 11 touchdowns.
However, South Elgin's offensive line isn't quite so large this time around. In fact, senior linebacker Kyle Viverito (6-2, 194) will perform double duty to sure up the unit and other linebackers will likely rotate through. It could mean changes in how the Storm attack behind one of the area's top athletes in an effort to minimize one-on-one battles against physically superior defensive linemen.
"It's not a new look, but we're including some things to showcase Nate's strengths and allow the team to be more successful," Pistorio said. "Some of the things we have in place will require him to carry the ball 10 to 15 times. If we need to throw it, we'll do that." Gomez rushed for 367 yards and 9 touchdowns last year.
He and backup quarterback Nate Smith, another baseball player, missed 10 of 25 summer football practices due to their multisport commitments. Junior quarterback Jakob Johnson filled in without missing a beat, thus adding to the team's depth at the position. Pistorio called Johnson "our summer MVP."
Gomez isn't the only fleet-footed member of the backfield. Senior running back Pierre Touissant returns. He battled through injuries last year but when healthy carried 37 times for 254 yards (6.9 avg.) and a touchdown.
Linebacker is a strength of the defense. Viverito is flanked by returning senior linebacker Colt Doherty (6-0, 185) along with Touissant and Wells, who play both ways. Likewise, Gomez will see significant playing time at safety as in previous seasons.
The secondary features newcomer Davion Cherwin, a 5-8, 150-pound freshman cornerback who Pistorio calls "the fastest kid in the program." He joins a deep group at the position that includes seniors Anthony Zabrano and Dasmond Lockett and junior Azxavier Salinas.
South Elgin begins its season at the Disney complex in Orlando against private school Ransom Everglades of Miami. The Storm also play 2016 playoff participant Lockport in Week 2, Class 6A quarterfinalist Cary-Grove in Week 8 and they draw Batavia in a Week 7 Upstate Eight Conference crossover.
"Those nonconference teams are strong," Pistorio said. "For us to be able to be competitive this year we need to find a way to get a win if not more out of the three."