Scouting Maine West: Warriors eager to play it again
The Warriors certainly came out to play last year. And football head coach Jason Kradman is looking for a repeat in 2018.
Maine West is coming off its first home playoff game since 1993 and first winning season in 12 years. The Warriors, who were 7-3, lost in the opening round of the Class 6A playoffs to Benet 35-13. Maine West was also co-champs of the Central Suburban North.
"It has been fun" Kradman said. "We had a great off-season building off of last year's momentum. It has been a great off-season and a good summer camp."
Expectations will be high as this year's team will be looking to become the first Maine West team to repeat as playoff contenders. Maine West has only qualified for the playoffs five times in school history.
Kradman returns 13 starters from last season, with seven of them on the offensive side. The Warriors had nine all-conference players in the CSL North and return five of those.
"We think we have a strong group back," Kradman said. "We are excited on where we think this season could go."
On offense, where Maine West set a school record with 288 points, it starts up front.
All five of the starting offensive line are coming back with playing experience. Two of them will be starters for the third year. And the line is massive, including the backups.
Lindon Ujkashi (6-6, 290), Danny Daood (6-5, 230), Costa Paschos (6-3, 215) and Amir Cavic (6-1, 250) are all seniors, with Paschos and Cavic three-year starters. Mike Bartusiak (6-2, 265) is a junior and is slated to start, with Jesse Duran (6-0, 230), Raul Ramirez (6-2, 265) and Yanni Motter (6-1, 240) providing some depth.
That group will love blocking for bruising running back Jake Bellizzi. A senior, Bellizzi, who is 6-2, 225, rushed for nearly 500 yards last year and will get most of the carries this season.
Danny Kentgen will take over at QB this season. Kentgen, who is 6-5, 220, is a junior and the younger brother of former Warriors tight end Matt Kentgen.
The Maine West receiving corps will be tall and lean, according to Kradman. They will be led by DaMon Street (6-2, 170) and Sean Collins (6-1, 170), with Ely Grimmer (6-3, 210) and Isaiah Siem-Davis (6-3, 200) swinging back and forth between tight end and wide receiver.
Defensively, the Warriors look to be even more successful than they were last season when they forced 29 turnovers and allowed 14.8 points per game while posting 4 shutouts.
The strength of the defense lies with a very talented linebacking corps.
Bellizzi, who was Central Suburban North defensive player of the year last year, returns to anchor the defense from the middle linebacker spot. He will have Krystian Garbicz and Grimmer with him along with Hector Hernandez and Jack Roback.
The secondary also looks solid with David Jackson and Pablo Montes at the corners. The safety spots will look like a pair of extra linebackers with Jaden Dolphin, who is 6-3, and Street there.
The Warriors' defensive line is young and inexperienced. Siem-Davis, Sam Corey, Josh Schacke, Denis Dizdarevic, Tony Groves and Tony Mando will be looking to tie up offensive linemen to free up the Warriors' talented back seven.
"We are trying to stay focused," Kradman said. "Whenever you have a breakthrough season, it is important to take it one step at a time and remember where you came from -- and not get too big of a head."