Scouting the West Aurora Blackhawks
Entering his eighth season as West Aurora head football coach, Nate Eimer has seen a little bit of everything.
In 2013, the Blackhawks finished 1-8.
During one stretch, the Blackhawks dropped 12 consecutive regular-season games.
In 2015, West Aurora returned to the state playoffs for the first time since 1994.
The following season, West Aurora captured its first Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division title, finishing 9-0 in regular-season play.
After stretching their regular-season winning streak to 13 games a year ago, the Blackhawks punched their third straight trip to the postseason on the way to a 7-3 mark.
Now, for the third time in six years, West Aurora sees a realigned conference affiliation, joining Bartlett, East Aurora, Elgin, Glenbard East, Glenbard South, Larkin, South Elgin, Streamwood and West Chicago in the 10-team Upstate Eight, which no longer has divisions.
In other words, every game will be a conference game this season.
"It'll be interesting and it should be a lot of fun," said Eimer, who has guided the Blackhawks to a 33-33 record since taking over in 2011.
West Aurora, which will play 5 of its 9 regular-season games against teams with new coaches, opens its 2018 campaign at Larkin on Aug. 24.
Eimer has plenty of reasons for optimism.
Despite the graduation departure of multipurpose threat Camron Donatlan (945 all-purpose yards in 6 games last season), now playing football and track at Wyoming, the Blackhawks return an abundance of experience -- 8 offensive starters and 8 defensive starters.
"We're excited," said Eimer. "Now we're just trying to make all of the moving parts work."
The Blackhawks return plenty of offensive backfield depth, including senior quarterback William Tammaru (76 of 133, 1,142 yards, 7 TDs, 4 Ints), senior tailbacks JaQuan Buchanan (91 carries, 639 yards, 16 TDs), Hezekiah Salter (70 carries, 687 yards, 9TDs), and junior fullback Trevon Tittle (94 carries, 617 yards, 5 TDs).
"We have a ton of backs and a lot of unselfish guys who do things the right way," said Eimer.
The Blackhawks also return Daily Herald All-Area guard Ian Mooney, a 5-10, 250-pound senior who earned Class 8A all-state honorable mention honors after paving the way for 2,885 rushing yards as a team last season.
"I think Ian is one of the best offensive linemen in the state," said Eimer.
Seniors Derek Dodson (TE) and Moshe Rogers (WR -- 27 receptions, 353 yards, 2 TDs) lead the receiving corps.
Defensively, the Blackhawks feature 6-3, 300-pound junior tackle Denver Warren (5.5 sacks in 2017), who committed to Michigan last month.
"We also return four of our five starting linebackers," Eimer said of a group that includes seniors Ian Deisher (63 tackles), Anthony Hunt (50 tackles), Jerritt Gutierrez and Buchanan.
Junior Jake Smith joins the group at the 'Mike' linebacker spot, while the secondary includes seniors Zachary Jacobson (54 tackles) and Davaris Cheeks.
"This is probably the deepest football team we've had since I've been here," said Eimer. "We're trying to take it to the next level, and that starts with working on being more consistent than we've been."