Scouting the Bartlett Hawks
A new era begins for Bartlett football in more ways than one.
For two decades, Bartlett players had to catch a bus to Streamwood High School to play so-called home games because the Hawks didn't have their own field.
Those nomadic days are over. The Hawks fly home for good on Friday, Aug. 31 when they play Glenbard East in the first home game under the lights at their new stadium complex.
The program also sports a new sideline look. Bartlett is now coached by Matt Erlenbaugh, a Hersey graduate who spent the last two seasons leading Chicago Solorio to consecutive playoff appearances. The 34-year-old takes over a program of 135 players, 54 on the varsity.
The collective goal is to bounce back from last year's school-record worst 2-7 finish and return to the playoffs. Bartlett made the postseason 12 times in 13 seasons between 2000-2012. The only playoff appearance since happened in 2015.
Bartlett hopes to improve on last year's 14.3 ppg scoring average with a prostyle offense called by coordinator Bob Murray, whose son, Bobby, was the starting quarterback at Geneva last season.
New quarterback Jonah O'Brien is a senior transfer from Wisconsin. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound senior was a two-year varsity starter but missed most of his junior season due to an elbow injury, Erlenbaugh said. The right-hander can throw the ball accurately down the field, makes good decisions and has stepped up as the leader of the offense, according to his coach.
O'Brien gains a stable of tall, talented receivers, headed by returning all-Upstate Eight pick Austin Gates (6-2, 175). Also one of the area's best basketball players, Gates is strong in the air and can outleap defenders. He finished a successful junior campaign with 65 receptions for 784 yards (12.1 avg.) and 9 touchdowns. Gates also rushed 12 times for 28 yards and a score.
Opponents will have trouble matching up against O'Brien's other targets: 6-foot-3 senior Nick Mansk (9 rec., 52 yards) and 6-4 sophomore Hayden Angell.
Senior running back Nick Deckard will play a more substantial role. Last year he carried the ball 39 times for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns. He'll be joined in the backfield by H-backs Jason Schuberth and Spencer Konstanzer. They follow an offensive line consisting of two seniors, a junior and two sophomores.
"We have a lot of threats. I'm really excited about how we have come along offensively," Erlenbaugh said. "We need to get in between the tackles and pound and get some yardage, and we can absolutely do that. And if we need to air it out, we can do that too. I can't wait."
Defensively, Gates returns at safety and Konstanzer and Schuberth are back at inside linebacker. Senior Nick Eckelberry returns in the secondary, while Deckard will likely see time at linebacker.
Another defender with impact potential is Julio Hernandez, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior who Erlenbaugh said "has just been a terror for us at defensive end. He looks like a linebacker but we've got him with his hand in the dirt."
The defensive line rotation will include two seniors, a junior and two sophomores. In fact, seven sophomores will start for the Hawks overall in the season opener at East Aurora. Erlenbaugh won't accept youth as an excuse once the ball is kicked.
"I'm really looking for us to come out right from the start and compete right away," he said. "We don't want to start out slow. Right away we want to be attacking and see if we can set the tone from the first snap. We'll see what happens when adversity comes because that will happen. There will be a bad play and they may go down and score. But this whole summer we really focused on overcoming adversity, competing and rallying around each other."