Scouting Cary-Grove football
The majority of playmakers responsible for leading Cary-Grove to the 2018 Class 6A state title have moved on, but the expectations never change for a program that has made 15 straight playoff appearances.
"We expect to play at a high level regardless of who we have coming back," said ninth-year coach Brad Seaburg, whose 83-17 record also includes state runner-up finishes in 2012 and 2014. "We always have the expectation of playing physical, fast and disciplined. If we do those things, the results take care of themselves."
The most experienced player returning is senior fullback/safety Blake Skol (5-foot-10, 180 pounds). Seaburg said the third-year varsity starter should "make an impact on both sides of the ball in some capacity."
Skol rushed 228 times for 1,460 yards and 21 touchdowns as a junior. In a 35-13 state championship game victory over Crete-Monee, he rushed for a team-high 123 yards on 26 carries and scored the game's first touchdown via an 8-yard run.
The only returning starters on offense besides Skol are center Evan Hissong (5-11, 220) and tight end Nathan Desmet (5-9, 180).
Taking over for graduated quarterback Ben McDonald will be either senior Luke Eleftheriou or sophomore Jameson Sheehan. "We have a lot of good kids but they're nobodys as far as nobody knows anything about them yet," Seaburg said
The defense is more experienced, led by Jake Johnson, a linebacker the program honored last season as defensive player of the year. The 5-foot-7, 188-pound senior made 6 tackles in the state title game, tying him for the team lead.
"I expect him to really be a leader," Seaburg said. "Jake is very difficult to block. Between the tackles he is extremely quick and he can run on the perimeter, too. He's really a student of the game. He studies a lot of film. He understands what the other teams are trying do and that filters down to others."
The defense also returns junior linebacker Johnny Gagliano and lineman Mitchell Dek. Others who rotated in and saw significant playing time include senior linebackers Parker Suyko and Jacob Buck, junior safety Anthony LaMantia and sophomore lineman Matthew Ortega. A newcomer to the defense is senior Gio Lanera, a cornerback who played split end last season.
Can the Trojans successfully defend their undefeated Fox Valley Conference and win at least one playoff game, a feat the program has accomplished every year since 2004?
"Every team is different and every year is different," Seaburg said. "If we have enough talent and we execute enough in games and the ball bounces our way, then we feel like we have a chance to advance far."