Scouting the Bartlett Hawks

  • Second-year coach Matt Erlenbaugh leads a Bartlett team vying for the Upstate Eight championship.

      Second-year coach Matt Erlenbaugh leads a Bartlett team vying for the Upstate Eight championship. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Updated 8/22/2019 8:36 PM

Sounds like Bartlett's time has come.

A head coach of another Upstate Eight Conference football team said that a couple years ago one of his assistants called the Hawks' freshman team the best he'd seen in 20 years.


"They're a very, very talented group, which is why we had eight of them starting last year as sophomores," said Matt Erlenbaugh, who in his first season coaching Bartlett took the 7-3 Hawks to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. In 2017, Bartlett went 2-7.

"We're still young because we're very junior-heavy, but we're not young in the sense of experience because a big chunk of them got playing time on the varsity last year," said the 2003 Buffalo Grove graduate, who led Solorio Academy to a 15-8 mark in two seasons before arriving here.

The coach admits Bartlett still has "a lot to work on," but believes the team is further along than at this point last season, even as he's converting to a diverse offense from the Hawks' standard two-back, power scheme.

With some help by players from a sophomore team that went 7-1, losing only to Maine South (the freshmen went 9-0), Erlenbaugh has "realistic" goals of a UEC title and a playoff win.

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It's a junior, Mike Priami, who will lead the Hawks at quarterback. He would have last year, too, had not current Eastern Illinois freshman Jonah O'Brien transferred in from Wisconsin last year as a senior.

Bartlett also graduated its top rusher, Nick Deckard, but returns senior Tyler Rivelli, a similarly sized (5-foot-8, 180 pounds) fireball Erlenbaugh believes can become a "beast." Rivelli ran for 254 yards and 4 touchdowns last season, averaging 7 yards a carry, slightly more than Deckard.

Receiver and defensive back Matt Young, all-UEC in 2018, caught people napping by averaging 18 yards a catch. He'll be joined by 6-4 junior receiver Hayden Angell. One's got to figure that in this new offense 6-foot-4, 225-pound junior tight end-linebacker Alec Palella will get more targets.

As it was, Palella was an all-conference selection last season as was another junior, running back-linebacker Brendan Gran. Gran is an interesting study -- also a Hawks wrestler and baseball player with a 4.0 grade-point average who Erlenbaugh said was named the best long-snapper at a University of Wisconsin special teams camp this summer. And he's on Bartlett's chess team.


"Offensively we feel we have a lot of threats in a lot of different places," said Erlenbaugh, who also returns junior two-way linemen Dan Angelone and 6-3, 250 Charlie Nicoll.

The 3-5 or 3-3 stack defense returns senior linebacker Abel Serrato and Liam Gallagher, who in this case is not the former lead singer of Oasis but a senior cornerback. The Hawks also gained a pair of potential two-way juniors via transfer, lineman Joey Latrofa from St. Viator and receiver-defensive back Nick Bucaro from Montini.

Last season Bartlett allowed opponents to convert only 20 percent on third downs and was a plus-21 on turnovers. If the Hawks can approach those stats while continuing their development, they'll be on to something.

"We're in a good position to have a very successful season, and I think it'll just continue to grow as we extend our culture and what we expect from our kids," Erlenbaugh said.

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