Scouting the Buffalo Grove Bison
The injury bug surely won't find its way back to Buffalo Grove this season, right?
It did enough damage last season that the Bison deserve at least a season or two of reprieve.
Seven starters were lost for the 2018 season with major injuries or illnesses by Week 4.
"We were just decimated by injuries last season," Buffalo Grove coach Jeff Vlk said. "It was the most depressing season. It was terrible."
The crazy list of major injuries included two ACL tears in the knee, a broken leg, a broken knee cap, a broken hip and two cases of mononucleosis.
And yet, the Bison still made the playoffs and finished 2018 with a 5-5 record.
Entering 2019, the challenge for Buffalo Grove is replacing a strong senior class which graduated 37 varsity players. But given that the Bison somehow persevered through so much adversity due to injuries last year, they believe they can persevere through anything, including youth and inexperience.
"We will probably be starting four to five sophomores on defense," Vlk said. "But our guys are confident. One of the reasons the kids feel so good right now is that we still made the playoffs last year with all those injuries. We have a lot of guys who got reps last year (filling in for injured players) that weren't expected to get reps and those guys are back."
Buffalo Grove, which has radically adjusted its practice routines and philosophies in an effort to preserve the health of its players, returns four starters on offense, including linemen Amar Bumanzul and Joe Verdico. Verdico was one of the starters hurt last year. He suffered a torn ACL in the first game and has spent the last year diligently working his way back into the mix.
Wide receiver Max Oberman is also back, but he started only three games last year before falling ill to mono. And tight end Chris Huber returns after missing part of last season with injury.
The offense will be led by quarterback Mark Antonetti, who wasn't hurt last season, but didn't get many reps since he was the backup quarterback.
"But Mark is an all-conference baseball player and is a great athlete and he's been doing really well (in the off-season), Vlk said. "He's a dropback quarterback and he moves well in the pocket."
Vlk is looking for a lift on offense from newcomers Cole Nixon, Ayden Anderson and Victor Allen.
Nixon, just a sophomore, has been impressive and has earned a spot at running back. Anderson is a wide receiver who is relatively new to football, trying out late in the preseason last year as a sophomore after not playing as a freshman. He might also play some defensive back.
And Allen has shown a lot of strength on the offensive line despite being just 5-foot-10, 200 pounds.
Defensively, the Bison return four starters: lineman Michael Goubine, linebacker Tom Dierbach and cornerbacks Pasquale Dellaquila and Noah Smith.
"Our offense was up and down last year, but our defense was pretty solid and kept us in a lot of games," Vlk said. "But we'll be young this year on defense with a lot of new players."
Tyler Oddo will be one of those new faces on defense. He has been moved from a wide receiver to linebacker.
"He's got a long, tall body at 6-foot-2 and he hits like a truck," Vlk said of Oddo. He's done a great job of transitioning from wide receiver to linebacker."
Now the Bison are looking to transition to a contender in the tough Mid-Suburban League East, which has been dominated in recent years by Rolling Meadows and Hersey.
"We're trying to do some things differently to be able to compete with those teams," Vlk said of his team's new practice methods to prevent injury. "But our kids definitely think the playoffs are an attainable goal. We want to get back to the playoffs."