Scouting the Burlington Central Rockets
The competition gets stiffer for the Burlington Central football program this season.
The Rockets left the Kishwaukee River Conference and joined the Fox Valley Conference. That's the same FVC that has produced three straight Class 6A state champions -- Prairie Ridge in 2016 and 2017 and Cary-Grove in 2018.
Coach Brian Melvin said his players are ready for the challenges that lie ahead, thanks to what he called "the most unbelievable off-season since I've been here at Central."
The third-year coach said the returning players have worked tirelessly since December to prepare for their first tour through the FVC, which includes home games against Crystal Lake South, Jacobs, Hampshire and Cary-Grove and road tests at
Melvin said that culture change was largely inspired by naysayers who doubt a team that finished 3-6 last year and was outscored 221-143 can compete right away in the FVC, particularly since the 2019 Rockets have only six juniors on the roster.
"Our kids are so tired of hearing they're going to suck that they have completely changed the culture of the program because of all the negativity they have been surrounded by," Melvin said. "They have completely bought into our philosophy. If you come to one of our practices, you'd think we're a state contender. We're excited about the challenges the Fox Valley Conference has for us. After this off-season we feel we can compete."
Because only five juniors are participating, every sophomore in the program has been brought up to varsity. Thus, a very young team will rely heavily on senior leaders like linemen Matt Muetterties, Jake Schmitt and Jake Borman, versatile athlete Jake Lenschow, and wide receiver Nate Arians, among others.
Line play should be a team strength, bookended by Muetterties -- a 6-foot-5, 265-pound left tackle committed to Western Illinois -- and right tackle Borman (6-3, 290). Schmitt (6-2, 245) plays guard. They will protect quarterback Mark Ganziano, a 6-1, 180-pound junior.
Melvin called Lenschow, who was named summer camp MVP, "the best athlete on the field." Last season he mostly played quarterback, completing 59 of 123 passing attempts for 802 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also rushed for 191 yards and 3 scores. The 6-foot-3, three-sport athlete can play wide receiver, quarterback or running back. "He'll be everywhere," his coach said.
Defensively, Muetterties anchors the line at end, the position he will play in college. Borman and senior Michael Dubanowski (6-1, 280) form the rest of a stout front line. Senior Hunter Hodgson moves from outside linebacker to the middle, and Ganziano and senior Jack Westergaard play in the secondary.
"We're extremely young, but we will compete," Melvin said. "I'm super excited and that's not just blowing smoke. People will see it on Friday nights."