Scouting the Neuqua Valley Wildcats
Four times last season Neuqua Valley's football team scored at least 35 points.
With nine offensive starters returning, expect to see a bunch more scoreboard denting from the Wildcats.
"Offensively, we feel pretty good," said Wildcats coach Bill Ellinghaus. "I hope it's a continuation from last season. We all want to be explosive again."
It starts with returning quarterback Mark Gronowski, who last season threw for 1,200 yards and rushed for 296. Between Sean Larkin, committed to Southern Illinois, Patrick Hoffmann, who holds an offer to Valparaiso and a preferred walk-on opportunity from Northern Illinois, and Garrett Stare, the Wildcats boast one of the area's top passing attacks.
Four offensive linemen return to plow holes for junior running back Armani Moreno, who rushed for 439 yards as a sophomore. He's ready to fill the shoes left by the graduation of Will Chevalier, who had 867 rushing yards.
"Our offense is way ahead of where it's been in the past," Ellinghaus said. "If you can get an entire unit working together like they are, that's a great start."
The defense expected to be strong as well, and that was before linebacker Jack Belskis transferred in from Metea Valley. Last season he led the Mustangs with 111 tackles.
Linebackers Nathan Williamson and junior Trey Borske, who was part of a sophomore team defense that last season allowed a total of 13 points, will be on either side of Belskis. Senior lineman J.J. Robertson had 36 tackles. Hoffmann and Larkin bolster the secondary.
"This group has worked as hard as any we've had," Ellinghaus said. "They just come in with that grinder mindset. We're 65 strong right now, and I feel good about what we have."
One to watch: Perennial power East St. Louis comes to town Week 3 for an immense challenge for the Wildcats.
Coach: Bill Ellinghaus (eighth year, 54-21).
2018 record: 6-4, 3-1, second in DuPage Valley Conference.
Top players: QB Mark Gronowski, sr.; LB Jack Belskis, sr.; WR-DB Sean Larkin, sr.; WR-DB Patrick Hoffmann, sr.; WR Garrett Stare, sr.; DL J.J. Robertson, sr.; LB Nathan Williamson, sr.; LB Trey Borske, jr.; RB Armani Moreno, jr.; OL Matt Appel, sr.; OL Nolan Baker, sr.; OL Keegan Murray, sr.
-- Kevin Schmit
Fri, Aug 30, Neuqua Valley at Glenbard North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Sep 6, Neuqua Valley at Stevenson, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Sep 13, East St. Louis at Neuqua Valley, 7 p.m.
Fri, Sep 20, DeKalb at Neuqua Valley, 7 p.m.
Fri, Sep 27, Neuqua Valley at Waubonsie Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Oct 4, Naperville Central at Neuqua Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Oct 11, Neuqua Valley at Metea Valley, 7 p.m.
Fri, Oct 18, Neuqua Valley at Naperville North, 7 p.m.
Fri, Oct 25, Neuqua Valley at Metea Valley, 7 p.m.