Scouting the South Elgin Storm
Joining South Elgin as head coach late in June 2018, Dragan Teonic called that preseason "a whirlwind."
Once the dust settled, even while ending the regular season on three straight losses the Storm reached the playoffs and finished at 6-4 overall, 6-3 and in fourth place in the Upstate Eight Conference.
With a full offseason and preseason to work with Teonic, a proven program rejuvenator, said the squad is further ahead of last season's pace. And it's all about the kids, who the energetic coach calls "a special class."
"This is a class that has really wanted to get it done," Teonic said.
Returning 10 starters to the spread-option offense and eight to the 4-4 base defense, with a pair of returning all-Upstate Eight selections on either side of the ball -- plus a potential college recruit in kicker Andrew Bucaro -- South Elgin should hit the ground running. On Friday nights, yet, with the installation of new lighting surrounding the football stadium.
"It's nice having returners back, but we're definitely not going to look like last year's team because the quarterback is different," Teonic said.
That is not necessarily a bad thing because sophomore quarterback Ben Karpowicz, who won a close competition with junior Eron Mahmudi to start the opener -- succeeding shifty graduate Azxavier Salinas, who led South Elgin in rushing yardage and rushing touchdowns -- will line up behind four linemen who earned starts last season.
All-conference junior Michael Roath, junior Sam Minnifield and seniors A.J. Cubberley and Vince Tringali are long and lean, which should enhance movement to spring returner Leo Aguirre, who ran for 218 yards in 2018, and fresh back Robby Gilman.
The Storm also is stocked at receiver with blocking tight end Andy Koch and returning wideouts Calin Gurau, Cris Mejia, Shiking Marshall and Davion Cherwin.
Marshall earned all-conference honors after averaging 17.5 yards a catch with 3 touchdowns and running for 3 more touchdowns. Cherwin will be among Fox Valley's fastest players, anchor of the Storm's 400-meter relay that reached the finals of the 2019 Class 3A boys track finals.
Marshall, Cherwin and Cubberley also return to a defense that returns three starters on the line and at linebacker. Key to this group are returning all-UEC picks Dylan Bernal, a lineman who made 53 tackles with 7 sacks last season; and the Storm's reigning defensive MVP with 100 tackles as a junior, linebacker Vince Clinite.
A focused 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, Clinite is the defensive leader every team needs.
"He's got a low tolerance for nonsense among his peers," Teonic said, wryly.
Adding newcomers with size such as 6-5 defensive linemen Anthony Cirrincione and Corve King and 300-pound Jacob Cooper among a program up to around 140 players, it doesn't sound like nonsense is a problem at South Elgin.
"We're more committed, we're faster and stronger than were last year and I really like our assistant coaching staff. So I feel good about where we're going," Teonic said.