Scouting the West Aurora Blackhawks
This promises to be an intriguing football season for West Aurora.
After four straight playoff appearances, which the Blackhawks had not achieved until ninth-year coach Nate Eimer took over, West Aurora moved from the Upstate Eight Conference to join the Southwest Prairie Conference's West division with Minooka, Oswego and Oswego East, Plainfield North and Yorkville.
West Aurora does so having graduated 17 starters from last year's 9-2 team -- but returns three bona fide seniors destined for college football.
"This is a year where we figure out if we're a program or if we've just strung a couple groups together," said Eimer, who had 150 players at summer camp and looks to be in the 170-range. That sounds like a program.
The sole offensive starter back is quarterback Will Tammaru, who bears scholarship offers from Dayton, Georgetown, Butler and Valparaiso. Among West Aurora's top quarterbacks historically, last season the three-year starter completed 56 percent of his passes for 1,637 yards, 13 touchdowns.
"Will's a kid that can get us out of bad plays. We let him do a lot of checking at the line, and that's pretty special in high school," Eimer said. "We're going to go as he goes this year."
Some of that will be dictated by an all-new offensive line -- Jamiah Ellis, Clay Caragher, Jesse Kendle, Chris Kimmons and 6-foot-2, 303-pound Julian Ordaz, left to right.
In 2018 Trevon Tittle rumbled for 440 yards and 7 touchdowns out of the Blackhawks' Wing-T. Eimer looks forward to watching returning backs Isaiah Lowry and Isaac Medina and newcomers Jeremiah Johnson and Derrick Merrell. Same with receivers Logan Mont and Antwone Rayford, a slippery kick returner.
Though Eimer has brought up six sophomores, including linebackers Matt Tarr and Tim Hancock and cornerbacks Austin Pierce and Savion Little, defense is where the bulk of the experience lies. It's also where Matt Johnson and Cam Van Vleet reign.
Committed to Northern Illinois University, defensive end Johnson is what Eimer calls a "freak athlete," perfectly sized at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds with speed to anchor the track team's 400-meter relay. In just his third year of football Johnson is poised to improve on last season's 29 tackles, with 6.5 sacks.
Van Vleet, a linebacker with a Dayton offer, returned from injury to make 48 tackles, with 2 sacks.
"I'm pretty excited defensively with him and Matt," said Eimer, whose 42 wins are the most for a Blackhawks football coach since Ken Zimmerman's tenure ended in 1970.
He's excited overall by his defensive line and linebackers. Nose tackle Evan Alexandrou returns some experience to the line while "speed guy" Rodney Jones moves to the line from linebacker. Senior linebackers Christian Nieves and Tim Hightower both made at least 20 tackles last year.
There's competition for positions on an athletic roster, and regardless of the conference change chances are good West Aurora will prove it is not just a couple of strong groups.
"We're inexperienced but we're going to be a good football team. We are going to be better Week 9 than we are Week 1, that's for sure, with our attitude and effort," Eimer said.