Scouting the Wheaton Academy Warriors
Don't look now, but Wheaton Academy has reached the playoffs three of the last four years, including last season.
Retooling skill positions and the Metro Suburban Conference Red Division grind will be challenges, but if it all starts up front, the Warriors should compete.
"We've got some good returning starting experience there. I think a key area of our strength will be our front seven on defense," coach Brad Thornton said.
Outside linebacker Trevor Donna is a heat-seeking missile returning 91 tackles, 16 for loss with 7 sacks. Sam Palmer returns 51 tackles in the middle of the 4-3 defense.
Should returning linemen Daniel Kowalczyk, Josh Friedland, Christian Pares and Masa Kasai -- ranging from 225 to 275 pounds -- control their gaps, Donna and Palmer will again clean up. Newcomers such as Peter Johanik and Josh Brunner benefit by having had older brothers go through the system.
Several transfers shore up the spread offense -- running backs Stephen Garner and Gus Walakehwon and receiver Jayson Rucker, who joins younger brother, Javonte, at Wheaton Academy.
It's basically a new offense with receiver Alex Ventimilla, running back Christopher Carstens -- kid brother of last year's top back, Cristian -- and returning wideouts Micah Nickols and Will Casto.
Only Casto, junior quarterback Shane Baumgarten and senior running back Eli Van Dyke scored for Wheaton Academy in 2018, 1 touchdown each.
There will be work to do. Thornton believes it can be done.
"We're counting on being able to stop the run and force teams to throw against us," he said. "We need a group of guys to step up into our defensive secondary. We've got the talent to do it, but we need to gain some reps and experience."
One to watch: Possible playoff ramifications Week 9 with Aurora Christian; Wheaton Academy lost 34-33 last season.
Coach: Brad Thornton (seventh year, 30-27).
2018 record: 5-5, 2-4, fifth in the Metro Suburban Blue.
Top players: WR-DB Will Casto, sr.; LB Trevor Donna, jr.; OL-DL Josh Friedland, jr.; RB Stephen Garner, sr.; OL-DL Masa Kasai, sr.; OL-DL Dan Kowalczyk, sr.; WR-DB Micah Nichols, sr.; LB Sam Palmer, sr.; OL-DL Christian Pares, sr.; WR Jayson Rucker, sr.; RB-LB Gus Walakehwon, sr.
-- Dave Oberhelman
Fri, Aug 30, Urbana at Wheaton Academy, 7:15 p.m.
Fri, Sep 6, Wheaton Academy at St. Edward, 7 p.m.
Fri, Sep 13, Wheaton Academy at IC Catholic, 7:15 p.m.
Sat, Sep 21, Wheaton Academy at St. Francis, 12 p.m.
Fri, Sep 27, Christ the King at Wheaton Acad., 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Oct 4, McNamara at Wheaton Academy, 7:15 p.m.
Fri, Oct 11, Wheaton Academy at Aurora Central, 7 p.m.
Fri, Oct 18, Riverside-B. at Wheaton Academy, 7:15 p.m.
Fri, Oct 25, Aurora Christian at Wheaton Ac., 7:15 p.m.