Scouting the Wheaton North Falcons
Instead of worrying about the football players who aren't there, Wheaton North is focused on the ones who are.
The list includes Xander Mueller, and that puts the Falcons ahead of most teams.
With an unusual combination of size and athleticism, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior linebacker sifted through a pile of college scholarship offers and decided to join older brother Erik at Northwestern. Mueller will be at the heart of a Falcons team that must go young due to a handful of outgoing transfers.
"It's a shame but we're moving on," said Falcons coach Joe Wardynski. "It'll create opportunities for other kids."
Mueller, who last season had a team-high 78 tackles, is one of only three returning defensive starters with the secondary tandem of Tommy Gubenko and Braden Aguiar. Beyond the transfers the Falcons also lost junior defensive back Riley Dravet to a season-ending injury.
Nathan Love is shifting from quarterback to the secondary, while junior Troy Hegranes joined the program as a linebacker and tight end. It's a group that needs to develop quickly, especially on the line where no experience returns.
"It's an athletic group, but we've got to be able to stop the run, and that starts up front," Wardynski said. "We'll be rotating seven or eight guys there."
Because of Love's move to defense, the quarterback spot opened for sophomore Mark Forcucci, who started on the sophomore level as a freshman. The Falcons are thin on experience at running back, meaning sophomore Brayton Maske might fill that role.
The good news on offense is the return of four starting linemen and receiver Christian Halstead, who last year had 14 catches for 151 yards.
"It was a tough off-season," Wardynski said. "But the togetherness of this group is very good. That's a nice start for us."
One to watch: Downers Grove South is a new season opener -- and a new challenge -- for Wheaton North.
Coach: Joe Wardynski (12th year, 71-44).
2018 record: 4-5, 3-4, tied for fourth in DuKane Conference.
Top players: LB Xander Mueller, sr.; DB-WR Nathan Love, sr.; WR Christian Halstead, sr.; DB Tommy Gubenko, sr.; DB Braden Aguiar, sr.; QB Mark Forcucci, so.; OL Walker Rickord, sr.; OL Grayson Therron, sr.; OL Greg Antonik, sr.; OL Aiden Olsen, jr.; LB-TE Troy Hegranes, jr.; DB-WR Joe Swaray, jr.
-- Kevin Schmit
Fri, Aug 30, Wheaton North at Downers Grove South, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Sep 6, Lake Forest at Wheaton North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Sep 13, St. Charles North at Wheaton North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Sep 20, Lake Park at Wheaton North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Sep 27, Wheaton North at Glenbard North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Oct 4, Wheaton North at Wheaton Warrenville South, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Oct 11, Geneva at Wheaton North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Oct 18, Wheaton North at St. Charles East, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Oct 25, Wheaton North at Batavia, 7:30 p.m.