Scouting the Huntley Red Raiders
Getting past Huntley's first line of defense won't be easy.
The Red Raiders return senior defensive end Matt Burba, a two-time all-Fox Valley Conference pick, and junior end Blake Walker, named all-FVC recognition as a sophomore.
Last season the duo combined for 95 tackles (9 for a loss) and 5.5 sacks, though their styles differ. Walker (6-foot-1, 260 pounds) relies on his quickness, which has improved after an off-season working with defensive line coach Ben Salomon, Huntley fourth-year coach Matt Zimolzak said. Burba (6-0, 260), a heavyweight wrestler who plays tackle, uses leverage and a low pad level to get off blocks.
"Walker's first few steps are just quicker than anybody else's," Zimolzak said. "He's gotten faster and stronger and put on weight. Those guys are both ready to go."
Joining the three-man front is senior Connor Rice, a 6-foot-3 end who uses his long arms to shed blocks.
The next level is led by senior inside linebacker Rukkus Hunkins, whose 63 tackles last year ranked second on a 6-4 playoff team. Senior Mitch Murray played in the secondary last season and made 4.4 tackles per game. He moves to linebacker after adding weight. Junior Alex Janke moves to safety from cornerback. Last fall he registered 4.8 tackles per game and recovered a fumble.
The collection of defensive talent is keyed by the strong line, which should allow the Red Raiders to attack more aggressively than last year.
"We can count on our defensive line to do what they need to do, so it allows us to be more diverse on the back end and mix things up a lot," Zimolzak said. "I think it will be difficult to read what we're doing. I'm really excited about how fast they play, their tempo and intensity. They've been bringing it all summer."
The offense returns three experienced linemen: left tackle Trevor Masten (6-5, 300), right tackle Brandon Klemenz (6-3, 285) and center Ryan Braune (5-11, 280). Masten is committed to Minnesota State.
That line will blaze the trail for running backs Ryder Havens and Ryder Hunkins, who will each get their share of carries. Havens, a junior with speed to get to the perimeter, last season rushed for 928 yards and 11 touchdowns on 155 carries (6-yard avg.). Ryder Hunkins, a 5-11, 180-pound sophomore who his coach described as "thick" will be key in short-yardage situations.
Two quarterbacks have shared reps throughout summer camp and preseason practice -- senior Pasquale "Patsy" Ricciardi (6-0, 215) and junior Bruno Bosman (6-1, 185). Ricciardi started at Marian Central last fall but transferred to Huntley at the semester break. He threw for nearly 1,000 yards for a 3-6 team.
Zimolzak said Ricciardi is a versatile athlete who can play multiple positions after quickly learning Huntley's offense. He said a starter will be named heading into Week 1 against McHenry.
Either signal caller can count on Cade Whiteside (6-5, 185) to catch the ball. The team co-captain has "great hands and is going to be our go-to guy when we need a jump ball because he can go up and get it." Speedy receiver Joey Cauldren is a shifty route runner who finds ways to get open, his coach said.
The Red Raiders should know where they stand in the Fox Valley Conference by Week 5. They travel to Jacobs in Week 2, followed by a home test against Prairie Ridge, a trip to Cary-Grove and a home game against Crystal Lake South.
"The front end of our schedule is loaded so we have a hill to climb at the beginning, but our defense will set the tone and our offense will come out and attack," Zimolzak said.