Scouting the Maine West Warriors
Maine West will be looking for an encore this year.
The Warriors are coming off one of their best years ever where they won their first outright conference title since 1963 and also their first state playoff game in school history.
"We are excited about the group we have," Warriors coach Jason Kradman said. "Our guys have rose to the challenge and had a great offseason. These guys are dedicated to the program and each other. "
Last season it was mostly about ground-and-pound for the Warriors with Daily Herald All-Area Team Captain Jake Bellizzi rushing for over 2,000 yards. But Bellizzi has taken his skills to Illinois State and it will be a different style of offense for Maine West.
Kradman said that despite key losses on both sides of the ball, this year's team is ready to go.
"Obviously we lost a lot of talented seniors," Kradman said. "It was a great group. We feel we do have a real good amount of skill coming back this year. And we have our quarterback returning."
Danny Kentgen (6-4, 200) becomes Kradman's first returning starting quarterback since Kradman took over the program in 20154. Kentgen had a great year last season as a junior where he threw for nearly 2,000 yards and 30 touchdowns.
"Most teams loaded up against us last year to stop the run," Kradman said. "Then Danny was able to pick them apart. Now he has an extra year under his belt and we expect huge things from him. we feel that we will throw the ball this year to open up the run."
Kentgen, who didn't need to be on the run that often last season, will become more of a dual threat this season.
"We want to get him on the run," Kradman said. "We want him to be a dual threat."
Kentgen will have a trio of wide receivers to target. David Jackson (22 receptions, 210 yards), Sean Collins (15 receptions, 160 yards) and Jaden Dolphin (5 receptions, 69 yards), give Kentgen some familiar targets. Kentgen will also have Isaiah Siem-Davis (12 receptions, 183 yards) and Emmanuel Ajose' at tight end.
The biggest hole to fill will be that of Bellizzi. Sophomore Alex Peguero will get the main role along with Rodney Njoku and Zack Norman.
"We have a lot of pieces to fill in for Jake," Kradman said. "We have a lot of smaller, shiftier guys working at the tailback."
The offensive line was hit hard by graduation but Mike Bartusiak (6-1, 265), who was a full-time starter last year and Michael Wilson (6-0, 210), who was a part-time starter, both return. They will be joined by Raul Ramirez (6-2, 235), Jack Roback (5-11, 200) and sophomore Daniel Sankiewicz.
"The key to our offense is finding offensive linemen that can develop," Kradman said. "Then play at high level."
The Warriors will look to squeeze their opponents from the outside in on defense this season.
Maine West is loaded at the defensive end spot where Siem-Davis, the school's all-time leading sack leader and Ajose', who is underrated in his play, will keep opponents bottled up. Louis Corey will be one the other starters upfront.
The Warriors lost nearly all of their linebacking corps to graduation and injury. Josh Schake, who started last season as a sophomore, will be sidelined until the middle of the season. Peguero, Kamrin Hunt and Hector Hernadez will be counted on to shore up the second level of the defense.
Dolphin, Njoku and Norman will help anchor the secondary for the Warriors.
After years of frustration at Maine West, Kradman and his team embrace the target that is now on their back.
"Our guys understand that," Kradman said. "They are the ones that are grabbing it by the horns and are excited about that. Most teams used to chalk us up as win. Now we should be able to compete in just about any game we play. "