Football preview, part 1 shows what we can expect from Benet Academy, Naperville North and Naperville Central, with the season approaching.
After the fall season came and went with no high school football being played in Illinois, there was concern that a season would not be played at all during the 2020-21 school year due to COVID-19. But last month the IHSA announced the return of high school football for an unprecedented spring season. As the month of March arrives, the snow is melting, and the players are geared up and ready to hit the field.
After a first round exit in the 2019 playoffs Benet academy had to say goodbye to many key contributors including quarterback Collin Gillespie and Tight End Jacob Snell. This spring the Wings are returning some big name offensive weapons including receivers Augie Mazza and Pierce Walsh, along with a QB battle between Nick Bafia and Ryan Snell. However head Pat New believes it’s next man up no matter the level of experience.
“We do a pretty good job of developing our under classmen in our freshman and sophomores getting them lifting weights so we usually slot guys in we’re pretty senior heavy year to year and we’ve got some good young talents so we’re looking forward to that.”
Despite a 6 game schedule and no State playoff the Red Wings are still up for the challenge going up against state contenders in Loyola, St. Rita and Nazareth Academy. As Benet gets ready for their week one matchup with St. Ignatius coach New believes that the battle at the line of scrimmage will play a huge role this season.
Benet’s week 1 opponent from last season Naperville North is coming off a 2-7 season but are returning many weapons with varsity experience including running back Lorenzo Duckworth and the Williams duo of Zeke and Stefan. Despite the departure of QB Anthony Gabrione and All State swiss army knife Matt Maschmeier, head coach Sean Drendel believes that this Huskie squad can take a huge step in 2021.
“We have a really good group coming back we have a lot of young players we’re really excited about just to see all the hard work they put in during this COVID that they get an opportunity to get back in and play the game they love to play”
While the Huskies are still in a QB battle with Senior Jon Bell and Sophomore Aiden Gray the Blue and Orange are ready for an opening day matchup with Neuqua Valley. As the team faces the spring weather conditions the Huskies will be prepared for whatever mother nature throws at them.
With only 6 teams in the DVC and a 6 game season Drendel believes that anyone has an opportunity to take home the conference crown in this shorten season.
“The conference is gonna be a bear I mean it’s gonna be, you better be ready to play each and every week I would not be shocked to see what people might consider upsets happening weekly a team that gets knocked off that just beat another team that you can’t believe that happened like to me nothing would shock me this year”
North’s DVC opponent Naperville Central begins their season after missing the playoffs for only the 4th time in the Mike Stine Era. The Redhawks bring back many varsity players on offense and defense but are missing a major contributor in quarterback Sam Jackson who graduated from Central in December to get a head start at TCU. With Owen Prucha and Jaden McGill battling out for the QB spot head Mike Stine believes either one can be a huge factor in the spring.
The Redhawks also return electric wide receivers in Keon Greene and Reggie Fluerima along with a big boost in the running game with Waubonsie transfer Antonio Torres. Despite the cancellation of the state playoffs meaning the Redhawks will miss out on the playoffs for a second straight season, Stine beleives that the Spring season is about more than just playing the games.
“That’s what this season is about the seniors that last opportunity to go out and for most of them it’ll be the last time that they play football at all again we’ll have a few that’ll go on and play college but a lot of them it’ll be that last opportunity and you know what we’re gonna get 6 weeks of Football to create a lifetime of memories”
The Redhawks first game will be on March 20th against Waubonsie Valley but until then the Red and White will have a lot on their plate before the opening kickoff.
Reporting for Naperville Sports Weekly I’m Patrick Codo