Aurora Central Catholic
Conference: Metro Suburban (West)
Aurora Central Catholic ditched its dormancy after snapping a 16-year postseason drought in 2012.
Reaching the playoffs again last season rocketed energy levels to those not seen since the Clinton administration.
"Honestly, we're trying to shoot for it all," senior running back/safety Roman Padilla said. "That's our goal every year. We fell short last year, but we're trying to get up to the caliber where we're able to be a state-winning team."
ACC suffered its second successive first-round exit in 2013, scuffling against host King in a lopsided, Class 4A loss that continued the program's recent woes in Chicago.
One reason the Chargers feel they've moved past that game is the resolve of oft-inspired coach Brian Casey. Another: the return of senior quarterback Matt Rahn, who suffered a season-ending knee injury during the 2013 preseason.
Junior Colin Baillie snagged about a third of ACC's 25 receptions last season. Expect both totals to climb considerably.
"This is as balanced as we've ever been," said Casey, entering his fifth season. "The goal is to force the defense to stretch the whole field. We're trying to be as multiple and as balanced as we can be."
And a little less two-platoon heavy. Casey hopes Padilla, line stalwart Jeff Kus and fellow senior Brandon Babler, a 6-foot-1 newcomer from the basketball program who'll play cornerback and running back, are his lone heavy contributors to both sides of the ball.
Middle linebacker Ben Ariano, a returning first-team all-conference performer alongside Padilla, anchors a defense that allowed no more than 21 points in a game last season until a Week 9 blowout loss to Montini.
With ACC shifting conferences to the Metro Suburban West, there are no worries about encountering the Broncos. That's a boost in energy, too.
– Kevin Druley, email@example.com
Coach: Brian Casey (19-19, fifth season)
2013 record: 6-4, 4-3 Suburban Christian Gold. Lost to King, 36-6, in first round of 4A playoffs.
Fast fact: ACC has not made the playoffs in three or more consecutive seasons since the 1993 to 1997 teams accomplished the feat.
Special teams spotlight: Senior newcomer Brandon Babler will handle the punting duties along with playing running back and safety.
Bottom line: ACC carries a hard-earned swagger into each game, but it's important for players not to get ahead of themselves. Stay level-headed in the great unknown of a new conference, and a third straight playoff berth's certainly doable.
Memory banked: "Probably last year, the game against Marmion. Rivalry game. We won, 13-12. That was probably one of my best games on varsity. … It was a great experience and we were underdogs that game, so we came back from behind and we were able to figure out a way to win that game against a great Marmion team."– Roman Padilla, Sr., RB/S
Aug. 30 Tilden 1 p.m.Sept. 5 @ Lisle 7:15 p.m.Sept. 12 @ Chicago Christian 7:15 p.m.Sept. 19 Guerin 7:30 p.m.Sept. 26 IC Catholic Prep 7:30 p.m.Oct. 3 @ Fenton 7:15 p.m.Oct. 10 Glenbard South 7:15 p.m.Oct. 17 @ Riverside-Brookfield 7:15 p.m.Oct. 24 @ Wheaton Academy 7 p.m.
Marquee matchup: Sept. 26, vs. IC Catholic Prep. The Chargers and Knights played a tight one during last season's Suburban Christian Gold swan song, with IC prevailing by seven points. Both sides hope their rivalry survives a conference shift. They'll find out on Bob Stewart Field.
Aug. 30 Oostburg (Wis.) W, 1-0 (forfeit)Sept. 7 Bogan W, 42-7Sept. 14 IC Catholic Prep L, 21-14Sept. 20 Chicago Christian W, 38-6Sept. 27 St. Edward L, 35-21Oct. 5 Walther Christian W, 41-6Oct. 12 Guerin W, 45-14Oct. 18 Marmion W, 13-12Oct. 25 Montini L, 47-0Nov. 2 King L, 36-6