Conference: Metro Suburban (West)
Let there be bedlam at Wheaton Academy, even before the season starts.
A new on-campus, artificial turf field bestows that kind of power while cutting many Warriors fans' commutes considerably after past trips for "home" games at Wheaton College and West Chicago High.
"The word I would use is 'pumped,' " Warriors senior running back/linebacker Camden Meade said. "A lot of the guys, we're so excited. Even when it was being built, we'd go there and just stand on it and throw the football around."
Opposing offenses and defenses will assemble there soon, and the Warriors feel confident about their ability against them as the team shifts to what figures to be a more competitive Metro Suburban West. Junior quarterback David Thrasher, who helped the team to a promising stretch run in 2013, returns with an abundance of what coach Brad Thornton calls "intangible moxie."
"We're really excited for him having a year under his belt. Very accurate, good arm strength," Thornton said. "Size-wise, he's not the biggest, but in terms of his knowledge of the offense, he's outstanding. He's a very smart kid."
In addition to Meade, a handful of other senior weapons will flank Thrasher, including tight end Marino Costello and wide receiver Sam Martinez.
Wheaton Academy graduated much of its offensive line, but Thornton considers returners Josh Dutton, John Acosta and Evan Williams more than capable of paving the way. Williams started at defensive end last season, while Dutton and Acosta rotated into the front five.
"We have the guys to fill in there," Thornton said. "They've just got to get some reps."
The linebacking corps jolts the defense, with returning leading tackler Luis Ramos and fellow senior Scottie McLean primed for big seasons.
Players and coaches hope supporters are out in full throat.
"The turf is beautiful," Thornton said. "It's ready to rock."
– Kevin Druley, firstname.lastname@example.org
Coach: Brad Thornton (4-5 overall, second season)
2013 record: 4-5 overall, 3-4 Suburban Christian Gold.
Fast fact: Wheaton Academy has won nine games in its past three seasons after earning 11 victories from 2009 to 2010.
Special teams spotlight: Senior Dillon Oleson, who did not play football the past two seasons, has emerged alongside Meade as an option at punt returner.
Bottom line: Wheaton Academy's athleticism should allow it to stick around most games. The key will be figuring out how to get the upper hand against the perennial powers in its new conference.
Memory banked: "My sophomore year, we were at Walther Lutehran and going into halftime we were down 26 points. It was, 52-26. I started on defense that second half, and they didn't get a first down the rest of the game. We came back to win, 56-52."
– Camden Meade, Sr., RB/LB
Aug. 29 Walther Christian 7 p.m.Sept. 5 @ Noble St.-Bulls Academy. 7 p.m.Sept. 13 @ Guerin 1 p.m.Sept. 19 Chicago Christian 7 p.m.Sept. 27 Riverside-Brookfield 2 p.m.Oct. 3 @ Glenbard South 7:15 p.m.Oct. 11 @ IC Catholic Prep 1 p.m.Oct. 17 Fenton 7 p.m.Oct. 24 Aurora Central Catholic 7 p.m.
Marquee matchup: Oct. 24, vs. Aurora Central Catholic. The Warriors needed a Week 9 win to become playoff-eligible last season, but succumbed to long odds against perennial contender Marian Central. Here, the Warriors host a rising power as their first season in a new league concludes.
2013 RESULTSAug. 30 Westminster (Mo.) L, 44-0Sept. 6 Chicago Bulls Academy W, 40-8Sept. 13 Montini L, 56-0Sept. 20 Aurora Christian L, 52-14Sept. 28 Walther Christian W, 47-25Oct. 5 Guerin W, 55-14Oct. 11 St. Edward 60-21Oct. 18 Chicago Christian W, 48-27Oct. 25 Marian Central L, 63-20