Daunting schedule puts pressure on St. Edward from start

SHARE Daunting schedule puts pressure on St. Edward from start

St. Edward enters the 2012 season knowing one misstep could be enough to derail its hopes of returning to the playoffs.

Such is life as a member of the rugged Suburban Christian Blue, where the Green Wave ranks as the second smallest school in terms of enrollment among a host of state powerhouses.

Five of St. Edward’s opponents this year reached the playoffs last fall, and its grueling schedule includes a Week 2 clash with Class 3A state champion Aurora Christian and a Week 8 contest against Class 5A quarterfinalist Marian Central.

The Green Wave does get a bit of a break since it doesn’t have to play every team in the SCC Blue thanks to the conference’s new schedule format, but much-improved teams such as Week 1 foe Genoa-Kingston and Week 5 opponent Aurora Central Catholic won’t be pushovers.

Simply put, St. Edward has no room for error, a lesson it learned last year when four lopsided wins against teams the Green Wave expected to beat weren’t enough to offset five blowout losses against superior competition as the program finished 4-5 and missed the Class 4A playoffs for the first time since 2008.

“Every game is a playoff game for us,” St. Edward coach Mike Rolando said. “We don’t have the luxury of making a mistake or two and then being able to play like-sized schools down the road. Our difficult games are against 5A and 6A state-champion caliber teams, so we need to play well every game and win the games we’re supposed to win.”

A formidable offensive line should help give St. Edward a fighting chance on a weekly basis. Junior guards Collin Holte (6-foot-1, 240 pounds) and Zach West (6-0, 240) both return as starters while senior tackles Nick Plazewski (6-2, 250) and Pat Berlin (6-4, 240) are prepared to step into larger roles.

Senior Sean McShane (5-7, 175) is back in action after missing the second half of last season with a knee injury and figures to see time at center along with senior Joe Stump (6-1, 200). Senior Jacob Koehring (6-1, 200) started at defensive end as a junior but will take on additional duties as one of two tight ends for the Wave along with senior Andrew Yarwood (6-3, 195), a transfer from Burlington Central.

St. Edward expects big things from junior running back Devontae Elam (5-10, 185), who is back for his third varsity season. Elam and junior fullback Will Bothwell (5-8, 175) will headline the Wave’s ground attack, with contributions also expected to come from a trio of wing backs in juniors Alex Arreguin (5-7, 135) and Austin Murray (6-0, 160) and sophomore Jack Tierney (6-0, 185).

Juniors Tighe Koehring (6-1, 200) and Mike Castoro (5-6, 135) split time at quarterback during the summer and could both receive snaps during the season. Neither Koehring nor Castoro have prior experience at the position, so a steady dose of running plays appears in the cards for the Wave.

“(Koehring and Castoro) are capable of doing a lot of things, but with them not having quarterback experience we want to ease them in and put the majority of the responsibility on our line and running backs, which are our more experienced positions,” Rolando said. “As our quarterbacks continue to develop I think we can throw more and more, but we expect to be a run-first type of team.”

There won’t be much rest for the weary as all of St. Edward’s offensive starters will be asked to contribute on defense.

Yarwood, who earned All-Big Northern East honors for his play at defensive end last year at Burlington Central, will help generate the pass rush for St. Edward along with fellow end Jacob Koehring. McShane figures to handle one defensive tackle spot while Holte and a host of others are in the mix for the other tackle position.

Bothwell and Stump return as starters at linebacker, where they’ll be joined by Tierney and Tighe Koehring. Sophomore free safety Danny Favela will help lead the secondary along with strong safety Castoro and cornerbacks Elam and Arreguin.

“For the most part, we’ve got 14 or 15 guys who are our key guys,” Rolando said. “We’re going to count on them to be in shape, be warriors and play St. Edward football, which means playing both ways all day.”

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