Every team enters a new season with a fair share of question marks, but the unknown commodities are especially prevalent this year for South Elgin.
New faces will outnumber familiar ones in the starting lineup this fall for the Storm following a 2011 campaign that saw the program narrowly miss out on a third straight trip to the postseason by finishing with a 4-5 record.
It is basically back to the drawing board for coach Dale Schabert and his staff in 2012 as they work to develop a winning formula by blending the newcomers with the team’s returning talent.
“The guys are progressing every day,” Schabert said. “We’re still finding our way and we’re moving a lot of parts around right now. It’s all about getting guys into the right spots and into positions where they can play a lot, be successful and help the team.”
South Elgin’s overhaul on defense is particularly significant as it replaces its entire defensive line. The secondary will also have a new look as senior cornerback Jonathan Ortega (5-foot-9, 170 pounds) is one of only a few players in the mix with varsity experience.
One position that isn’t much of a concern for the Storm is linebacker. Junior Nate Marotta (6-2, 200) and senior Chris Bingham (6-1, 210) are both back to help lead the defense, and they’ll get help from promising junior Dalton Garland, who transferred in from Lakes.
“We’ve got a real good group of linebackers,” Schabert said. “If we can get a few guys to play in front of them, we’ll be OK.”
Senior Joey Balaja (6-0, 165) and junior Rob Cuda (6-0, 175) spent the summer taking reps at quarterback, and Schabert said one of the two will be named the Week 1 starter no later than Monday. Whichever player lands the starting job will have the luxury of throwing to a pair of big wide receivers in Marotta and fellow senior Joe Crivolio (6-2, 195). Senior Tyler Thorsen (6-0, 175) is also in the mix at receiver.
Seniors Aaron Rodriguez (5-4, 135) and Bradley Simmons (5-10, 180) are in the group of players expected to see time at running back. Senior Jeff Broger, who ran the 400-meter dash at last spring’s track state finals, will also contribute as a running back and receiver.
Senior Nick Zimmerman (6-3, 240) is a returning starter on the offensive line, and fellow senior linemen Zachary Saldivar (6-2, 230) and Jose Montenegro (6-2, 275) also boast varsity experience up front. Like so many other positions on the team, though, the other offensive line spots will likely fluctuate beyond Saturday’s season opener against Downers Grove South.
“Every year our lineup from the first game doesn’t look the same the next week, that’s for sure,” Schabert said.