There is no substitute for experience.
You can’t teach speed.
Sure, those are cliches. But they may play a role as Joliet West attempts to take a step forward in the rugged world of SouthWest Suburban Blue football. The Tigers finished 2-7 overall in each of the two seasons since the Joliet Township district returned to separate programs at West and Central.
Kameron Hargrove and Korey Rogers are entering their third season each on the varsity roster, and the Tigers have benefited from getting the ball in their hands, whether it be on handoffs or in the spread passing game. Both have good wheels, so there is no reason they will not be focal points in the Tigers’ offense.
“They’re very good athletes and veterans we will lean on,” coach Jason Aubry said. “We also have a young kid, (junior) Jordan Brown, who had a good year last year as a running back on the sophomore team. Once we get things rolling and all the kids get confidence in what we are doing, it will look pretty good.”
West will be guided by senior quarterback Ashton McCullough, another excellent athlete who can throw or run. Junior Anthony DiNardo, the regular quarterback on the sophomore team last year, also is in the mix. But his progress has been slowed by a right (throwing) shoulder injury suffered sliding headfirst during a game with his travel baseball team this summer.
“Anthony has a chance to be a big-time thrower,” Aubry said. “But with him not doing anything on the field this summer, we focused attention on Ashton. He stepped up and had a real good summer.”
The receiving corps, in addition to Hargrove and Rogers, will feature Ronald Banner and Niko Messina.
Eduardo Vargas, who started at center last year, has been shifted to guard and will be a leader in the offensive line. Junior Zac Kountz, who started on varsity as a sophomore, will be the other guard. Aldo Ornelas, a 300-pounder, will play tackle.
“Ornelas did not play much last year but has really been working hard,” Aubry said. “I’m pretty excited about him.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Aubry acknowledges it will be different with multi-year regular linebackers Nolan Springer and Matt Koran having graduated. “But that’s the nice thing about having those juniors waiting in the wings to step in,” he said. “We have guys who did good things in backup roles.”
The four starters at linebacker figure to be seniors Diondray Hood, Alex Lakatos, Cory Couch and Nick Freeze.
“Justin Jackson has come in and done some good things in the defensive line,” Aubry said. “We have six or seven linemen we’ll be able to rotate in.”
Aubry said the secondary will be solid.
“(Safety) Larry Holman had a great summer,” he said. “Jorge Guzman gives us a bigger, more physical corner, and Leslie Akinola probably will play the other corner spot.”