To anyone wondering how Glenbard North will score points now that workhorse back Phil Jackson has graduated, Brian Murphy has an answer.
“I think we’re going to have a much better offense than we did last year,” said Murphy, who is in a position to know as the Panthers’ returning starter at quarterback.
That’s a scary thought for opponents. Glenbard North, which is No. 9 in the Sun-Times’ preseason Super 25, scored more than 30 points seven times last year en route to a 9-4 finish and a trip to the Class 8A semifinals. It was the latest in a series of deep playoff runs for the Panthers, who were second in 8A in 2007 and reached the semis in 2009.
Though Phil Jackson is gone along with his 1,467 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, his younger brother Justin returns after running for 741 yards and 11 scores.
“Over the summer, I’ve watched him play and I think he’s looking much better than last year,” Murphy said. “That’s saying a lot.”
It’s also notable that the Panthers got to the final of this summer’s Red Grange 7-on-7 tournament, which also featured such powers as Wheaton Warrenville South, Glenbard West, Montini, Wheaton North and Hinsdale Central. Not bad for a program that usually doesn’t like to air it out in the fall.
“I don’t see us changing,” coach Ryan Wilkens said. “It’s still going to be us running the football, play-action passing.”
When the Panthers do throw, they have a capable duo in Murphy – who is heading to Michigan on a wrestling scholarship – and receiver Ryan Storto.
“Me and Ryan have been playing together since third grade,” Murphy said. “We know each other well.”
Glenbard North has some experience and size on the offensive line, which will be built around seniors D’Angelo Hodges (6-3, 280) and Mitchell Siver (5-10, 260) and junior Chris Edwards (6-1, 270).
“Our offensive line, we’ve got to work some things out and keep building continuity,” Wilkens said. “Tight end, we’re still up in the air on. In our scheme, that’s a pretty big role.”
Justin Jackson’s role is equally key for the Panthers. He also had 45 tackles and blocked two punts last fall, and is too good a player to keep off the field for long. So he’ll be among the impact players on defense as well.
Others to watch on that side of the ball include senior linebacker Mario Rodriguez (5-9, 170) and senior lineman Andrew Mulshine (6-1, 205). “Mario, he may not be the biggest linebacker, but he’s a strong kid,” Murphy said.