Wheaton North tried something unusual last season when it had a surplus of good quarterbacks.
The Falcons played them both, with then-senior Johnny Peltz and current senior Clayton Thorson alternating time under center and wide receiver.
It worked because both players wanted it to, as Wheaton North went to the Class 7A quarterfinals — losing 3-0 to eventual champ Glenbard West — and had double-digit wins for the first time since 2002.
Now Thorson has the quarterback job to himself and he’ll try to keep the Falcons — ranked sixth in the Sun-Times preseason Super 25 — on their upward trajectory. Since Joe Wardynski took over as coach in 2008, they’ve gone 5-5, 7-5, 8-3, 8-3 and 10-2.
“Last year was a lot of fun playing with Johnny,” Thorson said. “He was one of my good friends growing up. But it’s nice just to be playing quarterback the whole time.”
Fans got a glimpse of what that would look like in 2012, when Thorson completed 73 percent of his passes for 401 yards and seven touchdowns and ran for 272 yards and four scores. He also caught 36 passes for 578 yards and four more touchdowns.
“We’re lucky to have him,” Wardynski said of the 6-4, 197-pounder. “He hasn’t gotten a ton of snaps at the varsity level [but] he doesn’t seem to have deficiencies. He can run it, throw it — he’s a leader.”
And he’s determined to improve, despite being ranked in Rivals.com’s top 250 players nationally and having committed to Northwestern.
What was on his to-do list? “My accuracy and just being disciplined, my reads and footwork. Because if you don’t [have] your reads and footwork down, you can’t be good.”
One thing that can help Thorson and the Falcons be good is the presence of some talented receivers led by senior Matt Biegalski (6-2, 190), a returning starter with offers from Army and Western Michigan among others.
“We’ve got a couple other kids besides Biegalski who can catch the ball,” Wardynski said, including junior J.P. Forcucci.
Who’ll replace current North Dakota freshman Patrick Sharp as the Falcons’ primary ball-carrier is up in the air. “We’re going to start out by committee and see if any of the three kids steps forward and takes control of the position,” Wardynski said.
The other two returning offensive starters are senior linemen Jesse Dean and Kendall Anderson, while two regulars are back on defense: seniors Beau Martin at linebacker and Mike Cerone at defensive back.
Speedy junior Ben Moore, a transfer from Wheaton Warrenville South, also showed potential in summer camp.
“I think there’s six starters back, which probably isn’t as many as some schools,” Wardynski said. “But it’s a good senior group. We had some juniors who were pushing seniors for playing time, they were biding their time.”
Kind of like Peltz, though he was seeing varsity action while waiting his turn to run the Falcons’ offense.