Herald-News top 10 countdown: No. 10 Joliet West

SHARE Herald-News top 10 countdown: No. 10 Joliet West

Joliet West’s schedule includes a four-game stretch — Weeks 3 through 6 — in which Homewood-Flossmoor, Sandburg, Bolingbrook and Lincoln-Way East loom.

The Tigers were 3-6 in 2012, their most successful season since Joliet returned to separate programs at West and Central in fall 2010.

Still, coach Jason Aubry’s step has more hop this year. West could be the favorite in the other five games on the schedule, and the Tigers believe they have reached the point where they can knock off one or more of the SouthWest Suburban Blue gauntlet squads.

Finish 5-4 and West’s first playoff berth is a maybe. Finish 6-3 and it’s guaranteed.

“But we have to stay healthy,” Aubry cautioned.

“If we can make the playoffs, everything else will follow,” said senior running back Jordan Brown, a dual threat running and receiving. “(Quarterback Anthony) DiNardo’s back. We have a darn good offense with him. We have guys who can catch it and run with it.”

DiNardo suffered a dislocated throwing shoulder in Week 3 last season, had surgery Oct. 1 and missed the rest of the season. He is adept at short- and medium-range passes, which suits Aubry’s spread offense.

Aubry said the Tigers are eight deep at receiver. Niko Messino and Ronald Banner contributed a season ago, and Dyllon Goyette, Kyle Henderson, Christian Griswold, Collin Brown, Jeffrey Washington and Jordan Brown are potential targets.

“We can throw deep if we have to, but our offense is more of a nickel-and-dime,” DiNardo said. “A big play for us is to get the ball to the guys 10 yards down the field and then they do their thing.”

The offensive line lost Zac Kountz, who would have been a third-year starter at guard. He had surgery this summer for an ACL tear. Juniors Ethan Bohanek and Scott Blankenship are two good ones returning up front.

“It’s tough to lose a leader like Zac Kountz,” Aubry said.

“Kountz is a big loss,” DNardo said. “But our offensive line is working hard. It’s a lot better than before.”

Across the line of scrimmage, Aubry said a goal has been “to basically have 22 defensive starters. We’re not there yet, but we’re close. We’ve never had this type of depth.”

There’s not much experience, but there are warm bodies. Dominic Galvin and Billy Myers, who split time at defensive end last year, lead the way up front. Hakeem Allen and Jonathan Fowler are keys at linebacker.

“I’m really excited about our defense,” Aubry said. “They put in a ton of work in the offseason. But until we see them all play, we won’t know for sure.”

“I’m real excited for this season,” said Jordan Brown, who runs a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash, sports nifty moves and broke the school record for his weight with a 305-pound bench press. “We have more potential than in the past. The guys have stepped up in every area, the weight room, mentally and on the field.”

As Aubry said, “We have to stay healthy.”

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