PARK RIDGE — The Niles West football team has nine spots to fill on its offensive and defensive lines, and just 16 linemen listed on its roster.
Wolves coach Scott Baum said he was able to fill those nine spots with nine different players a year ago. This year, because Niles West has fewer linemen and a pair of starters on its offensive line are sidelined with injuries, the Wolves have put a premium on keeping their players healthy in practice and versatility.
“We can’t avoid all injuries, but we’re trying to do the best we can,” senior defensive end Denis Gargovic said. “This year we’re more focusing on our plays and we’re focusing on our technique more than our intensity (in practice). … I think everyone’s getting technically better. We don’t have the biggest line, but technique’s a big part.”
Junior left tackle Daniel Studer (finger surgery) and junior left guard Tahir Meeks (hip flexor) were both starters at the beginning of the season, but Baum said they will both miss about two or three more weeks. Their injuries have forced the Wolves to use junior George Tripkos at both right guard and left tackle and insert junior middle linebacker Adam Pignato at left guard.
Tripkos and Pignato have been mainstays on the offensive line the last two weeks, and so too has senior Louis Reinemann. All three were joined by junior Andy Loathaveerungsawad in Niles West’s 44-8 victory over Maine East on Sept. 12. Loathaveerungsawad’s return to the lineup following a 10-day trip to Thailand to attend a family funeral allowed Reinemann to move from center to right tackle against Maine East. Juniors Brian Stranz and Kaleb Siemieniewski also saw action against the Blue Demons.
The Wolves’ offense has remained explosive, despite so little stability on its offensive line. Niles West, which is 3-0 and plays host Friday to Glenbrook North, is currently averaging 45.6 points per game and Baum is hopeful the return of Loathaveerungsawad, Studer and Meeks will make the team even stronger.
“We’re looking to get more guys every week to come in and step (up),” Baum said.
“Andy has come back. He was out of town and now he’s back, so now we’ve at least got a group of guys to rotate in and spell them (the linemen) a little bit. (The line is) a tough position to play both sides of the ball. Adam will be a kid that benefits — Denis will be (too). So hopefully that will help our defense out.”