Opponents expecting an aerial circus at Hinsdale Central might be surprised this season, and not in a good way.
The Red Devils do look to be one of the better passing teams around with senior quarterback Brian Owens returning after completing 66 percent of his throws for 1,843 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.
But with a big, experienced line and a couple of capable backs, Hinsdale Central should also be able to move the chains on the ground as well.
“We have a lot of playmakers on offense,” Owens said. “Last year toward the end, [opponents] definitely knew what we were able to do. Being able to run the ball [now] is going to help us do play-action.”
The guys up front are junior center Brian Allen (6-2, 272), also one of the state’s best wrestlers, and four seniors: right guard Chris Wilson (6-3, 285), right tackle Joe Morrison (6-3, 270), left guard Chris Kallas (6-0, 265) and left tackle Nick Piker (6-4, 275).
They should make sure Owens has plenty of time in the pocket. “I can keep my eyes downfield and not have to worry about anybody coming into my face,” he said.
Among Owens’ targets will be Ian Bunting, a 6-6, 195-pound junior who was clocked at 4.65 in the 40 this summer, and seniors John Claussen, Joe Herr and and Joe Monat. Junior Chase Hamilton, who’s expected to take over at quarterback next season, also could get into the receiver rotation.
When the Red Devils decide to run, they’ll turn to senior Jack Adams or junior Ben Stefani. Some of those calls may actually be made by Owens.
“He’s really mastered this offense.” Red Devils coach Rich Tarka said. “He’s a coach on the field. We’re comfortable with him calling plays on the field. … I’ve never had a quarterback like this.”
The Red Devils have some playmakers on the other side of the ball as well. Among those to watch are senior linebacker Andrew Pyle (6-2, 210), last year’s defensive MVP; junior linebacker Jacob White (6-1, 205); senior linebacker Jack McGann (6-2, 210); senior nose tackle Peter Nelson (5-9, 260) and senior end Brett Goss (6-0, 200).
Many of those players were on the team that returned to the IHSA playoffs after a one-year absence, losing 28-14 in the first round to Mount Carmel. “We played with [Mount] Carmel for three quarters,” Tarka said. “We were playing them with our second-team quarterback and not having a running game hurt us.”
Now the Red Devils have more pieces of the puzzle.
“We’re better equipped to compete this year,” Tarka said.
“We feel we have the team, the talent to make a playoff run,” Owens said.