First half of the season again key for Naperville North

SHARE First half of the season again key for Naperville North

A quick glance at Naperville North’s schedule makes it look like it could be a tale of two halves again this year.

The Huskies’ first four opponents went 42-8 last year, with all but Thornton winning at least 10 games. Their final five opponents only went 16-29, although that includes Wheaton Warrenville South and Naperville Central, two teams that were far better than their 4-5 records.

While they proved last year that a strong start wasn’t crucial — the Huskies went 1-3 in their first four games — they would definitely like to at least split. It won’t be easy with road games at Neuqua Valley, Glenbard North and Wheaton North.

Thornton is their lone home game through Sept. 26.

“Obviously we’d like to start better but when four of your first five games are against teams ranked in the Top 20 it’s going to be a challenge,” Huskies coach Sean Drendel said. “Neuqua Valley (Week 1) is a huge game for us to get off on the right foot.”

Last season, Colin Goebel (Iowa) and Mike Langman (Dartmouth) anchored the offensive line. Langman was even named the DVC Offensive Lineman of the Year. In addition to those two losses, the Huskies lost the rest of their offensive line to graduation, so they’ll have to rebuild quickly.

“I think the guys did some great work in the summer working hard and I told them that this isn’t a one-man show,” Drendel said. “It’s really going to be putting five guys out there that work well together, and if we have to sub out, we will.”

The O-line isn’t the only question mark. Chris Gajcak, Connor Johannes and Evan Kujawski are being considered for the starting quarterback position. Anthony Rehayem (13 catches) returns at wide receiver.

“Whoever wins the quarterback job is still up in the air and we’ll probably split time the first couple weeks,” Drendel said. “We’re a zone-read team, so our quarterback will get hit a little bit and we’ll need guys healthy.”

Thankfully, Naperville North has a mix of talent and experience in the backfield, with second-year starter Sharad Crosby and third-year starter DeSean Brown (623 rushing yards, 11 TDs). Junior Leon Hardy is a newcomer who could make an impact as well.

Defensively, the Huskies did a solid job of containing most teams last year. They did surrender 33 points per game in their five losses, but that number is disproportionate as they gave up 49.5 per game in the two losses to Neuqua Valley.

The good news is that the Huskies don’t have to rebuild their defense completely. Linebackers Ben Brancaleon and Kevin Mlady and free safety Danny Schertz are back to lead the way.

“If we can just tackle early I think we’ll be in good shape,” Drendel said. “We’ll probably rotate a lot of guys, but having a lot of guys playing can be a good thing.”

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