In all but one of Paul Murphy’s seven seasons at Waubonsie Valley, he has led his team into the Class 8A playoffs.
In each of the last two seasons, he’s led Waubonsie Valley to eight-win seasons, including leading it to its best regular season under his tutelage a year ago when Waubonsie Valley went 8-1 and earned one of Class 8A’s two No. 1 seeds.
But in shades of 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1997, the 2011 group went down in similar fashion after getting upset by 16th-seeded Belleville East in the first round and will be remembered as just another Waubonsie Valley team to fail to affirm a great regular season.
All five of those outfits each won at least eight games in the regular season, only to be eventually upset in the first round of the postseason.
Will 2012 be different? That remains to be seen, but the Warriors figure to be loaded for bear once again.
“I think they have something to prove, especially the seniors that were part of that varsity team last year,” Murphy said. “They’re the leaders and they’re the ones that gotta prove how good they are. Last year was last year. The record was 8-2. Nothing we can do about it.
“It’s in the history books and they get to write their own legacy this year as seniors and how truly good are they gonna be considered in terms of other Waubonsie Valley football teams and how good are they gonna be in regards to other teams in the area?”
Having a pair of seniors in quarterback Dylan Warden and running back Austin Guido back to lead an offense that averaged 36.9 points a game last year while topping the 30-point mark six times certainly helps.
Thrust into the lineup on a full-time basis in the third quarter of the Warriors’ only regular season defeat, a 27-20 loss at Bartlett in Week 3 — after starter Mitch Stefani broke his collarbone — Warden proved to be as dangerous a threat as anyone in the area.
Guiding the Warriors to six straight wins before the loss to Belleville East, Warden accumulated 1,124 yards and 20 TDs as the offense averaged 42 points in Warden’s seven starts.
Guido, meanwhile, ran for 1,182 yards and 17 touchdowns on 171 carries and will be joined by senior tight end Troy Fumagalli, who caught 12 passes for 203 yards and two TDs last year, as weapons for Warden to utilize.
The lanky Fumagalli, at 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, has received interest from numerous schools, including nearly all the schools in the Mid-American Conference while also receiving interest from Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota in the Big Ten.
“I think the only thing that’s really different is that Dylan, in being a senior, his leadership has really blossomed over the summer and he knows he’s the man in charge,” Murphy said. “He knows it’s his show to run and he’s doing everything that I’d expect a quarterback who’s a senior with experience to do. He understands the offense inside and out.”
While much of the attention was placed on a explosive offense last year, the Warriors’ defense proved to be quite stout.
In allowing their 10 opponents an average of just 10.5 points a game in 2011, the Warriors allowed 14 points or fewer eight times and posted a pair of shutouts.
Six starters return from that defensive unit, led by senior middle linebacker Austin Lacke.
The 6-foot, 210-pound Lacke registered a team-high 124 tackles, including eight tackles for loss and three sacks last year.
Senior Trevor Hardin will help on the defensive line after chipping in with 48 tackles and five tackles for loss, while senior outside linebacker Greg Smith will help Lacke in the defense’s second level.
Cornerback Andrew White, who contributed 32 tackles and an interception last year, and safety Jake Tobiason, both seniors, will pilot the secondary.
Since 2001, Waubonsie Valley has won just two playoff games — a 17-14 first-round victory over Thornton in 2001 and a 33-7 trouncing of Brother Rice in the first round of the 2010 Class 8A playoffs.
Given the disappointment that came with Belleville East pulling off the 14-7 upset of the Warriors on their home field last Oct. 28 and ending the Warriors’ season much sooner than anyone expected, the focus is squarely on having another strong regular season and making that long postseason run that remains elusive.
“Right now, it’s a hungry football team,” Murphy said.