Huntley’s unbeaten football team will move on this week toward a Fox Valley crossover game against the team from right across the tollway, Hampshire, after a week far more difficult than Friday’s 65-14 rout of Indiana’s Gary West suggests.
On the previous Friday, defensive tackle Chase Burkart lost his father, Brian Dean Burkart, to a heart attack suffered after he attended the team’s 63-8 win over Elgin.
The team did what it could during the week to help Burkart and his family.
“It’s easy to preach family and hard to live it, but this is when you find out what you have families for,” Huntley coach John Hart said.
Hart, a veteran coach, has been through these situations in the past. He didn’t mandate the team attend the services, but the entire squad of more than 120 turned out in uniform.
“Chase’s mom was very appreciative of the way the team helped in handling everthing,” Hart said.
Burkart is a two-year starter at defensive tackle. The 6-foot, 240-pound senior has seven tackles, including two for loss. He is a standout student and active in school and team community functions.
“He’s one of our great leaders,” Hart said. “He’s one of those kids whose infectious personalities provide leadership in terms of being there for people. His character is in the upper one percent of the young men I’ve ever coached.”
Burkart is part of one of Huntley’s strongest groups — the defensive line, which is led by ends Jeremy Behnke and Tim McCloyn.
“I knew they were going to be one of our strengths and I haven’t been disappointed,” Hart said. “We’ve played five different guys in there and all have contributed in a big way.”
The defense overall has been a catalyst for the Red Raiders, who held Bartlett to no offensive points in the season opener.
“Our defense has been better every week,” Hart said. “They’re staying healthy, blowing less and less assignments.
“The key is we didn’t get very deep into what we could do last year because we didn’t progress very far. It was a flaw in our team last year but this team, the defense has the building blocks in now and we’re able to scheme more fundamentally, sometimes during the play.”
Not all the credit for the 29-0 blanking of North Boone goes to the Burlington Central defense, which had a strong game and held the Vikings to 125 yards. The Rockets’ running game also played a big part.
“The first two games we had a block missed here and one there,” Rockets coach Rich Crabel said prior to the win. “In crucial situations, that just shuts down a drive.”
The Rockets got the blocking to spring running back Jason Berango for 101 yards on 18 carries and also got Trevor Davison close to a 100-yard game (21 carries, 95 yards). The end result was raising an anemic 3.0-yard rushing average to 3.6 in one game.
The defense’s success has been due, at least in part, to rotating defensive linemen.
“We try to platoon as much as possible offensively and defensively,” Crabel said. “We have a number of personnel packages on offense. It’s a goal of ours as a program to use as many kids as we can.”
Relief for Warriors
What looked like a possible serious injury situation proved much less for Westminster Christian.
Saturday against Marquette, wide receiver Connor Albrecht left on a stretcher for the hospital and quarterback Max Tucker had to be taken by ambulance to the emergency room after a concussion — both from injuries on the same play.
Coach John Davis on Monday reported Albrecht didn’t suffer a broken bone or ligament tear, as feared.
“He had a lot of swelling, but it wasn’t as bad as it looked,” Davis said.
Tucker suffered a mild concussion and his progress will be monitored. If he can’t play against Kirkland Hiawatha on Saturday, tight end Scott Graziano would start at quarterback.