After rough 2013 season, disciplined Bartlett defense earning high marks

SHARE After rough 2013 season, disciplined Bartlett defense earning high marks

Bartlett middle linebacker Dan Danek talks like someone who has just begun to address a great deal of unfinished business.

“We’ve done well at being a disciplined defense and focusing on our jobs, just turning it around from what we were doing last year — but there’s a lot of areas where we can get better,” said Danek, the 6-3, 245-pound senior leader of the Hawks defense.

“We’re giving better effort and have all been watching a lot more game film than last year.”

A year after allowing 29.4 points a game for a dubious school record, the Bartlett defense has allowed three total points the last two games and 20 on the year with Friday night’s homecoming showdown against Upstate Eight Valley powerhouse Waubonsie Valley looming. Last year’s 3-6 struggle came with a young team that has matured.

“Before our first game this year coaches had us in a huddle running through some plays before the game and then they had us take a knee,” Danek said. “They said if you started at least one varsity game last year, stand up. All the guys in the huddle stood up. “That really got the morale up, realizing that we know what we’re doing, and feel like we can do some great things.” The defense, led by Danek, tackles Brian Yurik and Kyle Sanft, and end Brandon Drajin, carried things early as the offense piled up yards without points. The defense has allowed 205 average yards and 41 percent completions, but until last week the Hawks defense had outscored its own offense, 7-3. “We were playing great on offense between the 5-yard line and 5-yard line, just struggling with the red zone,” Danek said. Then running back Nolan Bernat carried 38 times for the second straight game and gained 183 yards as Bartlett beat Metea Valley 14-3. “When Bernat and the O-line broke through and controlled the line, it felt great to have it get into the end zone,” Danek said. “We feel on defense as long as the offense scores one more point than what we hold the other team to, then the offense is doing their job.” The running game kept the defense rested even if the offense hadn’t scored. But coach Tom Meaney said it wasn’t necessarily by design that Bartlett (2-1) went to Bernat for 38 carries two straight weeks after throwing 47 times in Week 1. “The weather turned wet and colder, and what works one week isn’t always going to be what we do the next week,” he said. “We have a lot of confidence in (quarterback) Jordan (Flint). Throwing it more is always a possibility for us.” Led by Danek, the defense has shown it can do the job regardless. “He’s a communicator,” Meaney said. “The kids listen to him on the field. He’s a very smart kid.” A South Elgin resident, Danek is at Bartlett for the District U-46 math and science academy because he hopes to study engineering in college. That may or may not include more football. Danek started out a lineman, when he said he was “heavier than most of the freshmen and sophomores.” “I grew out of being overweight and asked the coaches if I could start trying linebacker, then when (defensive coordinator) Eric Kramer came back my junior year he helped my linebacking a ton.” Danek, Mike Bucaro and Dan Andreuccetti form the linebacker corps that faces a tough task this week. “We’re going to have to defend the triple option against Waubonsie, and the way they run it that’s never easy,” Meaney said. Added Danek: “They can break one if we don’t each do our assignment and play with discipline.” At least in that respect, it’s playing to a Hawks defensive strength.

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