Waubonsie Valley, the preseason No. 4 team, has something that almost no other team in the state has: a legitimate star, a game-changing force.
Receiver Charles Robinson can bust open a defense at any time. It was all on display last season in the Warriors’ upset of No. 2 seed Hinsdale Central in the first round of the Class 8A state playoffs. Robinson lit up Hinsdale that afternoon, catching six passes for 214 yards with touchdowns of 34, 56, 65 and 11 yards.
“That’s the game that really sprung my recruiting,” Robinson said. “I was blessed to have a great game like that on such a big stage.”
Waubonsie Valley lost in the next round, but most of the team returns. Coach Paul Murphy welcomes back eight starters on offense and five on defense.
Murphy and Robinson are both hoping the team finds more consistency this season.
“That was our problem, we were up and down,” Murphy said. “We’d play good one week and terrible the next.”
“It all just starts in practice,” Robinson said. “We had a really good practice before that Hinsdale Central game. We kinda thought we were going to stroll through the playoffs after that and that’s just not going to happen. We have to be more consistent in practice.”
Starting quarterback Tanner Westwood returns to lead the offense and Harvard recruit Derric Lee, a defensive back, will anchor the defense.
“There are going to be rankings to sell newspapers, but everyone is 0-0,” Murphy said. “All that talent coming back gives us a shot to be pretty good. And our junior class has some skill players that will add to that.”
Keep an eye on junior wide receiver Julian Cain and junior defensive tackle Avante Rogers. Josh Dominiak, a talented linebacker that started last season, decided not to play football his senior year.
Murphy has been impressed so far with Carson O’Donnell, who has stepped into Dominiak’s spot. Robinson plays both ways, he is also an excellent linebacker.
“We’re good,” Westwood said. “We could be a playoff team but so can anyone else in the DuPage Valley. It’s going to be a tight race, everyone knows that is the case every year. Last year we were picked to be one of the top teams and ended up being 5-4. Naperville North came up and shocked everybody. There could be a team like that this year.”
The conference will definitely be a dog fight. Waubonsie Valley’s matchup Week 2 against Glenbard North will be especially interesting. The Panthers have one of the best defensive backfields in the state.
“I love competition,” Robinson said. “I don’t like just going against the little scrubs. I like going against the top dogs, that is going to be a great game.”
Westwood, Robinson, Lee, linebacker Kyle Schroeder and offensive lineman Connor Forrest are all third year varsity players. Murphy says the season will hinge on them.
“They are the key,” Murphy said. “They’ve played 24 games. That’s a heck of a lot of varsity experience, especially in our league.”
Robinson said he plans to commit to college before Aug. 25. He has offers from several schools, including Mississippi State and Minnesota. He’s a serious contender for Player of the Year.
“It is great competition playing against [Robinson] in practice,” Lee said. “I’m not going to see anybody like that on game day.”
WAUBONSIE VALLEY SCHEDULE
Aug. 25 vs. Lake Park
Sep. 1 vs. Glenbard North
Sep. 8 at Neuqua Valley
Sep. 15 vs. Naperville Central
Sep. 22 at Metea Valley
Sep. 29 vs. Wheaton-Warrenville South
Oct. 6 vs. Lincoln-Way Central
Oct. 13 at Naperville North
Oct. 20 at Wheaton North
This is the third story in the Sun-Times 2017 Football Countdown series. Here’s what you can expect over the next couple weeks:
Aug. 15: Top 10 defensive players
Aug. 16: No. 4 Waubonsie Valley
Aug. 23: Week 1’s top games
Aug. 24: A capsule look at the Super 25, Top 50 players