Warren is not your typical high school football powerhouse. The No. 2 Blue Devils have never won a state championship. Gurnee isn’t a wealthy western suburb. Warren is basically your typical, large public school.
That doesn’t usually lead to consistent high school football excellence. The Blue Devils are the only school in the state’s top 10 in enrollment that is also in the Super 25.
Warren, led by coach Bryan McNulty, has crashed the party and demanded a spot near the top of the rankings the past several years.
So what changed? How did the Blue Devils go from a regular one and done Class 8A playoff team to a program that played for the state title two seasons ago?
“A lot of accountability,” McNulty said. “That was the big change. Gurnee kids are tough by nature. The parents are tough, the community is tough. It was just a matter of getting those kids disciplined and then accountable to all their actions all the time. And that starts in the offseason with lots of lifting and being on time, and your grades are right, and all those other things.”
The Blue Devils are 36-7 the past four seasons.
“We really figured out in my second year here that we needed to produce better people,” McNulty said. “We’ve got the kids. It’s a big school.”
Warren dominated its schedule over the spring as much as any school in the area, including Loyola. The Blue Devils weren’t a contender for the No. 1 ranking though, due to strength of schedule. They were only allowed to play in their conference because of COVID.
McNulty has a ton back from that squad. Warren returns 10 starters on defense and eight on offense, including quarterback Aidan Lucero and running back Maurice Edwards, a Vanderbilt recruit.
“It was great to get those six games in last year, but kids get seasoned in the playoffs,” McNulty said. “So as many kids as we have back, we are also as untested as everybody else. Those kids got a lot of game experience but they didn’t get those huge games.”
McNulty’s teams have been known for defense, but that may change this season. It’s the fastest offense Warren has had in McNulty’s eight-year tenure.
“Our offense might even be more skilled than the defense,” senior fullback Ben McLaughlin said. “There’s a lot of fast guys and a lot of big hitters.”
Lucero is a heady, dual-threat quarterback and Edwards is a load.
“Edwards is a special athlete,” McNulty said. “He’s barely scratched the surface on how good he could be. He’s going to be a great college player. He’s the real deal.”
Linebacker Jalen Handford, a Central Michigan recruit, is a major factor on defense along with safety Ben Wilson, defensive back Jailen Duffie and lineman Kameron Shaw.
Also keep an eye on senior defensive end Caleb Falls.
“He’s a leader,” McNulty said. “He’s kind of a skinnier kid but he is all juice and he goes hard all the time and the kids really listen to him.”
Warren has a challenging opener at Barrington and then comes the real test, a Week 2 showdown against Maine South.
“That’s going to be fun,” Falls said. “I can’t wait to see all that we’ve been working so hard on practice put to the test.”
Aug. 27 at Barrington
Sep. 3 vs. Maine South
Sep. 10 at Zion-Benton
Sep. 17 at Lake Zurich
Sep. 24 vs. Stevenson
Oct. 1 vs. Waukegan
Oct. 8 at Mundelein
Oct. 15 at Libertyville
Oct. 22 vs. Lake Forest