St. Edward quarterback Joe Mullen attempts a pass during Friday evening's 7-on-7 and lineman challenge at St. Edward in Elgin. | Brian O'Mahoney/For Sun-Times Media
It usually takes very little to fuel the fires of optimism in St. Edward football coach Mike Rolando, so he’s had a full blaze going since well before summer workouts started.
“We’ve got 17 seniors, the most returning starters I’ve had, we’re the most well-balanced team I’ve had and the size of the kids: We’ve got big guys where we need big guys and fast guys where we need fast guys,” Rolando said.
Add in the fact St. Edward now plays in the Metro Suburban East against a schedule of more similar-sized opponents, and it’s easy to see why Rolando says, “It’s the best position we’ve been in coming into a season in 10 years.”
The defense figures to be just as strong as the offense. The Green Wave goes with four seniors across the front in tackles Kasey Cook and Dan Howell and ends Brandon Ostrander and Josh VonRohr. There is as much experience among linebackers with three returning starters: junior Jake French and senior third-year starter Jack Tierney outside and senior Chris Kelly in the middle.
Only in the secondary is there raw inexperience with freshman corner Saveon Smith, but also raw talent. On the other side is returning sophomore starter Dwayne Allen, and the safeties are Dan Favela and Devin Warner, both seniors with varsity experience. Santos Gomez and David Groves back up the young, speedy corners. Favela, at 6-2, gives opponents a reason to reconsider throwing deep.
“You need that height when you’ve got so many 6-4 and 6-3 receivers these days,” Rolando said.
The Green Wave’s own passing attack looks explosive, starting with senior quarterback Joe Mullen.
“He established himself as our leader and No. 1 since our indoor league in spring at Lake Barrington,” Rolando said.
Throwing to 6-4 Ostrander, 6-1 Petey Dewindt, 6-4 Nick Duffy, 6-2 Favela, Joe French and Trevor Lowen, and speedsters like Gomez, Smith or Allen coming out of the backfield gives Mullen versatile and multiple explosive targets.
Although Rolando calls Allen “like lightning” in the open field, he says the junior also can run with a surge on the interior.
Assigned to open the holes for Allen and buy Mullen time to throw are Cook, Kelly, VonRohr, Haydn Hilton, Nathan Witt, Howell and Michael Montes.
“We have a lot of two-way starters, but the thing is we’ve got a lot of reserve players with experience who can fill in and help keep guys fresh through the fourth quarter,” Rolando said.
One key reserve will be Bryan O’Neill, the backup quarterback who can play multiple offensive and defensive positions and may even help as a spot starter.
“We’ve got a lot of weapons but the whole key will be how fast they become a team,” Rolando said. “Everybody has to get comfortable with the idea of helping other people be successful and doing their part to help each other’s success rather than their own success with the ball.
“If they grasp onto this, and get excited about everyone else’s success, we can be dangerous.”
One in a series previewing area prep football teams.