Quarterback Tyler Kennedy returns for his senior season after passing for 1,954 yards and 16 touchdowns for Oswego East last year. | Jon Langham/For Sun-Times Media
There’s something in the air these days at Oswego East preseason football practice.
Call it the sweet smell of success.
The Wolves are coming off a 7-4 season in which they made the playoffs for the first time in school history and won their first postseason game — 21-14 over No. 2 seed Belleville West — before bowing in the second round.
“It really was special,” said senior quarterback Tyler Kennedy, who passed for 1,954 yards and 16 touchdowns.
“Obviously, I liked doing it in my junior year so I can come back and not be one-and-done. I want to leave an imprint, want to leave a good foundation that started a good tradition.”
Third-year coach Tyson LeBlanc, of course, wants more than to just sniff the playoffs. He’d like it to be a regular occurrence, like “those guys on the other side of town I can’t name” who have made the postseason 25 of the past 28 years.
“We’re trying to build off the success we had last year but not get a ‘success flu,’ where you think just because it happened last year it’s gonna happen this year,” LeBlanc said.
“It’s something you have to work to get to, it just doesn’t just happen.”
Ah, yes, the sweet smell of perspiration.
“We had more guys than ever in the weight room. Everyone was excited to be a part of it,” Kennedy said of the offseason.
LeBlanc was happy to see Kennedy, who directs his spread attack, was one of them.
“He’s got a really good grasp of what we’re doing in terms of the reads and checks,” LeBlanc said.
“He’s a guy who put 15 pounds of muscle on during the offseason and got a lot stronger, which is gonna make him a little more comfortable running the ball. He’s pushing 190 now.”
Key number for the Wolves will be Kennedy’s completion percentage, which was 50.
“If he’s not above 60 (percent), with what we do, I’d be very surprised,” LeBlanc said. “He’s gotten better at making pre-snap reads to get the ball to the right places.”
Wide receivers include senior transfer Kyndall Battle, back after one year at Plainfield North, Trevor Kalish, Dae`Jon Perry and exciting freshman I’Shawn Stewart, as well as tight end Noah Mlsna.
“We’ve got several good receivers but were lacking that big guy and he’s 6-2 or 3,” LeBlanc said of Battle. “That was a good pickup for us.
“Kalish probably didn’t touch the ball as much as we needed him to. Perry made big play after big play the entire summer and is a good run after the catch guy.
And Stewart is a little guy, 5-10, 140, but you can’t touch him in a phone booth.”
Kennedy can also hand the ball to senior Khalil Driver, who ran for 718 yards last year.
“We’re expecting big things from him,” LeBlanc said. “He’s very explosive, went out for track for the first time last spring and triple jumped 45 feet.”
A rebuilt offensive line includes Ryan Engels, Brennan Lambrecht, Mike Small, Cameron Taylor and Cory Jones.
A strong defense lost a lot to graduation but all-conference safety Corey Kennedy returns and Zach Prinz heads a strong linebacker corps that also includes Dan Moran, Austin Butts, Nick Wadsworth and Jordan Watson.
The anchor to a rebuilt D-line will be 6-2, 295 junior noseguard Kentrell Malone, flanked by ends from a group including Jack Borvan, Sebastian Laskowski, Omar Woodhouse and Ryan Butts.
“We’re small, but I’m happy to have guys that can run,” LeBlanc said.
One in a series previewing area prep football teams.