Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Why will I be watching...

...St. Francis this year, albeit out of the corner of my eye? After all, the Spartans were only 5-4 last year and didn't even qualify for the playoffs. What on earth am I thinking?

Well, for starters, three of those four losses last year were at the hands of Montini (Class 5A champs), Aurora Christian (Class 3A champs) and Marian Central, last season's surprise team led by Minnesota-bound quarterback Chris Streveler. Those three programs went a combined 37-4 in 2012!

Plus, James Butler (above), St. Francis's star running back, was out for the entire season. This year, the 5'9", 205-pound senior, who has interest from Illinois, Iowa, Purdue and Wisconsin, will be rushing behind the blocking of two juniors: T. J. Jackson, a 6'1", 215-pound fullback and James Kalfas, a 6'3", 275-pound tackle. (Don't be too surprised if you start hearing a buzz about the Spartans' ground game in the first few weeks of the 2013 season.)

And what does the St. Francis schedule look like? Glad you asked! Here it is, with last year's records in parentheses:

Aug. 30 Riverside-Brookfield (2-7)

Sept. 6 @ Plainfield South (4-5)
Whoa! This will be the Spartans' first big test. Can they run against middle linebacker Clifton Garrett, one of the best defensive players in the state? If so, you might start hearing some of that buzz I was just talking about.

Sept. 13 @ Chicago Christian (2-7)

Sept. 20 @ Montini (12-2)
As usual, the Broncos are stacked with talent. Forget the offense for a minute, which boasts juniors Grant Branch at tackle and wide receiver Leon Thornton. What concerns me more is the Lombard squad's defense. If Butler and Jackson can get past defensive linemen Keith Doyle and Dylan Thompson, they still have to contend with Nile Sykes at outside linebacker, safety Derrick Curry and junior -- another junior! -- Isaac Lane at cornerback. If St. Francis should somehow upend Montini, that buzz could turn into a roar!

Sept. 27 Aurora Christian (14-1)
The Eagles graduated a number of stars last year.

Oct. 4 @ Marian Central (11-1)
So did the Hurricanes.

Oct. 11 @ Marmion (4-5)
Brock Krueger, a 6'2", 200-pound quarterback, could give the Spartans fits.

Oct. 18 Guerin Prep (1-8)

Oct. 25 St. Edward (2-7)
Watch out for running back DeVonte Elam.

So where does this leave St. Francis? I'll guess 7-2, with a loss to Montini and one more to either Plainfield South, Marmion or St. Edward.

But it could be a big year for the Spartans!

Next: Lyons Township.

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