By Scott Taylor
With a third-year starting quarterback, Maine South is hoping to make another deep playoff run after a surprising second round exit last year.
Despite the loss, the Hawks still finished 10-1 with wins over Montini and Wheaton Warrenville South.
The aforementioned leader of the offense is their veteran quarterback, Brian Collis, who threw for 2,700 yards and 26 touchdowns last year.
He will have a strong returning offensive line to help him stay clean as UCONN commit Liam O’Sullivan, a 6-foot, 7-inch, 245-pound tackle returns, as does 6-5, 320-pund lineman Kevin Jarvis, a junior who is getting Big 10 offers. A 6-1, 200-pund guard Ryan Brosnan also returns on the line.
That should help make up the loss for two Division-I recruits on the line in Tyler Bolger and Pete Szymanski.
The Hawks do lose key skill players in running back Justin Fahey and wide receivers Vinny Labus and Tommy Bazarek, but do get back Jon Arenas, who had 34 receptions and six touchdowns last year. Expected to make an impact this year at the skill positions are running back Antonio Cristiano and receivers Luke Hinkamp, Matt Holbrook and Ryan Gibbons.
Kicker Sean McNulty, who hit 7-of-11 field goals last year, also returns.
The defense returns 6-foot, 260-pound nose guard Ibrahim Nasir, defensive tackle Alex Poulos and linebacker Dylan Burdelik, who had 64 tackles last year.
There will be a new cast of linebackers in juniors Jack Pistorious, Mike Pusateri and Travis Madden, while Holbrook looks to contribute at safety.
The defense has the bigger losses from last year as gone are defensive tackle Davis Neilands (Gardner-Webb), safeties Dan Elsworth and Fahey, linebacker Lamus and cornerback Bazarek.
Head coach Dave Inserra, who led Maine South to three straight state titles from 2008-2010, thinks the strengths of his team are Collis, a solid receiver group, a strong kicking game, a strong defensive front and athletic linebackers.
He hopes to see improvement on a good, but young secondary and two young offensive line positions.
Inserra feels his team’s overall strength is similar to last year’s team.
Maine South opens the season at state powerhouse Montini (10-4), before heading home to face another state power, Loyola Academy (11-3) in a rematch of some recent state playoff games.
Deerfield (4-5) and Niles North (5-5) are Central Suburban League North crossover opponents before opening the conference season at Waukegan as they look for another CSL South title.
“Our biggest key is staying fresh and healthy,” Inserra said. “I like what we have but depth could be an issue. We must be smart in how we practice and prepare.”