By Scott Taylor
Anchored by a strong defense, Plainfield South is looking to get back into the playoffs this year after missing out last year at 4-5.
They will have their defensive leader back this year as Danny Saracco returns for his senior season at linebacker.
The three-year starter had 151 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, two sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery last year en route to being a Voyager Media All-Area selection.
He is joined by fellow returning linebackers Nick and Jake Portz and Eric Johnson.
In all, nine starters return from last year’s defensive squad.
“Plainfield South will be very good defensively,” Plainfield East coach Mike Romeli said. “And, when you are good on defense, good things happen.”
“I feel they can impact the game,” South coach Ken Bublitz said. “They are aggressive and make big plays. I think they will have a big year and provide an elite foundation for the team.”
The offense didn’t have the same level of success last year, scoring just 137 points on the year. They will offer a new look this year as quarterback Braden Lentini, leading receiver Cody Viertel and three top offensive linemen all need to be replaced.
Nick Deppe leads the quarterback competition, with Jackson Howarth right behind him. Jake Maher is expected to make a splash at running back.
Last year there were games where the defense was on the field for long periods of time. This year Bublitz hopes the offense can sustain more drives to keep them off the field.
“We are pretty young and a junior-dominated group on offense,” Bublitz said. “Ball security is a big point of emphasis. They have to give the defense the best chance to be successful. The offense will continue to improve as the season goes along.
“We also need to be efficient and effective in the kicking game.”
The newcomers will be thrown into the fire right away as they face a pair of playoff teams right out of the gate in Lemont (13-1), the state runner-up in Class 6A last year, on the road, and Joliet West (5-5) at home week two.
South ends up with four straight playoff qualifiers from last year to start its season as it travels to Plainfield East to open Southwest Prairie Conference play before returning home to take on Plainfield North.
“We will be tested right off the bat,” Bublitz said. “They are all solid teams, and have proven success. We need to meet the challenge. We need to be prepared.”
The Cougars’ next four opponents all missed the playoffs last year before the season finale against SPC champ Oswego on the road.
“We want to get back in the playoffs,” Bublitz stated. “We want to compete for a conference title and have a good District 202 record. We will grow as a team. We have a good group of kids and they understand the importance of teamwork.”