The saying is that defense wins championships and if that holds true it could be a very good year for Deerfield on the gridiron this season.
The Warriors return seven starters from their . Deerfield will be looking for its first back to back Central Suburban North titles since 2003 when the Warriors open the season at 7:30 p.m. today at Zion-Benton.
Coach Steve Winiecki, who is in his 14th year as head coach of the Warriors, will look for that defense to be the backbone of his squad this year. The Warriors will seek to match their perfect 5-0 mark in the CSL North and look to improve on their 6-4 overall record from a year ago.
“We are in a good spot there now,” Winiecki said. He is 77-52 and has led the Warriors to the state playoffs eight times. “We will be counting on our defense to help carry us,” he said.
The Warriors will be led on defense by strong safety Jake Balder. A senior, Balder, who is 5-11 and 180 pounds, is the core of the Warrior’s defense. He led the team in tackles last year and blocked five kicks along the way.
“Coach Winiecki said to look past last year,” Balder, who has been drawing plenty of interest from colleges this past summer, said. “We have set some pretty high goals for ourselves this season. And we have been working hard getting ourselves ready for Friday.”
Balder Does It All
“He does it all for us,” Winiecki said. “He is mentally and physically tough. He is on the field all the time and constantly comes up with big plays for us.”
Deerfield will have plenty of toughness in the remainder of its defensive core.
The Warriors also return two of their linebackers in Michael Maki (5-10, 200 pounds) and Tom Bonadies (5-10, 175 pounds). Nose tackle Pat Johnson (6-0, 205 pounds) and defensive lineman Brian McCann (5-8, 175 pounds) will help the push upfront while cornerbacks Brett Freeberg (5-10, 160 pounds) and Tim Shanley (5-10, 165 pounds) give the Warriors strength against the passing game. Lewis Levine (6-0, 210 pounds) should give some needed size to the defensive line.
“We are small, but tough and quick,” Winiecki said. “We build our defense like a Lake Zurich or a Prospect have done in the past. We get to the ball fast.”
While the defense is full of experience, the offense has will look to reload. Gone is two-year starter Brad Holway at quarterback and all-conference running backs Ryan Adkins and Tyler Vajdic .
Kallada Starts at Quarterback
The warriors look to regain their offensive prowess that averaged them over 27 points per game last season with senior Matt Kallada (5-8, 165 pounds) earning the starting spot at quarterback to run the Deerfield option.
“What Matt lacks in size, he doubles in toughness,” Winiecki said. “He can run over people. Matt does a great job in running our option and he is difficult to bring down. “
The warriors will look to junior Sam Modro (5-10, 170 pounds) and sophomore Alex Williams (5-8, 155 pounds) to play the wingbacks while junior Alec Frank (5-9, 175 pounds) will play fullback. Center David Vanderkloot (5-11, 200 pounds) and Casey Spiwak (6-3, 230 pounds) return this year to help anchor the offensive line.
Winiecki likens the Warrior offense to that of Georgia Tech “flexbone” or Navy’s option offense. “Our option offense can gives teams ‘ fits,” he said. “Especially if those teams are big and slow. We will attack from all angles.”
“We always have smart, tough and undersized players here,” Winiecki said. “This year is no different and we expect great things from them again this season.”