If the first three days of practice are any indication, Deerfield High School’s football team is heading into the 2014 campaign with experience at key positions and a summer of hard work behind it.
As pleased as he is with the progress of the Warriors through their summer camp and the first three days of practice since Wednesday, Head Coach Steve Winiecki is making no predictions about the coming season.
“I’m very happy with the first three days of practice. If this continues very positive things could happen,” Winiecki said. “Their retention from summer camp has been very good,” he added referring to how well the athletes picked new skills learned over the summer.
That learning is important in a year when the first day of school Wednesday occurs one week after the first official day of practice allowed by the Illinois High School Association. “We have only four days versus nine days (in the past),” Winiecki said.
Key Players Return on Offense
One of the things helping the Warriors make the quick transition is experienced players in key offensive positions like center David Vanderkloot, quarterback Ben Ethridge, running backs Alex Williams and Sam Modro along with fullbacks Landon Hinds and Alec Frank.
Fullback is the position that ignites the Deerfield offense and having two players who handled the ball frequently last year help. “We can start a number of with these guys,” Winiecki said. “They can look, read, break, get on it and go.”
Ethridge challenges opposing defense with his arm as well as his feet. He earned the starting job part of the way through the 2013 season. Winiecki hopes Ethridge’s passing ability will make more opportunities for the fullbacks and running backs.
“By being able to throw the ball teams will not be able to load up the box on us,” Winiecki said referring to opposing defenses often counting on a running play from the Warriors. “Last year is in the rear view mirror.”
Vanderkloot, an all Central Suburban League selection and three-year starter, will anchor the offensive line. A number of contenders are competing for the other four spots. “I’m not ready to name four of the five (starters),” Winiecki said.
Vanderkloot To Play Both Offense and Defense
Vanderkloot will not be getting a lot of rest this season. Winiecki plans to start at 5-11, 215 pound senior at defensive tackle as well as center. Vanderkloot will not be alone playing two ways. Modro will see time at safety.
Though a number of defensive standouts from last season graduated, Winiecki expects senior leadership to come from defensive end Colton Emmerich and linebacker Ross Leviton along with Vanderkloot and Modro.
Vanderkloot is excited about his expanded role and is ready for the task. “It’s a lot more responsibility playing on both sides of the ball,” he said. “It’s (leadership) something I take very seriously to help the other guys out.”
When the Warrior offense has to give up the ball, they will have the leg of Dominick Dibenedetto to put the defense in the best possible position. “He’s a potential Division One punter,” Winiecki said referring to the highest level of college football.
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