Football: Wilmington vs. Peotone

A host of Wilmington defenders bring down Peotone’s Henry Chadraba Friday during the Wildcats’ 24-0 victory over Peotone.

2021 Outlook

Head Coach: Jeff Reents (27th season)

Career Record: 231-62

Conference: Illinois Central Eight

Last Playoff: Class 3A Quarterfinalist, 2019

Best Playoff: Class 3A State Champions, 2014

2019 Record: 10-2

2021 Schedule

3/19 7 p.m. Lisle

3/26 7 p.m. @Herscher

4/1 7 p.m. @Reed-Custer

4/9 7 p.m. Coal City

4/16 7 p.m. @Peotone

Wilmington has entered the unusual spring season with a bit of an unusual roster situation. The Wildcats have 20 seniors and 16 juniors, including a wealth of players that have gained experience over the past two seasons, including during the team’s 2019 10-win season that ended in the IHSA Class 3A Quarterfinals.

And while there’s plenty of experience back, those returning players will be thrust into larger roles, and in some cases those roles are totally new.

Senior Jack Narine takes over at quarterback, replacing three-year starter Keaton Hopwood. Narine rushed for 54 yards and two touchdowns as a junior while making 38 tackles from his spot as a defensive back, where he’ll also replace Hopwood as the secondary’s heart and soul..

The Wildcats and freshly-inducted hall-of-fame offensive coordinator Barry Southall will have to replace nearly 2,500 rushing yards from its top two backs from a season ago. Jacob Rodawold graduated and senior Trey Shaw is out for the season with an injury. Shaw is committed to play football at Augustana next year.

Cody Franzen is back after gaining valuable experience at running back last season when Shaw was out. Franzen scored four touchdowns and ran for 324 yards. Junior Jacob Friddle will be in the rotation after having a nice season at the JV level as a sophomore.

Fullback/ and linebacker A.J. Meyers returns as a two-way starter after rushing for 172 yards and a touchdown last year. Meyers has 71 career tackles, two sacks and one interception.

Matt Sanchez will also look to contribute more offensively this year as a running back. Sanchez led the Wildcats with 79 tackles last year including five in the backfield and figures to bring that same physicality to the other side of the ball on more frequent occasions.

Paving the way for the backs will be senior lineman Brad Stacy, Nick Gornik, and Lucas Spangler.

Junior Allan Richards returns to his linebacker spot, coming off a 58-tackle season with four tackles for loss. Richards also returns as the team’s kicker, where he’s made over 80 percent of his extra point attempts.

Reents raved about his top three returning tacklers in Sanchez, Meyers and Richards for what they bring physically and spiritually.

“All three of those guys have a nose for the football and are always in the right spots,” Reents said. “We’ll depend on their leadership.”

Richards’ kicking has continued to improve in the offseason and Coach Reents noted it’s no secret that the Cats will line up for a field goal without hesitation if they’re within his range.

Richards’ long field goal is 34 yards, but expect that to expand this season.

In a normal season, the Wildcats would be hunting down their 25th consecutive playoff appearance, but now the goals have changed in this shortened season due to no fault of their own.

“We’ve had to readjust some of our goals, but it’s great our seniors can play this year,” Reents said. “The kids still get to play three rivalry games.

“We still get to play in a tough Illinois Central Eight Conference, we still get to play Coal City week four, so we have a lot to look forward to.”