The duo of Pat Flavin and E.J. Howe is a great start for Benet's football team.
Time will tell whether it leads to a great finish.
"They're really clicking right now," said first-year Benet coach Pat New. "When you've got a Division I lineman and a proven running back, you've got a lot to work with."
Flavin is a 6-foot-7, 245-pound tackle who holds about two dozen Division I college scholarship offers. As one of the state's premier offensive lineman, he's the perfect choice to block for Howe as he builds upon last year's 600-yard, 5-touchdown rushing effort.
The ground game, which also will lean heavily on linemen Drew Bala, Matt Svitak and Matt Smego, holds the key to success for the Redwings.
"As our offensive line goes, so goes the offense," said New, taking the reins from Gary Goforth after he retired as head coach at the end of last season. "And we need to be on the plus side of turnovers this year."
Two quarterbacks are vying for playing time. Senior T.J. Rickert is a drop-back passer, while junior Nick Mankowski is more of a running quarterback. Combined they'll present a nice balance to the unit with receivers Connor Nelligan and Patrick Gillespie.
Lineman Jeff Schmittgens, who has been offered by Eastern and Western Illinois, heads the defense with fellow returning starters Pat Boyle, a linebacker, and defensive back Drew Russo.
After allowing 28 points a game last year in one of the state's top conferences, Benet knows it must improve defensively to compete in the East Suburban Catholic Conference.
Seven seniors anchor the unit, but only Schmittgens, Boyle and Russo started last year. Overcoming inexperience is a major hurdle, although New believes the Redwings will clear it with attitude.
"The biggest thing for us is to bring effort on every single play," New said. "With the talented teams we play, we can't afford to take a play off. If we play with effort on every play, we'll be competitive."
Coach: Pat New (first year).
2009 record: 3-6, 2-5, ninth in East Suburban Catholic Conference.
Top players: Pat Flavin (OL, 6-7, 245, sr.); Jeff Schmittgens (DL, 6-3, 233, sr.); E.J. Howe (RB, 5-6, 145, sr.); Connor Nelligan (WR, 6-2, 180, sr.); Drew Russo (CB, 5-11, 151, sr.); Pat Boyle (LB, 6-1, 200, sr.); Matt Coffey (CB, 5-9, 155, sr.); Patrick Gillespie (WR, 6-0, 165, sr.); Drew Bala (OL-DL, 5-11, 231, sr.); Nick Mankowski (QB, 5-11, 175, jr.); T.J. Rickert (QB, 6-0, 155, sr.); Matt Svitak (OL, 5-9, 207, sr.); Matt Smego (OL, 5-9, 205, sr.); Jim O'Malley (LB, 5-11, 188, sr.); Alex Sadauskas (LB, 6-0, 195, sr.); Trevor Krajewski (DL, 6-2, 220, jr.); Steve Cahill (LB, 6-1, 174, jr.); Jim Lynch (LB, 6-0, 182, jr.).