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Glenbard North Panthers
By Kevin Schmit | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/26/2011 12:24 AM

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It only seems like Glenbard North clones its football team every year.

In reality, the Panthers rely on a simple formula of not messing with success.

"We put in a lot of work to make sure everyone's ready to play when it's their time," said Panthers coach Ryan Wilkens. "We try to make the transition from one year to the next as smooth as possible."

Despite only seven returning starters, Glenbard North is banking on an eighth straight playoff berth and a run at the DuPage Valley Conference title.

Leading the way is third-year running back Phil Jackson, who rushed for 961 yards and 9 touchdowns as a junior. The Panthers are known for pounding a feature back at teams but, while this year should be no different, the backfield also has some depth with Jackson's sophomore brother, Justin, and Mario Rodriguez.

"With Phil back and our depth at running back, our running game is going to be our strength again," Wilkens said.

A player to watch is junior quarterback Brian Murphy, a standout wrestler who is a tremendous athlete and fierce competitor. With linemen Dan McHale, D'Angelo Hodges and Cody Burandt all returning, the offense should be solid.

On the other side of the ball, expect a typical hard-hitting defense from the Panthers.

The secondary should be especially stout as cornerbacks Alex Mendez and Tremel Smith both return. Dan Eldridge is a leader on the line, while the Panthers will break in a new crew of linebackers.

There may be a lack of game experience on both sides of the ball, but as many as 18 seniors will be on the field. Given their experience in the program, that can only be a good sign for a team looking to keep a successful run going.

"In this program you've got to step up and learn quickly," Wilkens said. "It's no different this season. There's still work to do, and we're not there yet, but we're getting there."

­ Kevin Schmit

The breakdown

Coach: Ryan Wilkens (seventh year, 45-22).

2010 record: 8-2, 6-1, second in DuPage Valley Conference.

Top players: Phil Jackson (RB, 5-10, 215, sr.); Tremel Smith (DB-WR, 5-10, 165, sr.); Alex Mendez (DB, 5-11, 165, sr.); Dan McHale (OL, 6-2, 290, sr.); Brian Murphy (QB, 5-10, 170, jr.); D'Angelo Hodges (OL, 6-3, 280, jr.); Cody Burandt (OL, 6-2, 270, sr.); Dan Eldridge (DL, 5-9, 215, sr.); Justin Jackson (RB-DB, 6-0, 170, so.); Mario Rodriguez (RB-LB, 5-9, 170, jr.); Trevor Hackett (WR, 5-10, 175, sr.); Chris Dewing (DL, 6-0, 205, sr.); Collin Hansen (LB, 5-10, 185, sr.); Dan Fierro (LB, 5-10, 210, sr.); J.T. Vegrzyn (DL, 6-3, 220, sr.).

Schedule

Fri, Aug 26 Oak Park 7:30 p.m.

Sat, Sep 3 @ Fenger 3:30 p.m.

Fri, Sep 9 West Chicago 7:30 p.m.

Fri, Sep 16 @ Glenbard East 7:30 p.m.

Fri, Sep 23 West Aurora 7:30 p.m.

Fri, Sep 30 @ Naperville C. 7:30 p.m.

Fri, Oct 7 WW South 7:30 p.m.

Fri, Oct 14 @ Wheaton North 7:30 p.m.

Fri, Oct 21 Naperville North 7:30 p.m.