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In a good all-around season, defensive linemen stood out
By Kevin Schmit | Daily Herald Columnist

Playoffs - Round Three- Homewood-Flossmoor at Naperville Central football playoff game

 

Dan White | Staff Photographer

Playoffs - Round Three- Homewood-Flossmoor at Naperville Central football playoff game

 

Dan White | Staff Photographer

Paul Michna/pmichna@dailyherald.com ¬ Lake Zurich at Glenbard West football Saturday. Tommy Schutt.

 

Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

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Published: 12/1/2011 1:53 AM

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When we announce our annual All-Area Football Team in DuPage County, there's a temptation to look at the talent and declare it "The Year of..." something.

Looking at last year's All-Area team, for example, it'd be easy to see it as "The Year of the Quarterback." Led by Captain Reilly O'Toole of Wheaton Warrenville South, now at Illinois, last year's team boasted four outstanding quarterbacks.

We've definitely seen "The Year of the Offensive Lineman." More than once, in fact. The 2002 DuPage All-Area team featured Wheaton North's Akim Millington, Downers Grove South's Martin O'Donnell and others.

So what about our 23rd All-Area team for 2011? Does anything stand out?

You might want to call this "The Year of the Defensive Lineman" in DuPage County.

That's not to lessen the impact of the other positions this season. Captain Jordan Westerkamp's state records bolster that position, while Downers Grove South's Josh Williams, Naperville Central's Matt Randolph and others make a strong argument for "The Year of the Running Back."

You want linebackers? We've got them from A (Addison Trail's Mike Imperiale and Kevin Kent) to W (WW South's Adam Dansdill and Brandon Peterson).

Stanford, meanwhile, got a great offensive lineman when Glenbard West's Johnny Caspers committed early in the season. Hilltoppers teammate Mike Marston snared 9 interceptions as one of the area's top defensive backs.

Just imagine Montini quarterback John Rhode's numbers if he hadn't missed five games due to injury. In the Class 5A title game alone he threw for 587 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Even with all that talent throughout the field, though, I'm sticking with "The Year of the Defensive Lineman."

It starts, of course, with Glenbard West's Tommy Schutt. The state's top senior recruit, according to Rivals.com, Schutt couldn't be contained by one offensive lineman alone. His 14 sacks stand as proof of that.

As Schutt weighs his decision to maintain a verbal commitment to Penn State, Hilltoppers coach Chad Hetlet doesn't mince words about the impact made this season by the U.S. Army All-American.

"He's the most dominant defensive player I've seen in a long time," he said.

Naperville Central coach Mike Stine feels the same way about Zach Borta. Unlike Schutt's massive power at 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds, the Redhawks' senior defensive lineman used speed, athleticism and fierce determination to notch 56 solo tackles, 8 sacks and 4 blocked kicks.

A bit of a tweener at 6-1, 225 pounds, Borta does not have the bevy of Division I college offers. Some college, though, is going to get a great one.

"It's unusual to see a defensive lineman who can control a game, but that's what he did every week," Stine said.

Montini deservedly received mass attention for its stunning offense this season. But in addition to the transfer of Rhode the Broncos also received a huge boost to their defensive line when Jaleel Johnson came in from St. Joseph.

In an instant Montini plugged in at tackle a 6-4, 310-pound Iowa recruit. The fierce run-stopper finished with 80 tackles.

Neuqua Valley's Michael Ippolito became a familiar face for opposing offensive linemen during his three years on varsity. The 6-4, 240-pound end will take his talents to Northern Illinois after setting a program record with 24 varsity sacks.

Considering Wheaton Warrenville South's injuries to two starting defensive linemen, it's hard to imagine the Tigers reaching Champaign without gritty nose tackle Evan Welsh.

"The Year of the Defensive Lineman" wouldn't be complete, though, without a passing of the torch. That's what Schutt is doing at Glenbard West.

Hilltoppers junior Ruben Dunbar was on the opposite side of Schutt on a three-man front and he ended up having a huge season. At 6-3, 225 pounds and with 11 sacks and 21 tackles for loss this year Dunbar's the next big-timer.

Dunbar, however, is only one of nine juniors on the DuPage All-Area team. There's also sophomore Justin Jackson.

What will be the standout position next season?

"The Year of the..." in 2012 is still an unknown, but it'll be fun watching it develop.

kschmit@dailyherald.com