Benet's football team no longer has the marquee names from a year ago.
The Redwings, however, might have something better.
"You really don't replace a Pat Flavin or a Connor Nelligan," coach Pat New said of a pair of last season's standouts. "But a team playing together can be just as effective. We all need to elevate our game to compete with the top teams."
Only four starters return, although New especially has confidence on the defense side of the ball. Two-way linemen Trevor Krajewski and Quinn McCracken along with linebacker Jim Lynch bolster the unit. New also is impressed by a young but deep secondary corps.
"The attitude on defense has been great," New said. "We've been preaching effort on both sides of the ball, and they've been responding."
One offensive starter returns, but it's an important one in quarterback Nick Mankowski, who threw for 814 yards last season. Mankowski may also play some receiver if junior backups Kevin Weller and J.T. Crosby develop.
In addition to replacing the entire offensive line, a big key offensively is filling the hole left by graduated running back E.J. Howe, who rushed for 1,000 yards last season. Mike Odom, a defensive player as a junior, is one of the players aiming to emerge in the ground game. Phil Cannizzaro and Chris Lehn will help lead the offensive line.
"We have the versatility to spread teams out or go Pro I and run the ball," New said. "I feel like we can show a defense anything with the personnel we have on offense."
While last season ended with the program's first playoff appearance since 2006, Benet is aiming higher in 2011. The Redwings don't just want to play the top teams, they want to compete with them.
"We made the playoffs last year, but then I didn't feel like we competed (against Wheaton Warrenville South)," New said of Benet's first-round loss in Class 7A. "Our aim is to get in the playoffs again. But this year we want to compete against whoever we play against."
Coach: Pat New (second year, 5-5).
2010 record: 5-5, 2-4, tied for fifth in East Suburban Catholic.
Top players: Nick Mankowski (QB, 5-11, 175, sr.); Trevor Krajewski (DL-OL, 6-1, 220, sr.); Jim Lynch (LB, 6-1, 195, sr.); Quinn McCracken (DL-OL, 6-1, 220, sr.); Mike Odom (RB, 6-0, 200, sr.); Steve Cahill (WR-DB, 6-1, 185, sr.); Jack Euritt (WR, 6-4, 175, jr.); Pat Runger (DB, 5-11, 170, jr.); Jack Toner (6-0, 155, jr.); Phil Cannizzaro (OL, 5-10, 225, sr.); Chris Lehn (OL, 6-0, 225, sr.); Kevin Weller (QB, 6-0, 205, jr.); J.T. Crosby (QB, 6-0, 165, jr.).
Sat, Aug 27 @ Nazareth 1 p.m.
Fri, Sep 2 Marian Catholic 7:30 p.m.
Fri. Sep 9 @ St. Patrick 8 p.m.
Fri, Sep 16 Marist 7:30 p.m.
Sat, Sep 24 Joliet Catholic TBA
Fri, Sep 30 @ Notre Dame 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Oct 7 @ Washington (Ind.) 8 p.m.
Fri, Oct 14 @ St. Viator 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Oct 21 Carmel 7:30 p.m.