By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
For several years running under Head Coach Jim Morrow, one thing you could always count on was a high-flying offense.
If things work out right for Morrow and the Machesney Park Harlem Huskies this year, they will have a tough, physical defense to go along with their fast and furious offense.
Despite a load of returning offensive talent for the Huskies, the thing everyone at Harlem is most excited about going into this season is their defense.
“Defensively, we look really good right now,” Morrow said. “We’re really excited about the defensive side of the ball. We feel that is an improved asset to this team from last year.”
The reasons for the improved defense are easy to point to. Morrow said the defense is bigger and faster than last year, while senior Brenton Benedict said the unit is showing a lot of intensity leading up to the first game.
“There is so much more emotion this year on defense,” Benedict said. “Everyone is pumped up and wanting to play. They are ready to play and happy to be here.”
While everyone is focused on an improved defense, the Huskies should continue to sport one of the top offenses in the conference. Harlem has as many returning starters as anyone, and some of the top returnees around.
Kevin Witcik was their leading rusher and will continue to run behind Frank Galindo and Jacob Robertson, two of the top returning tackles. Jordan Baxter and Brandon Stout also help form a receiving corps that Morrow calls one of the best groups he has ever had.
Benedict is coming back for his senior year after battling injuries the last few years. Morrow thinks the running back could add a lot of versatility to the offense. If nothing else, Benedict is adding a lot of enthusiasm to the team.
“It’s a lot of fun. I’m glad to be back out here,” Benedict said. “I’ve had quite a few injuries in my high school career, but I’m really enjoying my senior year and looking forward to what is going to happen. I’m looking to keep everybody up, keep their heads up. Help on offense, help on defense, wherever I can.”
Also returning is quarterback Cody DiGiovanni. While technically not a starter last season, DiGiovanni made several starts in place of an injured Brandon Rogers. And that experience is key in the complex Harlem offense.
“He has to make a lot of point guard-like decisions, and the more familiar you are with things that happen, reactions and reads, the better off you’re going to be,” Morrow said. “Cody DiGiovanni is doing a good job of running things right now, distributing the ball the way we want to.”
From the Aug. 24-30, 2011, issue