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Football: Westminster plunging into varsity fray

Westminster Christian quarterback Max Tucker listens instructions from his coach during summer practice. Tucker will help lead Warriors intheir first

Westminster Christian quarterback Max Tucker listens to instructions from his coach during summer practice. Tucker will help lead the Warriors into their first varsity season. | Ruthie Hauge ~ Sun-Times Media

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2012 record: Did not play varsity schedule

Coach: John Davis (1st varsity season)

Players to watch: OL/DL Isaac Hawn, fr.; LB Xavier Owens, fr.; QB Max Tucker, sr.; RB DeShawn Bloom, sr.; FB William Rathjen, sr.


Aug. 31 at Luther North* 1

Sept. 7 vs. Mooseheart* 1

Sept. 13 at Ottawa Marquette* 7

Sept. 21 vs. Kirkland-Hiawatha* 1

Sept. 28 vs. Alden-Hebron* 1

Oct. 4 vs. Rockford Christian Life* 7

Oct. 11 at Hope Academy* 7

Oct. 19 vs. Christian Liberty* 1

Oct. 26 at North Shore Country Day* 1

* Northeastern Athletic game

Updated: September 23, 2013 6:53AM

Westminster Christian begins a bold new chapter in the history of its athletic program this fall when it ventures into its first varsity football season.

The occasion is creating plenty of anticipation and excitement for the Warriors, but with the new territory comes a healthy dose of uncertainty as a young team with only four seniors and two juniors on its 30-player roster prepares for its varsity debut Aug. 31 at Luther North.

“Anytime you can have a varsity football inaugural season, that’s something to take note of,” Westminster coach John Davis said. “The first time that ball is snapped on the varsity field, I’d say that every coach, every kid and every parent in the stands is going to be a little unsure how it is going to pan out when the guys are faced with the speed of the game and the maturity and size of the opposing players.

“I think it’s going to be a reality check, but also I think it’s one of those things that won’t take us long to adapt to and overcome.”

As a member of the Northeastern Athletic Conference, all nine of Westminster’s games will be played against league opponents. The Warriors will host their home games on their campus on the west side of Elgin.

Westminster played a JV schedule last year, but the challenges will ramp up in a hurry this season. The first three games for the Warriors are against Luther North, Mooseheart and Ottawa Marquette, all of which were Class 1A playoff teams in 2012.

“We’re definitely getting thrown to the wolves, but we’re still expecting great things out of ourselves regardless of the scoreboard,” Davis said.

While Westminster’s youth is bound to be a weakness, it doesn’t hurt to have some big and talented underclassmen in the fold. Freshmen Isaac Hawn and Xavier Brown are two of the team’s most gifted athletes, according to Davis.

Hawn is a 6-foot-6, 220-pounder who will be called on to anchor the offensive and defensive lines. Brown will handle outside linebacker duties and can fill several other roles.

Davis believes the offense is in good hands with junior quarterback Max Tucker. Freshman tight end Scotty Graziano figures to be one of Tucker’s top targets, and senior receiver Clay DeHaan is another capable threat.

Senior running back DeShawn Bloom and senior fullback Will Rathjen give the Warriors two quality options in the backfield. Freshman John Davis is the son of the coach and a talented long snapper who will be a mainstay on the offensive line with Hawn.

On defense, sophomore Nick DeMaira will help lead the way at middle linebacker. Bloom, Rathjen and Graziano will also be called on to contribute at linebacker or in the defensive secondary.

The Warriors marked the official start of 2013 practice by spending three days at Riverwoods Christian Center earlier this month. In addition to making preparations for the upcoming campaign, the players also engaged in service projects and team-bonding activities designed to help them achieve their goals.

“We have an eye on our own little victories,” Davis said. “We’re not expecting to win a state championship, but we’re not expecting to go O-fer either.”

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