Super 25 countdown: Glenbrook North10/29/10 Friday Northbrook Glenbrook North's Grant Rushing (22) rushes downfield in front of the Harlem defense during the Class 7A first round football playoff at Glenbrook North on Friday, Oct. 29th. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 4, 2011 12:20PM
Mike Ermel knows the thinking out there about Central Suburban League football.
"Whenever you think of the CSL, (it's), 'Oh, you guys have Maine South. They win state every year.' That's what most people think about," the Glenbrook North senior left tackle said.
But Ermel and his teammates are determined to change that perception. The Spartans won their first CSL North title since 2007 last fall before bowing out in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs with a loss to Harlem.
This season, Glenbrook North - No. 23 in the Sun-Times preseason Super 25 - is determined to stay atop its conference and show that Maine South isn't the only CSL team capable of playing deep into November.
"For the past few years that I've started, we've never gone past the first round (of the IHSA playoffs)," Ermel said. "I definitely want to get past the first round this year."
The Spartans, who were 8-2 last season, look to have the building blocks for a successful year, especially on offense. Returning as the Spartans' featured back is 6-foot, 205-pound Grant Rushing, who ran for 1,165 yards and 17 touchdowns in earning CSL North Offensive Player of the Year honors as a sophomore.
Ermel, who was the league's Lineman of the Year last season, looks for Rushing to be even better this fall.
"He's gotten stronger and faster," Ermel said. "I remember my sophomore year, I was really nervous. I was like, 'What am I going to do?' He's totally matured from last year."
Coach Bob Pieper also has seen a difference in his star runner.
"I think Grant is going to have a big year," Pieper said. "He's gained 20 pounds. I think he's not only going to have the speed, but the strength to break tackles."
A couple other playmakers return in receivers Trevor Ponticelli (6-3, 180) and Chad Bruce (6-4, 185).
"Trevor was phenomenal last year and he's gotten even better," Ermel said. "Bruce, he's got his confidence way back up."
One position that isn't settled heading into preseason workouts is quarterback.
"We've got four guys battling for that spot," said Pieper, who expects that to be sorted out during two-a-days.
Ermel (6-4, 270) will again anchor the Spartans' O-line, which will otherwise have a different look this season.
"We're going to have to play with an attitude," Ermel said. "We don't have the size and strength we had last year."
There also are some key players back from a defense that held seven opponents to 14 points or fewer in 2010. Among the veterans are middle linebacker Jason Scholl (6-0, 205), outside linebacker John Boldanis (6-0, 200) and cornerback Curt Petty (5-10, 160), who is one of the quarterback candidates.
The Spartans figure to be tested a bit early, with an opener against up-and-coming Hersey and CSL crossover dates in Weeks 3 and 4 against returning playoff qualifiers Glenbrook South and Evanston.
"We want to start out strong," Pieper said. "Our schedule is going to be a little tougher than it has been in the past."
The Spartans' hope is that will just be a taste of what to expect in the postseason.