Super 25 countdown: WW SouthWheaton Warrenville South running back Dan Vitale (12) sprints away from Naperville Central defenders Conor Philbin (2) and Pat Clark. (Jon Cunningham/for Sun-Times Media)
Updated: May 9, 2012 9:43AM
The summer is a leisurely time for most prep football teams, when players in shorts and jerseys go through low-key drills or test their skills at combines.
But this was a different kind of offseason at Wheaton Warrenville South. The Tigers graduated Sun-Times Player of the Year Reilly O’Toole, star receivers Titus Davis and Travis Kern, bulldog back Matt Rogers, pint-sized nose guard Sparty Chino and almost all the other starters from last year’s unbeaten Class 7A champs.
‘‘We didn’t have a lot of varsity experience,’’ versatile senior Dan Vitale said. ‘‘We definitely played a lot of catch-up.’’
‘‘It felt more like doubles than normal,’’ said coach Ron Muhitch, whose teams are 84-8 with three state titles and a runner-up finish since 2004.
Vitale, who has committed to Northwestern, hopes the work pays off for the Tigers, the No. 2 team in the Sun-Times’ preseason Super 25.
The legacy of Wheaton football, which dates back to the days of Red Grange and features seven state titles since 1992, is a rich one. And it’s not one anybody wants to see tarnished anytime soon.
‘‘There’s pressure,’’ Vitale said. ‘‘You don’t want to be the group that screws it up.’’
The burden could rest, at least initially, on the defense. That unit returns four senior starters: linebackers Adam Dansdill and Brandon Peterson, end Jack Lipnisky and safety Mike Shelton.
‘‘They’re definitely more polished than the offense,’’ Vitale said. ‘‘We’re going to need to count on them to carry that weight for sure till we get into that offensive groove.’’
Getting touches for Vitale, either as a runner or a receiver, will be a top priority for that inexperienced offense.
‘‘I just want to do my part in the offense — use my versatility, which has been a key,’’ he said.
Vitale was the Tigers’ top receiver in 7-on-7 competitions this summer. Then WW South started working on its running game when preseason practice started.
‘‘As soon as I . . . gave him the ball, it was pretty evident to me he’s a great talent carrying the football,’’ Muhitch said.
Vitale’s presence should ease the transition for senior quarterback Thaddeus Armstrong, a transfer from Ottawa.
‘‘Thaddeus said it best,’’ Muhitch said. ‘‘About the third or fourth practice in doubles, it all clicked for him.’’
Senior Patrick Garner, who also will see significant action at running back, and a junior-dominated offensive line also could be key players as the Tigers chase another DuPage Valley Conference title and more playoff glory.
‘‘They’ve been putting the work in like no group I’ve seen,’’ Vitale said of the linemen.
That’s the way it’s been all summer and fall — and the way it had to be after last year’s graduation losses.