Hey (there’s no) DJ.
The big question with Highland Park High School’s football team is how does it replace star running back DJ Penick.
He was a happening last year. The highly entertaining Penick rushed for 1,718 yards and 23 TDs during the 2016 season. He was named — probably by a landslide — the CSL North Offensive Player of the Year.
Penick, who is playing his college ball at Murray State in Kentucky, also ran for more than 1,000 yards as a junior.
To counter his loss, the Giants have installed a “running back by committee” plan.
And HP head coach Joe Horeni is … not worried.
Highland Park will host Libertyville on Aug. 25 at 7 p.m.
Week 5: HP at Vernon Hills
Week 6: Glenbrook North at HP
Week 7: Deerfield at HP
Lost to Plainfield North in Class 7A opener (Plainfield North took second in state)
Joe Horeni (2 seasons, 10-9)
- Tommy Motzko (Jr., LB/LB) — quickly made a name for himself last year. He claimed all-league honors after totaling 61 tackles, five tackles-for-loss and six sacks.
- Noah Spitz (Sr., WR/DB) — known for his toughness and consistency, he had 32 tackles, three interceptions, three fumble recoveries last year. He earned all-CSL North honors.
- Justin Goodman (Sr., WR) — solid and dependable, this speedy receiver will be a three-year starter.
“He loves football,” says Horeni. “He’s got good hands. And he’s a really good route runner.”
- Kevin Kaufman (Jr., OL/DL) — talented and amazingly strong at 6-foot-1, 275 pounds. He squats 550. He benches 300.
“He still doesn’t know how good he can be,” says Horeni. “He’s fun at school, mean on the field. He turns on the switch, when he takes the field.”
- Giancarlo Volpentesta (Jr., RB/LB) — a two-way player who figures to be unstoppable this fall. He finished last season with 30 tackles, two TFLs and two INTs.
“He’s explosive,” says Horeni. “He’s probably our fastest kid.”
Players on the Rise:
- Luke Baldwin (Sr., DB)
- Ryan Brincks (Sr., RB/LB)
- Jack Finfer (Sr., OL)
- Quentin Griffin (Sr., WR)
- Will Hansen (Sr., OL)
- Noa Morgenstern (Jr., RB/LB)
- Marcus Shaw (Sr., DL)
- John Sakos (Sr.)
Sakos worked his way into the starter’s role last season — and didn’t disappoint. In five starts, he completed 36 of 59 passes for 432 yards. He tossed two touchdown passes and threw two picks.
“He’s got good intangibles,” says Horeni. “We like his leadership, and what he does on the field.”
The backup QB will be junior Michael Rooney.
“Sakos won the job, but Rooney was a close second,” says Horeni.
Most Intriguing Player:
- John Kaufman (Sr., OL)
Brother of Kevin Kaufman, this 5-11, 200-pound senior finally came out for high school football. A gifted athlete, he had put all of his energy into martial arts.
“I’m very excited that he came out,” says Horeni.
So far, he’s been an instant success. He will start at offensive guard.
Six Giants are set to see action on both sides of the ball: Brincks, Kaufman, Morgenstern, Motzko, Spitz and Volpentesta. … HP’s opening-game opponent, Libertyville, went 5-5 last season.
“Volpentesta might mean football in Italian.” — Horeni.