Features | Friday Night Drive

As lone returning starter, Kane Martinez showing the way on Wheaton Warrenville South O-line

Wheaton Warrenville South senior left tackle Kane Martinez

Kane Martinez is spending the summer in a new role.

As the lone returning starter on the offensive line, the Wheaton Warrenville South senior left tackle is not changing his position.

Just his status on the team.

After learning the ins and outs of playing varsity football from four seniors last season, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Martinez said he feels comfortable helping out the younger players on the O-line.

“It’s a big difference this summer as the only returning starter,” Martinez said. “It’s been fun to coach up my peers and let them know what’s coming up. We had a lot of experience last year on the offensive line, so it’s a lot different this year. It’s interesting because I was the student last year, but now I’m doing it for the younger players.”

Wheaton Warrenville South second-year coach Sean Norris said Martinez is a stabilizing force on the offensive side. The Tigers, who dropped a grueling 27-26 decision to Brother Rice in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs last season, suffered heavy graduation losses along the lines, plus quarterback Matt Sommerdyke and wide receiver/defensive back Reece Young.

“[Kane] had a great junior year, an all-conference kid,” Norris said. “He really came along over the course of the season. He has long arms and big feet. He’s had a really good offseason and become a leader and we expect a lot of great things from him and for him to anchor the offensive line.”

Norris said Martinez’s leadership and development has been a big plus in the offseason. Two-way starter Jimmy Hohnstein was a vital player last year for the Tigers.

“He’s showed a lot of great leadership,” Norris said. “We will run behind him. He’s taken some of the younger guys under his wing, and had the experience of playing in a great league against great competition. He’s really helped coach up the younger guys and bring them up as well.”

Martinez said he grew about an inch and gained some weight during the past year, which will aid him in the trenches.

“I feel I’m better at my run blocking this year and my pass blocking has been pretty solid,” Martinez said. “This year I feel we will be focused on running the ball a lot more. We have a couple of big offensive linemen and a healthy group of running backs.”

Wheaton Warrenville South's Andrew Moore

Andrew Moore is a player with experience and upside to help on the offensive line for the Tigers. He played primarily on the defensive line last season, but the lack of depth and experience prompted Norris to use Moore on both sides of the ball.

“This year I’m stepping up on O-line for the first time,” Moore said. “I played offense in freshman and sophomore year, but I committed to defense last year because they only needed me on one side of the ball. This year I’m coming out on offense. I like defense for sure, but I want to help our team win and it’s been great bringing guys together.”

Senior Grant Rylander is adding defensive end to his duties this fall. Rylander said he’s hoping his speed and experience playing running back will help him on defense. He packed on 25 pounds since last season to bump his weight to 200 pounds.

Wheaton Warrenville South's Grant Rylander

“It’s fun, but I have to get used to playing on defense,” Rylander said. “It’s fun because I can use my speed to get around the edge and tackle the quarterback. This year we are down in numbers and size, so playing both ways will help us. I gained some weight but I’ve been able to maintain my speed and actually gotten faster.”

Norris said Moore and Rylander are key players slated for heavy reps for this team.

“Grant has done a great job transitioning and working on both sides,” Norris said. “He’s athletic and a strong kid. Andrew was a rotational guy on the defensive line last year. He’s done a phenomenal job taking on a leadership role on defense. He’s made great strides. He’s a strong kid with a great motor who loves the game.”