Features | Friday Night Drive

Suburban Life football notes: Lacrosse star Gavin Pedone returns to football roots, helps lead Wheaton Academy to 4-0 start

Wheaton Academy senior Gavin Pedone, who will play lacrosse collegiately at Robert Morris, is making a big difference in a return to the football field this fall for 4-0 Wheaton Academy.

Wheaton Academy senior Gavin Pedone is an unlikely star on an unlikely undefeated team.

And it’s not in lacrosse, his main sport.

Pedone, who committed to play lacrosse at Robert Morris University, decided to return to his roots and play football this fall.

“I’ve played football since I was five years old, and it was always my favorite sport,” Pedone said. “I decided to stop playing football after eighth grade because I wanted to focus on lacrosse but once I committed to Robert Morris University, I decided I wanted to have some fun and take a break from lacrosse for a little bit.”

Fun is a good way to describe Pedone’s first four games playing varsity football — and it’s also been fun for the Warriors.

The Warriors (4-0, 2-0 Metro Suburban Blue) have recorded three straight shutouts and outscored their four opponents 207-14 heading into Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. home game against Ridgewood.

Pedone, a running back, is gashing opponents for big gains and he’s become a vocal leader. Senior quarterback Belay Brummel, who has received interest from several Division I schools, is the tone-setter for the offense, but Pedone’s running adds another dimension to the attack.

Wheaton Academy coach Jim Johanik said Pedone’s a big factor in the program’s fast start.

“More than just his output on the field, Gavin’s contributed to the culture of playing (sports) in this for the school and he wants be part of the positive culture,” Johanik said. “He’s also a captain and doing a great job. Four games into the season, this is the strongest start we have ever had as a program. What got us here is the mindset toward the sport of football has shifted, and as a result, we’re beginning to draw some of the best athletes in the school, like Gavin.”

Pedone said he made his decision to return to football last spring. He was happy to go back to his roots and playing running back. He carried the ball 10 times for 53 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-14 win over Marian Central Catholic in Week 1.

“I’ve had so much fun in such a short amount of time,” Pedone said. “I wish I never took a break.”

Pedone admitted lacrosse and football are vastly different sports, though he’s happy success has followed him to the gridiron. The Warriors have a long tradition of success in lacrosse, finishing in third place in lacrosse last season.

“Lacrosse is a much faster paced game,” Pedone said. “For defense, lacrosse is very beneficial for footwork and it taught me how to take better angles when tackling. Offensively, lacrosse has taught me how to put my shoulder down and run into contact.”

St. Francis's Amari Head makes his way into the end zone  during their home game against Sterling Friday Sept 2, 2022.

St. Francis getting help from unheralded standouts

Amari Head waited his turn.

Well, at least to be a starting running back.

After starting the previous two years at defensive back, Head added running back to his primary duties this fall for St. Francis. He’s been a smashing success. Head had become a vital cog in the Spartans’ attack, helping them win their first four games this season.

“Amari has done really well for us,” St. Francis coach Bob McMillen said. “He didn’t get a chance to run the ball much the last two years, maybe a handful of carries when the game was out of hand. He wasn’t that guy for us. Now he’s getting a chance to run the ball a lot. He put on 20 pounds of muscle, is explosive and quick with power and vision and making people miss in the hole. The kid is going to be a 1,000-yard running back for us. He’s doing a phenomenal job for us. He’s an excellent student and bigger, thicker and stronger than last year and it shows in his numbers.”

McMillen said Head’s numbers aren’t padded due to the Spartans winning their last two games by a combined 94-0 over St. Edward and Chicago Christian. Head had seven carries for 80 yards and a touchdown last week, McMillen said.

“He’s catching balls out of the backfield, and working hard in practice and the guys on the team are taking notice,” he said. “He was voted captain. He came out of his shell.”

Defensively, junior linebacker Dom Beres is putting up big numbers in limited playing time. He did not play against St. Edward, but tallied 40 tackles, three sacks and an interception in three games. As a sophomore, Beres recorded 61 solo tackles, 37 assists and 5.5 sacks.

“He’s been all over the field making tackles,” McMillen said. “He’s a very good player.”

The Spartans have a rare midseason road trip this weekend, when they play at Champaign Central on Saturday. McMillen said his team will tour the Illinois campus and the football facilities.

“We’re going to take a tour of Illinois and go to Urbana high school for a walk through and stay overnight,” he said. “It’s something different. A lot of high schools don’t get a chance like this. This is for our juniors, sophomores and freshmen to see what it’s like to be a Power 5 football player, and how hard you have to work in weight room and classroom. This is a great opportunity to go to see what it’s all about.”