Suburban Life football notes: Belay Brummel, Wheaton Academy ready for second chance in playoffs

Wheaton Academy's Belay Brummel passes the ball during their game against Immaculate Conception Friday Sept 30, 2022.

By this point of his football career, Belay Brummel is no stranger to second chances.

Or even third chances.

The Wheaton Academy senior quarterback this week embarks on his second venture into the playoffs, leading the No.4-seeded Warriors into a Class 4A first-round playoff game against No. 13 Providence on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in West Chicago.

A year ago, the Warriors lost 48-14 to eventual 4A state champion Joliet Catholic in the second round.

Brummel said the Warriors (8-1) are a stronger and more experienced team this fall.

“Making the playoffs is always a goal in the beginning of the season, and we accomplished it this year and are happy but not satisfied,” Brummel said. “We feel like now is the time. We’ve all worked very hard in the offseason and in the summer.”

The Warriors enter the playoffs riding a big wave following a 24-3 win over Aurora Christian in Week 9. The Warriors set a program record for most wins in the regular season.

“At the end of the day, you’re looking at two consecutive successful seasons for us,” Wheaton Academy coach Jim Johanik said. “You look at the progression of a program in years, not just in a season. We’re seen the last three years since COVID a dramatic progression in our program, in the way we play, the coaching and results on the field. We’re feeling pretty good about things.”

At 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds with a high grade-point-average, Brummel is the ideal quarterback for a program looking to build a strong foundation.

Brummel understands overcoming long odds and striving amid difficult situations. He was adopted at age five from Ethiopia by Jeff and Rebekah Brummel. He spent his first two seasons at Aurora Christian and IC Catholic Prep before finding a comfortable landing spot for the last two seasons at Wheaton Academy.

Brummel said his parents have been his biggest supporters “since day one.”

“I’m so thankful for them,” he said. “All they want for me is the best. As far as football, that’s second to them. They care about the person I am, and my relationship with Christ. But they’re also very supportive of me no matter what I do and football happens to be something I have a passion for. They’re invested in helping me achieve my goals.”

Brummel, who has passed for 1,850 yards and 24 touchdowns with just four interceptions, is starting to attract attention from numerous colleges, including a few Big Ten schools.

“Belay is having a great season,” Johanik said. “His ability to stand in the pocket and deliver the ball is special. His footwork in the pocket is really good. He’s able to stay poised and look downfield and get the ball down the field. He has great arm strength.”

Brummel said he started playing football in fifth grade, and can throw the football about 65 yards. Brummel said the Warriors diverse offense makes his job a lot easier.

“We have athletes at every position group, and whenever the ball is in one of their hands, they can score,” Brummel said. “But what makes it so special is that everyone is so unselfish and we just all want to win.

The Warriors have a tough task trying to defeat Providence, a big-time program known for success in the playoffs over several decades. The Celtics are battle-tested, with losses to a defending state champions Wheaton North (7A) and Joliet Catholic (4A) along with defeats to powerhouses, Loyola and St. Rita.

The Warriors’ lone loss came in a 42-20 defeat to IC Catholic in Week 6. Joliet Catholic defeated the Warriors 48-14 last season in a Class 4A second-round playoff game en route to the state title. The two teams could meet up in the second round.

“We look at this matchup at how we looked at our game against IC Catholic (this season),” Johanik said. “They’re two very comparable programs, in terms they have a lot of size, good team speed. We played IC Catholic tough, but gave up the big play. We know we can play and compete at that level. We have to play with confidence and realize every play counts.”

“Joliet Catholic’s team is probably a better team than this year, as time will tell. But there’s a place for us here. It will take time and years developing players and identifying opportunities to attract talent in the program. These things take time, but we felt last year this could work, and now we’ve together a good season this year.”

Extra points

York (9-0) notched its first nine-win perfect season in the 102-year history of the program. The Dukes, who won the West Suburban Silver, were awarded the No. 2 seed in Class 8A, as they will host 31st seed Oswego East…Glenbard West is a team to watch after recovering from its road loss to the Dukes. The Hilltoppers (8-1) host Lockport in the first round in the program’s 15th straight playoff appearance…Glenbard East is also a team riding a hot streak, with seven straight victories entering its playoff game against Minooka…Downers Grove South captured the West Suburban Gold title, and will host Palatine in an 8A game…Meanwhile, Wheaton North is set to begin another playoff march after winning the 7A title last season. The Falcons (8-1) host gritty Willowbrook, which reached the playoffs for the sixth straight season…Downers Grove North (6-3) welcomes a return to the playoffs, when they play at Lincoln Park…One of the best matchups in the first weekend pits Nazareth (7-2) at Glenbard South (7-2) in a 5A first-round game.