WOODSTOCK – If nothing else, Woodstock North should be versatile.
The Thunder have four quality athletes they hope to rotate in and out of the running back and wide receiver positions within their offense.
“We’ve got a lot of kids that we feel like we can mix and match at both receiver and running back,” North coach Jeff Schroeder said. “We’re going to do a little of that with about three or four of them. They’re learning both spots. We feel like they’re all capable of doing different things for us.”
Seniors Elijah Pena, Colin Zinn, Dane Williams and Austin Zieman are learning multiple positions this summer. With senior Ryan Zinnen at quarterback, the Thunder figure to have an experienced core of players handling the ball this fall.
North is seeking its fourth consecutive trip to the IHSA playoffs this season. Leading rusher Ed Flores (182 carries for 970 yards) has graduated, but the next four top rushers all return: Zinnen (118 carries, 882 yards), Pena (42 carries, 313 yards), Zieman (27 carries, 169 yards) and Williams (31 carries, 159 yards).
“It’s going well,” said Zinn, who was primarily a receiver last season. “I think we’re all understanding it. It gets kind of – I don’t want to say – boring learning the same [position] because we know our main position pretty well.”
The goal is to have a handful of capable options. The more players who know those positions, the more each player can rest, too, since each figures to see significant time on defense, as well.
“I like it because it shows I have a lot of athletes to give the ball to, or throw the ball to,” Zinnen said. “It’s comforting knowing you can throw a 5-yard out and the guy can make a play.”
North went 5-5 last season, winning its final three regular-season games to reach the postseason, before a first-round loss to Montini in the Class 5A playoffs. That included an 11-point fourth-quarter comeback against rival Woodstock in Week 8.
Pena, Zieman and Zinn proved their athletic abilities this spring, helping the Thunder boys track and field team to a Class 2A sectional championship, the first sectional crown in program history.
Pena said the four multiposition guys are progressing well, now a few weeks into summer workouts.
“Coach keeps it pretty simple, so it’s not a lot to take in. It’s just about repping it and getting good at it,” Pena said. “It’s more of just applying yourself and working hard, making sure that you do it the right way.”
Zinn said that knowing multiple positions makes it easier to understand how each piece of the offense as a whole works together.
“Say I’m running a route and I know the guy next to me is going to run a route to get off the corner, to move the corner or safety a different way. I can work off that,” Zinn said. “And same with him.”
The backs will keep working on it this summer. Having an experienced quarterback running things makes it easier, too.
Zinnen started all of last season at quarterback. Schroeder said the senior is “running things like a veteran.”
“He made a big impact last year as a junior,” Pena said. “Coming up as a senior, the pace is definitely better. Coming in as a junior and even playing a little bit as a sophomore, you have to learn the pace. Now that we’re seniors and we’re up there, now we get to set the pace.”