Nazareth Academy’s head coach Tim Racki has been around high school football too long to take the bait when asked him if he has any specific opponent circled on the 2017 schedule.

“I think because of our past success a lot of teams highlight us,” Racki said. “If you highlight one team, it’s probably a team you didn’t highlight that’s going to get you.”

Based on his proven track record of success, Racki knows what he’s talking about. This season marks his 20th campaign at the helm of the Roadrunners. The zenith for the program is recent, with Nazareth winning state championships in 2014 and 2015.

While the Roadrunners’ bid for a three-peat fell short last year, the team still made  progress by playing a plethora of young, talented players on both sides of the ball en route to a 6-5 campaign.

“We’re a lot like [Joliet Catholic Academy] last year in being that were we very young,” Racki said.

Racki praises the Roadrunners’ 2019 class, which developed rapidly on the field last season.

“Our junior class is loaded,” Racki said. “That’s a very deep group of kids.”

With all the Roadrunners’ burgeoning talent, a veteran quarterback is essential. With Zach Stevens and Bobby Grimes, Nazareth has the luxury of two capable signal callers.

“Last year, Zach [Stevens] was the starter but went down with a knee injury in the third week of the season,” Racki said. “Bobby [Grimes] came in and competed. The competition has been great between those two.”

Indeed, the two seniors have waged a great battle by splitting time with the first team in practice. Racki will decide on the starter the week leading into the season opener. Both should be protected well with offensive linemen Will Bareis, Gavin Smith and Elijah Moscinski headlining a skilled unit. David Oglesby is a dual threat running back/wide receiver.

Defensively, senior linebacker Austin Reifsteck and senior defensive tackle Isaiah Lee lead provide leadership and talent. Other contributors include linebacker Wesley Jones, cornerback Joshua Oglesby and strong safety Jermaine Baker.

Two-way players like Devin Blakely (RB/FS), Diamond Evans (WR/CB), Michael Love (WR/CB), Cameron Leach (FB/DL), Dylan Smith (RB/DB), Jeremy Puckett (WR/DE) and Louie Stec (OL/DL) bolster the team’s depth and versatility.

The Roadrunners didn’t lose too many key players to graduation last year, but a few standouts have moved on. Christian Sampleton (Yale) and Devonte Dunn (Toledo) will be missed.

“We definitely have the talent, but I’ve coached many teams that aren’t as talented but fare better,” Racki said.

Racki preaches the importance of factors not related to talent and believes that those are the key elements to winning.

“Chemistry and other intangibles are way more important than talent on the field,” he said. “High school football is becoming like AAU basketball with the individual accolades. I guess I’m just too old school for that.”

Nazareth opens the season at home against Dunbar on Friday, Aug. 25 at 4:30 p.m.

Nazareth Scouting Report

Nazareth Roadrunners

Head Coach: Tim Racki (20th season at Nazareth)

Team Record (2016): 6-5

Top Players: Will Bareis, SR., OL, 5-11/220; Bobby Grimes, Sr. QB, 6-1/175; Zach Stevens, Sr., QB, 6’1″ 180; Austin Reifsteck, SR., LB, 5-11/210; Michael Rotolo, SR., OL, 5-11/220; Gavin Smith, SR., OL, 6-1/255; Daniel Wilkinson, SR., P, 6-0/190, Isaiah Lee, SR., DT, 6-3/285.

Outlook: With two quality starting quarterbacks, plus a talented offensive line and good skill players, the offense should be fine. Led by Reifsteck and Lee, the defense should be solid as well. Punter Daniel Wilkinson, a college prospect, will help control field position.