BELVIDERE, IL (WTVO/WQRF)– Belvidere North is entering its tenth football season with Jeff Beck as head coach. During that time the Blue Thunder have been a model of consistency producing teams that range between six and eight wins a season and producing some of the best players in the conference.
This year’s team looks like it’s from the same mold.
Our starting point with the Blue Thunder is the offensive backfield where last year two sophomores opened eyes around the conference. Nico Bertolino and Joseph Brown. They are speedsters. They showed it on the track this past spring. Bertolino was the NIC-10 champion in the 100 and the 200. He and Brown were part of a relay team that went to State.
(Nico Bertolino, Belvidere North running back) “I think I’m more of a football player who just runs track too, but I’m not really,” said Bertolino. “I haven’t decided which one I’m better at.”
“I still consider myself 100 percent a football player,” said Brown. “Track definitely helps with it, but I was definitely a football player first.”
Either way these two guys are hard to catch. This year they’ve bulked up another ten pounds each. They bring out the best in each other.
“We’ve always had that competitive drive to be better than one another,” said Brown.
Head coach Jeff Beck is looking forward to having this duo in the backfield again. “I definitely think they have another level that they can get to. We’re really excited to see what they are able to do for our team this year.”
Even with that speed, they’ll still need blocking up front.
“We only return two starters on the offensive front,” said Beck. “Three if you count our tight end, but we did gain a little more size. Our junior class has a little bit more size kind of coming up.”
Last year quarterback Mason Weckler was the straw that stirred the drink on offense. He led the team in rushing. Weckler has graduated. Taking his spot is the guy who quarterbacked the sophomore team last year Max Gyllenswan, another gifted runner.
“He’s not as big as Mason,” said Beck. Gyllenswan is probably a little bit more explosive. He is probably a little bit more, shifty.”
On the defensive side of the ball Marshall Smith leads the returners on the line. Senior safety Chandler Wehrle leads a secondary that will again feature the speed of Bertolino and Brown. At linebacker, all-conference player Aaron Winters graduated, but his brother Nick is back and ready to lead his teammates.
“I’ll be the guy kind of calling the defensive strength and kind of affects the defensive linemen and defensive backs. It definitely gives me the opportunity to become a leader.”
Watch out for the Blue Thunder on special teams with the “B’s” Brown and Bertolino returning kicks, and perhaps the best kicker in the conference is back, soccer player Aiden Montes.