BELVIDERE, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Belvidere North’s football team flirted with a NIC-10 championship last season before settling for a second-place tie on the final week of the regular season. The Blue Thunder will try to finish the job this season.

And the boys are grinding away once again, ready to run it back.

“You know, we are working hard out here every day and it’s just something that’s always sitting in the back of our heads like we don’t want this year to end the same as last year,” said star running back and safety Nico Bertolino.

They ran the table last season with a smooth 7-0 start. But that ended with two conference losses and a heartbreaker in the first round of the playoffs to Grayslake Central, 28-27.

“Losing three straight, I mean that’s affected everybody, nobody wants it to end the same way it did,” said running back Joseph Brown.

Last season only serves as further motivation to keep following the schemes that have led them to this point.

“We are gonna be that offense that’s gonna move the chains and possess the ball a lot,” said head coach Jeff Beck. “And we are going to try and flip the field even if we don’t get points out of it.”

The Blue Thunder graduated all four of their linebackers including the NIC-10 Defensive MVP, Nick Winters. The focus has been on finding guys to step up in those positions, and there are two key pieces to this Belvidere North defensive puzzle.

“Two of our cornerstone pieces in everything we do are Nico Bertolino and Joseph Brown. They both started for us last year defensively at corner and safety and they’ll be back for us again.”

“I feel like our defense, I mean every single time we play a game, we want to go on defense first, we want to set the tone,” said Brown. “We have hardworking guys on defense, we hit hard.”

Brown suffered an elbow injury in week five last year and missed the rest of the season, so he’s ready to pick up where he left off.

“I’d like to get All-Conference. Since I didn’t get a full season last year, I feel like I could have gotten it last year.”

Belvidere North is returning a lot of veteran experience, with almost the entirety of their offensive backfield. That includes guys like junior Trent Dinsmore, quarterback Max Gyllenswan, of course Bertolino and Brown, and tight end Ethan Tuckley.

“Having that crew all coming back, and you know a handful of those guys have been three-year varsity starters, so having those guys come back as seniors I think is really key to our success offensively,” said Beck.

And there is certainly no lack of athleticism on the offensive end either.

“Obviously, we’ve got a bunch of speed, that goes without saying,” said the speedster Bertolino.

That speed will hopefully propel them to their first playoff win since 2017.

The team goal, obviously I want to win conference and win a couple playoff games,” said Brown.

Belvidere North will open their season on the road Saturday, August 26 against Freeport.