While Sam Santiago-Lloyd garners the headlines, and rightfully so, Brookfield East's football team doesn't win the state championship without a physical offensive line setting a tone and a stout, hard-hitting defense shutting down high-powered offenses.
The leaders of those two units earned Now Newspapers All-Suburban honors, as senior offensive lineman Max Aslin and junior linebacker Brad Dati are on the first team.
Aslin paves a path
Leading the way for Santiago-Lloyd and quarterback Jake Graf to each surpass 1,000 yards on the ground was an offensive line that placed three All-Greater Metro players.
With a combination of quickness and strength, Aslin was one of the best guards in the state. The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder was named honorable mention All-State, All-Region and first-team All-Greater Metro. He didn't reveal to anyone, even the Brookfield East coaching staff, that he was playing through an injury over the course of the entire season.
"Max is your definition of what a captain is," Brookfield East coach Ben Farley said. "He was not only the leader of our offensive line but the leader of our program. He was a dominant blocker on the offensive line. He doesn’t get many headlines because of the position he plays, but boy is he a really, really good football player."
The Spartans capped their successful season on the ground by setting a record for most rushing yards in a WIAA Division 2 state championship game with 378.
"We definitely focused more on being physical and outhitting the other team," Aslin said. "It didn't matter if they knew what play we were going to run, we were going to outexecute them, outperform them and be more physical than them. It was a lot of fun, as an offensive line, to come together and make holes for Sam or Jake and give them an opportunity to score."
Dati leads the defense
There was one blip on the radar, but aside from allowing 43 points to Brookfield Central on Sept. 15, the Spartans' defense was lights out.
Brookfield East allowed just 11.7 points per game and recorded four shutouts in nine regular-season games before giving up just 24 points in its first three playoff games to reach the state championship.
"I was just trying to be more of a leader," Dati said. "I was young and getting used to things as a sophomore, but I knew returning in the position I am in calling the defense that I had to step up and be in control of the huddle to let these guys know they could look to me. I just wanted to be the leader of the defense on the field."
Dati led the Spartans with 128 tackles, including 26 tackles for a loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles. He had 18 tackles against Brookfield Central, recorded at least four tackles for a loss in four games, at least 10 tackles in five games and made a team-leading 11 stops in the state title game.
The 6-foot, 200-pound junior was honorable mention All-State, All-Region and first-team All-Greater Metro.
"He started every game for us as a sophomore and had his ups and downs and flashes of really good play," Farley said. "He was learning. This year he absolutely took a jump in his play and leadership. He was the face of our defense. He’s a tough kid and someone that prepares like a champion."
Graf, defensive end Caleb Wright and defensive back Skylar Rashid received high honorable mention All-Suburban, while offensive linemen Evertt Cartier and Adam Streich; defensive linemen Ron Edwards and Nick Williams; defensive backs Nick Kreul and Cam McDonald; and all-purpose player Justin Parbs were honorable mention.