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St. Charles East's Joe Hoscheit celebrates with teammates after beating rival St. Charles North earlier this season. The Saints take on Wheaton North in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs Friday. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media

Joe Hoscheit’s importance to St. Charles East’s football team can’t be understated.

When the Saints need to gain some tough yards on the ground, Hoscheit is their man. When they need a big stop on defense, Hoscheit is normally leading the way.

The 6-foot, 215-pound senior rarely leaves the field as a starting fullback and middle linebacker for St. Charles East. He’ll be right in the thick of things as usual Friday night when the Saints visit Wheaton North in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs.

“It can be tough at times even though I get a break here and there,” Hoscheit said. “But it’s awesome being out there and not being on the sidelines. I love being in on the action.”

Performing double duty is nothing new for Hoscheit, a three-year varsity standout who played both linebacker and fullback while growing up. The lone exception was his junior year when he was limited to defense due to nagging ankle and shoulder injuries.

Back at full strength, Hoscheit has been a beast on both sides of the ball this year.

The bruising ball carrier has shown a nose for the end zone by scoring a team-best 10 touchdowns. He has 283 rushing yards on 61 carries to go along with 12 receptions for 219 yards.

But Hoscheit says his favorite part of contributing on offense is blocking for teammates, which comes as no surprise considering his physical style of play as a linebacker.

Hoscheit racked up 94 tackles, five sacks and two fumble recoveries during the regular season. Earlier this week he was unanimously voted Upstate Eight River Defensive Player of the Year by the league’s coaches.

“You look at Joe’s frame, there’s a lot of guys that are that size, but they don’t have the football savvy Joe has,” St. Charles East coach Mike Fields said. “To me he’s a throwback, old-school football player.”

Despite his noteworthy talents on the gridiron, Hoscheit’s athletic future will play out on the diamond. He accepted a baseball scholarship to Northwestern over the summer.

In many ways Hoscheit is following in the footsteps of his older brother Mike Hoscheit, who was a football and baseball standout at St. Charles East before going on to play college baseball at Butler. The younger Hoscheit certainly has the statistics to back up his decision to play baseball at the next level after posting a .412 batting average with 14 doubles, 13 stolen bases and 29 RBI last spring for the Saints.

“I really wasn’t sure going into last summer what I was going to do, but I was getting more looks for baseball and I figured I had a better chance to go Division I in baseball,” Hoscheit said. “Northwestern offered me, and I was looking for a really good academic school too, so that was a big part of my choice. I just decided that was a good fit for me.”

It won’t be long until Hoscheit gets back to the business of crushing baseballs, but for now his primary focus is on making St. Charles East’s first playoff football appearance since 2009 last as long as possible.

The Saints will certainly have their hands full with a Wheaton North squad that ranks among the state title contenders in Class 7A. But St. Charles East believes it is battle-tested after suffering its only three losses this year against Cary-Grove, Neuqua Valley and Batavia ­— all of which went undefeated in the regular season.

“Those three undefeated teams were a really good test,” Hoscheit said. “Neuqua got us pretty good, but we hung close with the other two.

“I think playing those tough teams in the regular season instead of waiting until the postseason has helped us a lot. It gives us a lot better chance to go out there and compete and win the game Friday.”

5-yd TD run by Joe Hoscheit

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