Hersey hopes its season-opening 21-14 victory at Glenbrook North is a clear sign of changing times in its football program.
The Huskies overcame a variety of adversities on the home field of the reigning Central Suburban North champions to pull out what could be a signature win for second-year coach Dragan Teonic.
"Every program needs one," Teonic said as Hersey snapped a five-game losing streak. "Hopefully we've turned the corner, but there's still a lot of work that needs to be done. We still have a lot of stuff to fix."
It was the first time since 2005 the Huskies beat a team with a winning record or coming off a winning season. That year they opened with a 31-14 win over Lyons team which went 8-3 in 2004.
"It was a good win for us and it gives us more confidence," said Hersey senior safety Frank Kalble. "We didn't know what to expect going into our first game but it really helped show people what we can do.
"We knew we had the talent to win the game. We needed to execute and we did a pretty good job of it, so I wasn't surprised."
Neither was Hersey senior nose guard Ismael Najera, one of the leaders of a defense that allowed only 227 total yards. Glenbrook North running back Grant Rushing, who had 1,162 yards last year, got 54 of his 111 on 1 carry.
"We knew what we were up against," Najera said. "It worried us a little bit but not too much because we were prepared. Defensively everybody played great."
And one of the big differences for Hersey was its response after Glenbrook North tied the game with third- and fourth-quarter touchdowns.
"Last year we didn't know how to make a defensive stop when we needed it and it was frustrating," Teonic said.
"This game was the exact same type of setup but our kids found a way and found the will."
Kalble and Najera said the offseason work was a key to the defensive improvement.
"We're definitely stronger and faster," Kalble said. "We put in a lot of work in the weight room and did a lot of speed work."
And Hersey also has already showed it may be better prepared to handle adversity. Joe Perkins, one of its top defensive players, was lost for the season in the summer to a torn ACL in his knee.
Then last Friday, senior Stephen Kuc suffered a season-ending ACL tear shortly after scoring Hersey's first touchdown on a 50-yard run.
"I feel really bad for those kids because they've worked so hard," Teonic said. "The did everything we asked them to do."
Teonic said there is plenty of depth as 5-foot-6 "lightning bug" Brian Kiss caught 6 passes for 66 yards. Brad Zaucha threw for 221 yards with touchdown passes to Andrew Collins and Justin Jobski.
The Huskies are also in good shape with players such as Najera, who worked in the off-season to earn a starting role after seeing limited action a year ago.
"Everybody is important on our team," Najera said. "It's a special thing and a special feeling when you are part of a team that actually cares and everybody treats you like family.
"That's how our football team is. We're such a big family."
And definitely a happier one after last Friday.
Barrington pays tribute to the military: Barrington coach Joe Sanchez said he had a couple of sources of inspiration for his program's "Military Appreciation Night" when it hosts Elk Grove at 7:30 p.m.
One was watching a college game between Utah and TCU last year where they paid tribute to the military and wore special uniforms. The other is Tim Rife, who teaches in Barrington's social studies department with Sanchez, has sons in the military.
"I wanted to do something to give back and I wanted our kids to connect with it," Sanchez said. "I wanted to tie it within the community."
Barrington will wear special uniforms for tonight's game and admission is free for all active, retired or veterans and their families (with a military ID or proof of military service).
In the last day of Barrington's summer training camp, Sanchez took players and coaches on a trip to see what goes on at the Great Lakes naval training base in North Chicago.
"It gives them an idea of what men and women from around the country are willing to do to fight for our freedom," Sanchez said.
"It was a very enlightening trip for our guys and coaches."
Elk Grove's 'Neon Dejan': Nick Meyer left an impressive legacy in his three years on the Elk Grove varsity before heading to play at South Dakota.
And last year's Daily Herald All-Area captain also left an impression on Dejan Basara, who is replacing Meyer at quarterback.
"One of the greatest things Nick did in the off-season is he continued to work with Dejan and he mentored him," Elk Grove coach Brian Doll said in the preseason. "He's improved so significantly."
What kind of impression did Basara make in his first varsity start at quarterback at Highland Park?
Basara rushed for 132 yards and 3 touchdowns, was 11-for-17 passing for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns, kicked a 34-yard field goal and made all 5 of his extra points in a 39-12 victory. He's also in his second year as a defensive starter at outside linebacker.
"We joked that he did everything but unload the bus," Doll said. "He's a great leader and we knew he'd be special. He was a secret for one week.
"He had a summer that surprised me but the game didn't. He was able to adjust to the speed of the game so easily and since he started on defense every game last year, that's where he might be ahead of some kids playing their first varsity game."
Conference calls: For the fourth straight year the MSL East went 5-1 in its openers.
"I thought maybe 3-3 would be great considering some of the matchups," said Elk Grove coach Brian Doll.
The West went 2-4 to give the MSL a winning record for the fourth straight time as well.
The Central Suburban League went 4-8 overall and the North division lost all six of its openers.
The only times since 1999 the CSL North was above .500 in openers was at 4-2 in 2003 and 2001.
Comcast games of the week: Comcast has a big double-header this week with Cary-Grove and Lake Zurich (noon Saturday and 7 p.m. Monday) and Montini and Loyola (4 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Tuesday).
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