Football is often about adjustments. Perhaps no one has made a greater adjustment than Immaculate Conception senior lineman Sean Fenton.
Born 75 percent deaf, at the age of 3 he received a hearing aid he said actually deteriorated his hearing to "absolute zero."
At 4 he got a cochlear implant, which he wears constantly except for swimming, sleep and football. The last is a challenge he's learned to overcome.
"It was a big adjustment for me, but it was also a big adjustment for any coach I've had because they've always had to obviously tell me something," Fenton said. "They just can't scream from the sideline. They have to sign it and they have to tell me personally everything I need to know."
Fenton and his coaches have devised simple hand signals, not true sign language, to come to an understanding. It's helped Fenton, now in his sixth year of playing football, to have shifted to center after playing left tackle as a junior. He also plays on the defensive line.
"He's got to go on sight, and he's got to go on reaction to the ball," said Knights coach Bill Krefft. "The hardest part is on the whistle to stop, he's got to look left and look right to see if people are stopped."
Quarterback Demetrius Carr barks out a play in the huddle, then relays the play to Fenton in hand signs. Rather than relying on voice commands to get the snap off, Carr also needs to apply pressure to Fenton. Carr said the communication is clear.
"We're pretty tight on that, and if he has a question he'll ask me when he can hear again," Carr said. "And on the snaps, he can't hear anything so I'll give him a little push so he knows when to snap it. When you actually step back and think about it, it's like, wow, I can't believe we're doing this."
Fenton acknowledges it is a unique thing, but the Knights have taken it in stride.
"I think it's a very different situation that not a lot of people have to deal with," he said. "But this whole team, they just adjusted to it and for that I'm so thankful. I haven't had problems with anyone on the team. They're always helping me anyway they can."
Glenbard North, a program known for defense, gave up an uncharacteristic 42 points in a Week 1 loss to Batavia. The Panthers' defense bounced back huge in last week's 31-16 win over Carmel.
"Very uplifting, especially against a run team like Carmel," said Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens.
Inexperienced heading into the season, linebacker Mario Rodriguez -- who last week returned an interception for a touchdown and forced a fumble -- and lineman Andrew Mulshine have led the way as Glenbard North gets its varsity legs on defense.
The Panthers hope to grow up even more as they begin DuPage Valley Conference play Friday at West Chicago.
"It's always a pride thing on defense," Wilkens said. "There were still some mistakes out there, but I think we're headed in the right direction."
Following St. Francis' 28-21 win over Vernon Hills, one of the Spartans suggested quarterback Michael Robinson's 3 touchdown passes were "a Purnell-era passing record."
In fact Spartans coach Greg Purnell does not recall throwing for 3 touchdowns in one game during his six-year tenure after coming out of Iowa. Now he's got a senior quarterback who can do more than run the Wing-T.
Purnell said a variety of experiences helped Robinson get where he is. His father, John, is a former Lake Park quarterback, and older brother Brett was a receiver on St. Francis' 2008 Class 5A state championship team.
Purnell has an old St. Viator quarterback, Stan Bobowski, on his staff as a receivers coach. Michael Robinson also worked with former Wheaton North and NFL quarterback Kent Graham in the off-season.
"I think between all those people he's ended up getting some pretty good instruction," Purnell said.
What Robinson did as a junior set the stage for this season.
"I think Michael did really well when, as a junior playing behind Nick Donati, he took it upon himself to work his tail off and make himself better every day, even though he knew his chances to make it on the field were slim and none," Purnell said.
"Michael Robinson worked extremely hard all last fall being a backup. That's really a testimony to him for his work ethic and desire to be a good quarterback."
Trailing Bloom Twp. 27-24 with 2:18 left in last week's game, Glenbard South found itself on its 3-yard line without a timeout.
The Raiders strung together a 9-play drive capped by a Zach Smith touchdown to take the lead and seal the 31-27 win. Not only did the Raiders score, they also left 58 seconds on the clock.
"It was really cool to watch," said Raiders coach Jeremy Cordell. "I looked in their eyes and they were composed. It was a heck of a drive."
A good start:
Lisle's Nick Saul has taken some lumps as a three-year starting quarterback. Now he's dishing it right back.
The 6-foot-5 senior completed 13 of 26 passes for 198 yards and 3 touchdowns all to Dawon Burrell in the Lions' come-from-behind win over Hersher, the rare Interstate Eight Small Division win over a Large-school opponent.
During a long drive spanning the third and fourth quarters, Lisle coach Dan Sanko said Saul's maturity helped convert four times on third down and twice on fourth down, on passes to Burrell and to Ryan VanVolkenburg. A couple times during the game Saul threw the ball away rather than risk interception, and he also got on the board with a quarterback sneak.
"He's making some pretty good decisions right now," Sanko said.
Saul's improved ability to quickly move on from a play that didn't work has also had "a calming affect on me," Sanko said. And that's not easy to do.
What Sanko also appreciates is Saul's attitude in claiming the captaincy of the Lions.
"He's taken on that role and he's taken it on in a great way. He'll do anything for you," Sanko said, including blending junior and senior players.
"He's helping that along better just by the way he's been. He's really been a great leader."
Montini added two more players to its injury list last Friday against Lincoln-Way East.
Receiver Mark Gorogianis suffered a concussion and will not play Friday against Wheaton Academy.
Quarterback Alex Wills left on a stretcher with a neck whiplash injury after a blindside hit. He practiced Saturday, though, and was in school Tuesday.
Running back Dimitri Taylor should be 100 percent from his calf injury sustained in the opener, coach Chris Andriano said.
Like Taylor, receiver Joey Borsellino ran a few plays against Lincoln-Way East, but the sprained MCL in his knee didn't allow him to cut. He's day-to-day, the coach said. "It's adding up a little, though I think we'll be all right," Andriano said.
Winless after two games is not where Naperville Central expected to be, but the Redhawks have no doubt they can bounce back after losing to District 204 rivals Waubonsie Valley and Neuqua Valley.
"The truth is we played two buzzsaws," said Redhawks coach Mike Stine. "Those are two very good teams."
Ten new offensive starters, including junior quarterback Jake Kolbe, have caused some growing pains. Even with last week's 41-28 loss to Neuqua Valley, though, there was reason for optimism.
The Redhawks ran 72 offensive plays, returned a punt for a touchdown and committed no turnovers while forcing three. But after 10-15 "wasted" plays, as Stine terms them, the game went out of reach.
Naperville Central looks to drastically trim the "wasted" plays Friday at Glenbard East.
"I think there is a lot to look forward to for us," Stine said. "After only two games we're already battle-tested. I think that'll help us heading into the (DuPage Valley Conference)."
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