Subject Line (article title)
Send to (required)E-mail
Send from (required)E-mail
The O'Donoghues have seen "0's." Too many.
Winless seasons (0-9).
Zero points scored.
Oh, it's been tough.
Now Dillon O'Donoghue gets one final chance to make a point. He wants to win a football game — for himself, for his football brothers, for his real brothers.
If the Mustangs are viewed as zeros, they're sick of it.
A senior safety/wide receiver who just might be one of the best players in the North Suburban Conference, the 6-foot-3, 175-pound O'Donoghue is the brother of two former Mustangs. Mike O'Donoghue, who's playing outside linebacker at Augustana College, and Connor O'Donoghue, who's a wide receiver for Carroll University, both played for Mundelein in recent years.
They were good football players, but the Mustangs didn't have enough of them.
Since last qualifying for the state playoffs in 2004, Mundelein is 12-60.
"Watching my brothers play, you could just tell (the team) didn't have the intensity that we have this year," O'Donoghue said. "The players wouldn't go out there full speed. They didn't have the confidence that they could win any games. But this year, we know we can win games. We just have to go out there and fight every time."
The Mustangs have gone 0-9 in each of the last two seasons. They haven't won a game since a 14-13 squeaker over Zion-Benton in their 2010 finale.
Can you say, "Motivated football player?"
"After watching my brothers play, I just wanted to come here and change the way the community views the football program," O'Donoghue said. "We want to show (the community) how hard we're working and how good we can actually be."
The Mustangs get their chance Opening Night on their beautiful turf, when they host Wheeling. The home team will be looking to avenge last year's 23-22 loss at the Wildcats' place.
"I don't want to put pressure on our kids, but it's really probably the biggest game in our school's history," second-year Mundelein coach George Kaider said. "You never hear a coach say, 'We got to put all of our marbles in Game 1.' But let's understand we play in the best league in the state, possibly. We're playing against a team we can compete with. And, we haven't won a game in two and a half years.
"Expectations have never been higher here," Kaider added. "There are a lot of people here looking at us and wanting to know, 'What are going to be the fruits of our labor?' "
Before anyone accuses Kaider of hyperbole, understand that an Opening Night win for the Mustangs can set the tone for the rest of the season. An Opening Night loss can do the same, negatively.
Then again, don't count on the latter.
"We have guys that care," senior tailback/linebacker Emanuel Jones said when asked the difference between this year and last. "Last year some people didn't care. They'd be like, 'We know we're going to lose.' But this year everybody is a winner. We all care about the team. We all care about each other."
"Everyone's intense," senior outside linebacker Albert Mota said. "We're working hard."
The bodies provide proof.
Kaider raves about the sculpted physiques of so many of his players. The Mustangs look like, well, football players.
"(It's) all the lifting and eating," sophomore quarterback Gavin Graves explained of his frame. The 6-footer is now 185 pounds and could pass for a senior, not just because of how he looks physically but because of how demonstrative and assertive he is when talking to his teammates, most of whom are older than him.
"Our younger players, you can just see their bodies have transformed," Graves added. "Just the training and work has transformed all of their bodies into pure athletes."
Take a look at the kid they call "Hutch," who, bulk-wise, isn't much. Matt Hutchison — who's a team captain along with Graves, Mota and O'Donoghue — will start at fullback. The senior stands 5-6, weighs 140 pounds and counts a measly 8-percent body fat.
"We're showing people that, 'Yeah, we might not be known for being a winning program, but we put our work in like we are one,' " Hutchison said. "I think that's something that sets us apart at this school."
The Mustangs know it's time to walk the walk.
They're not tired from the work Kaider has demanded of them for the last year-plus. They're just tired of losing.
"I just want to see this team win because I think we deserve it," O'Donoghue said. "We've given it all we got. We've gone to the hill (at Community Park). We've run up it (on Fridays after school). We've conditioned probably harder than any team in our conference, and on the field it should show it. I believe this year we will."
He has zero doubt.
• Follow Joe on Twitter: @JoeAguilar64