Daily Herald's 2017 Season Coverage
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updated: 9/4/2014 9:30 PM

Mundelein happy to take the plunge -- together

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  • Mundelein's team-building trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula was a big hit.

    Mundelein's team-building trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula was a big hit.
    Submitted photo

  • Mundelein's team-building trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula helped broaden the horizon for many players.

    Mundelein's team-building trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula helped broaden the horizon for many players.
    Submitted photo


Moms are famous for saying things like, "Just because all your friends jump off a cliff doesn't mean that you have to."

Of course, teenagers are just as famous for not always listening to their moms.

Wonder how many Mundelein football players heard their moms in their heads as they quite literally jumped off a cliff this summer. A 30-foot cliff.

No joke.

The Mustangs, who voluntarily took their leap of faith after watching head coach George Kaider jump first, landed in a river below. All safely, for the record.

"It was pretty intimidating to be up there, looking down at that," Mundelein senior wide receiver Jake Buscher said. "When I jumped, I was scared out of my mind. I'm thinking the whole time, 'This is a long way down.' It took forever to get to the bottom. But once I hit the water, I felt pretty accomplished. That was a challenging task."

It was part of the most adventurous team camp Kaider has ever staged. The setting was the Upper Peninsula of Michigan along the shores of Lake Superior, and about 60 kids and 10 coaches attended.

(About half of the kids chose to make the 30-foot leap.)

The Mustangs also took river hikes, explored a canyon, climbed a 2,000-foot mountain, had bonfires in the sand and swam out to a lighthouse in the lake.

Oh yeah, and the Mustangs played some football, happily using the facilities at Michigan Tech as they prepared for their season opener last week, a 34-20 loss to Wheeling.

Mundelein will host Highland Park at 7:30 p.m., tonight in its home opener.

"We're trying to give our kids life experiences that are meaningful to them," said Kaider, known as an adventurous outdoorsman who loves to kayak and hike and explore nature. "We call our program a brotherhood. A place like the Upper Peninsula…that's where those types of relationships in a brotherhood are formed. We want them to feel like they belong to something special."

Mission accomplished.

Despite the program's struggles of the past, which include only five wins over the past six seasons, there seems to be a positive, optimistic vibe in the locker room this season.

Senior offensive lineman Joe Nagel says the team's trip to Michigan over the summer, which was financed by $20,000 that the players accumulated through various fundraising activities, set the foundation for that.

"That experience has already helped us," Nagel said. "It was such a great thing to do for bonding. There were players, younger players, I had never really talked to before the trip and now I talk to them every day.

"Part of playing football is that you have to know the people you're playing with. You want to have more of a bond with them. When you spend a week with them, away from home and away from school, and you do the things we did, that helps. You grow as a family. You get to know each other pretty well."

What Kaider knows now about his players is that they are determined to change the course of the program for good. He says he's never had a more committed or more driven group since he took over as head coach three years ago.

"Our boys want to win. They want to make the playoffs," Kaider said. "They don't want to be known as the 'W' on everyone's schedule.

"We are different from the teams of the past at Mundelein. We don't want to be known as the losers. We did a lot of goal-setting on our trip and the kids are determined. They think we can win this year."

Buscher says he and his teammates are already winners.

"The stuff off the field is what I really like about the football program," said Buscher, who didn't play as a freshman and sophomore but was curious about all of the Mustangs' off-field activities and gave it a try last year. "Coach Kaider and his staff tell us about how high school football is just a blip in your life. He has us do a lot of activities that will also help us be good people, good teammates, good men and someday good fathers.

"In football, I think there's more of an opportunity to work on stuff like that because there's this heightened sense of togetherness and brotherhood. It's all been really good for our program."

• Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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