Winning a state football title is a monumental achievement. Defending Class 3A champion IC Catholic Prep's thirst remains unquenched.
"The work ethic of the kids has been something else this year. We're still hungry," said Bill Krefft, who contributed to Knights title teams of 2002, 2008 and 2016 as a player, assistant, then head coach.
Despite graduating Jordan Rowell, the eighth leading rusher in state history, from a 14-0 team that outscored foes 721 (third all-time) to 94, this year's ICCP squad retains drive, skill and experience.
Krefft counted 14 returning starters, headed by all-state quarterback Luke Ricobene. The senior, who in 2016 passed for 2,389 yards and 30 touchdowns and ran for 648 yards and 11 scores, has led the zone read offense in 34 of the Knights' last 36 games.
"He's always been a good decision-maker," Krefft said, "but now he's a great decision-maker."
Lazerick Eatman, who made 41 tackles at cornerback and ran for 160 yards in last year's semifinal at Monticello, is the new featured back with support from Dan Gibbons, Jake Lytton and Steven Crady.
Receiver positions still require depth, but the Saunders twins, Khalil and Khali -- the latter with an Iowa State offer -- combined for 34 receptions, 488 yards and 6 touchdowns last season.
Ricky Mysliwiec and Dylan Packer anchor the offensive line. Both offensively and defensively IC Catholic has excelled rotating in younger linemen such as Koby Reed, Ryan Kenneally, Mike Johnson and Kemon Reese -- who also made a team-high 152 tackles at linebacker last year.
Many players will get reps on both offense and defense, common in ICCP's classification. It worked like a charm in 2016.
"Our goal is to win a state championship every single year," Krefft said, "but the first step for us is to win the day."
-- Dave Oberhelman
One to watch: Season-opening host and nonconference rival Bishop McNamara has gone 3-1 over the Knights.
Coach: Bill Krefft (sixth year, 42-15).
2016 record: 14-0, 5-0, first in the Metro Suburban Blue.
Top players: Lazerick Eatman (RB-CB, 5-10, 165, sr.), Mike Johnson (OL-DL, 6-0, 245, jr.), Ryan Kenneally (OL, 5-11, 215, jr.), Ricky Mysliwiec (OL-DL, 6-1, 275, jr.), Dylan Packer (OL, 6-1, 205, sr.), Kemon Reese (OL-LB, 5-10, 190, jr.), Luke Ricobene (QB, 5-11, 165, sr.) Khali Saunders (WR-LB, 6-3, 215, jr.), Khalil Saunders (WR-DB, 5-11, 185, jr.).
Fri, 8/25, IC Catholic Prep at Bishop McNamara, 7:15 p.m.
Fri, 9/1, St. Laurence at IC Catholic Prep, 7:15 p.m.
Fri, 9/8, Elmwoodk Park at IC Catholic Prep, 7:15 p.m.
Fri, 9/15, IC Catholic Prep at Chicago Christian, 7:15 p.m.
Fri, 9/22, St. Edward at IC Catholic Prep, 7:15 p.m.
Fri, 9/29, IC Catholic Prep at Riverside-Brookfield, 7:15 p.m.
Sat, 10/7, IC Catholic Prep at Wheaton Academy, 1 p.m.
Fri, 10/13, Glenbard South at IC Catholic Prep, 7:15 p.m.
Fri, 10/20, Fenton at IC Catholic Prep, 7:15 p.m.