Quarterback Ray Beckman is among the returning players giving Grayslake Central reason for optimism.
JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer
For so many Grayslake Central football players in recent years, the journey, which included all those daily quarter-mile-long walks to the practice field across the street, never ended with a trip to the state playoffs.
But Rams coach Nick Goshe won't forget the Ryan Lunds, Cassidy Meltons, Kevin O'Rourkes, Justin Squillos, Mike Gentiles and Angelo Garganos.
"We started something 3-4 years ago," said Goshe, naming names, such as the aforementioned ones.
"They passed it on to Kevin Hein and those guys last year. You get those type of kids involved in your program and you build off those kids."
Since taking over the Rams, Goshe has seen his team increase its win total in each of his four seasons. The Rams baby-stepped from 0 wins in 2007 to 1 the following season, jumped to 4 in 2009 and vaulted to 6 last year, earning the program's first playoff berth since 2003.
Now, Goshe's practice field is filled with inspired players and high expectations.
"They saw the formula of how to do some things," Goshe said. "Now, what's nice is, the younger kids don't know any better."
The Rams' new senior leaders include quarterback Ray Beckman and third-year varsity running back Joey Valdivia. A strong running attack led by Vinnie Culhane, Valdivia and Jahard Nelson carried the Rams early last season. But by midseason Beckman was throwing the ball effectively and, at 6 feet 5 and 200 pounds, looking like a potential star.
"As we got more confident in him as the season went on, we kind of unleashed the reins," Goshe said. "We let him start checking at the line and start throwing more.
"It helped that we were pretty proficient at running the ball. We were able to do some things with Ray because of the other weapons around him. We're hoping to do almost a reverse now. Now we got to use Ray to let our other weapons develop."
Valdivia can be a bruising runner. He placed third at 189 pounds in the Class 2A state wrestling meet last winter.
Returning tight end Jimmy Molitor checks in at 6-5, 205.
"We look great in the media guide," Goshe joked. "But the bread and butter is up front. We got to win the war in the trenches. So that's what we work on a lot. We got a lot of great skill guys on both sides of the ball, but we need our bigs to step up, and they know that."
The Rams lost some speed with Culhane and Nelson graduating, but more fast guys remain.
"We have speed here," Goshe said. "We develop speed. That's what we work for. Our off-season is based on power and speed. Our kids run track. They play other sports. We got track coaches on staff. We're still pretty fast."
The offensive line returns Charlie Risinger (6-2, 180) and Steve Moioffer (6-0, 205) "smart kids," Goshe said but the Rams won't overpower opponents with their bulk.
"We're a school of linebackers," Goshe said. "So we have to be quick. We have to be agile, nasty. We want to finish things. We want to play low."
On defense, Dylan Hay, who just missed qualifying for the state wrestling meet last winter, replaces the graduated Cam Neely at free safety. Hein (Northern Illinois, wrestling) also graduated, as did all-area defensive end/tight end C.J. Stempeck (Colgate).
"There's a theme there," Goshe said with a laugh, referring to Hay and Hein. "We like those wrestlers on defense."
Also back on defense are linebackers Jake Paust and Kristian Meehan and strong safety Stephen Burgess.
The Rams return confidence, too.
"The expectations are higher," Goshe said. "Our practices are much harder. There are guys on the coaching staff who have now been together."
Sounds like a program on the rise.
Pos. Name Ht/Wt Yr.
WR Jon Gurchak 6-0/180 Sr.
or WR Bryan Clancy 5-10/165 Sr.
OT Charlie Risinger 6-2/180 Sr.
OG Steve Moioffer 6-0/205 Sr.
C Thomas Halloran 5-11/150 Sr.
OG Cameron Hosimer 6-3/260 Jr.
OT Jake Paust 6-2/180 Sr.
QB Ray Beckman 6-5/200 Sr.
RB Joey Valdivia 5-10/215 Sr.
RB Rajneish Poyser 5-10/175 Sr.
WR/RB Devon Osburn 5-11/160 Sr.
or WR/RB Vince Smith 5-9/175 Jr.
TE Jimmy Molitor 6-5/205 Sr.
Pos. Name Ht/Wt Yr.
DL Luke Stancil 6-2/280 Jr.
DL Cameron Hosimer 6-3/260 Jr.
DL Charlie Risinger 6-2/180 Sr.
LB Jake Paust 6-2/180 Sr.
LB Kristian Meehan 6-2/210 Sr.
LB Steve Moioffer 6-0/205 Sr.
LB Mark Long 5-9/170 Sr.
or LB Nick Traske 5-11/170 Sr.
DB Devon Osburn 5-11/160 Sr.
SS Stephen Burgess 5-10/185 Sr.
FS Dylan Hay 5-11/185 Sr.
CB Nathan Malinski 5-9/150 Jr.
or CB Davonte Jennings 5-8/145 Jr.