St. Edward's offensive line excels despite lack of size
St. Edward finishes the regular season with home games against Aurora Christian and Elmwood Park, needing to win both to become playoff eligible.
One continued strong suit for coach Mike Rolando's bunch has been the play of its linemen, who in most cases are giving up substantial amounts of height and weight in games.
Rolando shared with the Daily Herald an article on the linemen penned by Green Wave supporter Mark Harrington that highlights the continued gritty contributions players such as Tommy Wood (145 pounds), Owen Morgan (160 pounds), Ryan Sauceda, Cameron Sauceda, Nolan Pomeroy and Max Kauffman continue to make.
Harrington chronicled the team's win over Chicago Christian where the opposing nose guard had more than 100 pounds on Morgan, or the game against Riverside-Brookfield, which St. Ed led 17-14 at halftime, with a line with four players weighing between 210 to 225 pounds. Harrington counted 11 Chicago Christian players weighing more than 200 pounds, some in the 250 and 280 range, yet the Green Wave won 34-14.
From Harrington's story: "Tommy Wood, a nose guard and defensive tackle, convinces other teams he is for real despite checking in at only 145 pounds."
"Sometimes, I say to them, I'm going to shoot through that hole," Wood told Harrington, "and they don't believe me. They've called me skinny, they've called me weak. I use that to motivate me."
And this in the story from Rolando: "Week after week, game after game, our guys continue to amaze us," he said. "Outsized and outnumbered, they never give up -- the effort is awesome."
St. Edward has another key weapon at wide receiver in junior Timmy Warner.
"Timmy is a natural at running routes and catching the ball, but he has developed into a good blocker both on the line of scrimmage and in the open field," Rolando said.
Another standout has been quarterback Luciano Rolando who completed 6 of 6 passes, two of them for scores in a recent game. Carson Busto had a recent game where he had a rushing touchdown and receiving score. "Both come up and make big plays when called on to keep us close in tight games," Rolando said.
With two weeks left in the regular season for area high school football teams, the postseason picture is starting to become little clearer.
Here's what the field on the course looks like right now:
Well on their way to hosting a home playoff game in three weeks: Batavia (7-0), South Elgin (7-0) and Cary-Grove (7-0).
Stamped their playoff ticket (guaranteed in with 6 wins): Nobody else right now.
Playoff eligible with 5 wins: Hampshire (5-2), Aurora Christian (5-2).
Needs a win to become playoff eligible with 5 wins or win out and guarantee a spot: Marmion (4-3), Geneva (4-3), St. Charles North (4-3), Jacobs (4-3), Crystal Lake South (4-3), Bartlett (4-3), Larkin (4-3).
Needs to win out to become playoff eligible, but one more loss ends the chase: Kaneland (3-4), Elgin (3-4), St. Edward (3-4), West Aurora (3-4).
Eliminated: St. Charles East (2-5), Burlington Central (2-5), Dundee-Crown (0-7), Huntley (2-5), Aurora Central Catholic (1-6), Streamwood (1-6).
Should be an interesting final two weeks with 13 area teams still chasing the possibility of that 10th game.
The contributions of many:
Batavia being 7-0 is the result of many players stepping up throughout the season. Bulldogs wide receivers coach Jason Toth pointed to senior offensive lineman and captain Spencer Prats and junior defensive lineman Quinn Ahrens as two more players who fall into that category.
"Spencer is the leader of the offensive line," Toth said. "He can communicate and tell other linemen what to do for each play. Quinn started the year as an offensive lineman and now is a starter on the defensive line. Quinn is making an immediate impact on that side of the ball. He brings great energy to the defense."
Step right up:
Geneva coach Boone Thorgesen noted defensive end Mason Luker is playing on the defensive line for the first time ever this season. The results? Impressive. "Mason plays extremely hard," he said. "He really has stepped up."
The Vikings, who can become playoff eligible with a win Friday against Wheaton North, also have been aided by the two-way play of wideout/defensive back Tyler Costello. "He plays both ways and keeps making plays every time he is out there," Thorgesen said.
Three of a kind:
Crystal Lake South coach Rob Fontana, whose squad faces Prairie Ridge in Week 8, likes how Shane Moran, Kyle Kuffel and Michael Prokos, in particular, are taking things a step further late in the season.
"Shane is a three-year starter and is always around the ball and is looking to punish ball carriers," Fontana said. "Kyle has done a great job fighting through blocks and making big plays for us on defense. Michael is never off the field. He is a warrior for us -- plays all the reps on defense, offense and special teams."
More double duty:
Hampshire has a two-way standout of its own in Gage Homola, who plays tight end and middle linebacker for a Whip-Purs team that is a win away from a guaranteed playoff spot (faces H.D. Jacobs School Friday in Algonquin).
"Greg has been playing very well for us," Hampshire coach Jake Brosman said. "He is a two-way starter for us as a sophomore. He is willing to do his job every play and brings a lot of energy to the team."
Ray Hill also was huge for the Whips in a recent game against Prairie Ridge. He had 20 carries for more than 100 yards. "Ray played a great game," Brosman said. "He was a strong force in the run game."
Three consistent names Kaneland coach Pat Ryan has brought up this season is the trifecta of Aric Johnson, Tryoyer Carlson and Sam Gagne.
"Aric has been making big plays for us on offense, kick return and most recently on defense as well," Ryan said.
Carlson recently threw for 4 touchdowns and ran for another. "Troyer continues to develop at quarterback for us," Ryan said.
One of Carlson's key targets has been Gagne. "Sam continues to make big plays for us at wide receiver," Ryan said. "He has been demanding double teams from opponents, which allows our other kids to get into matchups they can win."
West Aurora coach Nate Eimer said Danny Gonzalez is essentially the team's fullback due to his exceptional blocking acumen. "He blocks all games and wins the battle all game," Eimer said.
Matt Tarr is another standout of late for the Blackhawks. He had 16 tackles in a recent game, while Tim Hancock, Eimer noted, continues to put up double-digit tackles each week. Gino Martino crossed the 1,000-yard passing barrier in his first five games played.
Next men in: Bartlett coach Matt Erlenbaugh said the team's unsung heroes are what he calls "our 'Next Men In' and our sophomores."
"Every day, they give the offense and defense great scout looks while working on the fundamentals of football, and also getting themselves used to the speed and physicality of varsity football," he said. "The energy and enthusiasm they bring each day is tremendous."
Maroon constant: Elgin coach Anthony Mason continues to rave about the consistent play of Clem McCullough.
"Clem has established himself as one of the best players in the Upstate Eight Conference and the state," he said. "Even with teams knowing we are going to him, he is still making plays, scoring touchdowns and rushing the ball at a high level. We have used him everywhere on offense to try and get him the ball and he does great things with it in his hands."
Mason said sophomore Matt Lawson also has stepped up in a big way for the Maroons. "He has only played football for a year and a half, coming from soccer," the coach pointed out. "He is going to be a star, and as he continues to work and get better, he gives us multiple ways to attack on defense, offense and special teams, which we like to do."
Mason added Kristian Davis has flown a bit under the radar this fall. "Kristian has started to become more aware of how he can make the big plays in the game," he said. "He plays defensive end, but we are starting to use him like an athlete and he is rising to the occasion."
Elgin, which faces rival Larkin this week, is 3-4 and needs to win out to become playoff eligible. The Maroons started the season 0-3. "This is a huge stat for us because it shows we don't have quit in our program," Mason said. "Going 0-3 is something that a lot of teams would have got down on each other, quit, give less effort. This team has none of that and the fight to stay anchored is impressive to watch."
Making the most of it: Heading into Week 7, South Elgin's Jalen Jones had 7 touchdowns on 11 receptions and was averaging more than 28 yards per catch. "Jalen has been awesome on both sides of the ball for us," South Elgin coach Dragan Teonic said. "Defensively, he has intercepted several balls while returning punts and kicks."
Outside linebacker Salvi Macaluso also has been a difference-maker for the unbeaten Storm. "Salvi has been a solid player all year," Teonic said. "He is having an all-area/all-conference-type season."
Clearing a path: Larkin coach Grant Dietz loves the improvement he has seen from his offensive line that includes Michael Hibbler, Geovanny Lara, Anthony Cintora, Malyk Bradford and Carlos Santana.
"The offensive line doesn't usually get a lot of attention unless it's negative, but this time it's positive," Dietz noted. "Those guys have worked hard as a unit to adjust to a different offense, dealt with some injuries, but have stuck together through it all. They were outstanding against a stout Bartlett defense."
Streamwood update: The Sabres continue to get strong play from the likes of Michael Estrada, Eric Gomez, Jojo Chamopoulis and Richard Rodriguez.
"Mikey has been towing the load while players have been out," Streamwood coach Keith McMaster said. "Eric, Jojo and Richard continue to keep the offense rolling even against the toughest of teams."
Also of note, first year senior player Joel Sandoval, who has been written in this space in previous weeks for his kicking and punting prowess, now is also the Sabres' quarterback, the fourth to play the position this season while others have been out, McMaster noted.