Scouting Elk Grove: Osei's Grenadiers are staying on message

By Dick Quagliano
Daily Herald Correspondent

Elk Grove's Miles Osei is on a mission.

The former Wheeling assistant coach, also a standout at Prospect and Illinois, knows that in order to succeed, you have to make some changes an some sacrifices. And the current Elk Grove head coach, who is in his second season at the helm, knows that it takes time.

"I think we are slowly progressing," Osei said. "Last year's group did a good job. They began laying a foundation for this group. And these guys this year are doing a great job of responding. We are not where we would like to be, but we are making strides in that direction."

Osei says he is drawing on all his experiences to help turn around things for the Grenadiers. Elk Grove went 0-9 last year and has lost 19 consecutive games.

"I think my times at Wheeling made me understand that culture is different than my time at Prospect or at Illinois," Osei said. "We changed that culture at Wheeling. There are difficulties at every school. We are trying to change the culture and the program and our school. And the players and coaches are accepting that challenge."

Osei says honesty is the starting point for building that cultural change.

"We all agree that we need to be honest about where we are at," Osei said. "We let them know when they are good teammates and when they are not. When it is positive, know that it is genuine, and when they are not, they know that it is true. Balance is important."

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Elk Grove played plenty of younger talent last season. It will still be a young team this fall, but one that's more experienced.

It begins at quarterback where Charlie Janczak, a junior who started a few games last season, will lead the Grens.

"He is looking pretty good this year," Osei said "He runs the ball well and his arm strength is looks good as well. He got a lot of varsity experience last year and that should help."

Juniors Mark Matos and Andy Blankenship will be at running back along with sophomore Ian Ridge.

At wide receiver, Osei will look at a strong group of seniors to get the job done. Vinny Faciano, Dillon Elsner and Matt Crimens all got some playing time last season and that should help the Grens.

The offensive line looks stout with three returnees. Blake Berthold and Tim Varga are both seniors who started last season alongside Cameron Cruse, who is a junior. Newcomers include Jack Brunn, a senior who's returning to football, and junior Nick Shaheen, who played a lot last season as a sophomore.


"Our lines on both sides of the ball are our strong suit," Osei said. "We have the most experience there."

On the defensive line the Grens have Varga, Andrew Clausen, who is a junior and started last season, and Devaughn Tillman, who is a senior and played a lot last fall. Eric Iterlien, Jake Izzo and Cruse will rotate at that final spot.

Blankenship, who started a couple of games at linebacker before an injury, will be back there again this season. Joey Gafkill, who is a sophomore, Crimens, Elsner and Kosei Kusunoki will also play linebacker.

The defensive backfield will also have some experience with Fasiano, Elsner, Matos, Shane Crimmens and Ethan Serna all working in spots.

Elk Grove, which has 56 players on its roster, opens with Hoffman Estates at home, the first of two home games to start the season. The Grens have 3 of their first 4 games at home which should hopefully build some momentum heading into conference play.

"That should help," Osei said. "We want to build off of that home crowd."

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