Scouting the Elk Grove Grenadiers
There is a quarterback competition at Elk Grove this season, and who better to access the candidates than head coach Miles Osei, a former quarterback himself.
Osei, who graduated from Prospect in 2010 and then went on to play quarterback at the University of Illinois, is hoping that his quarterback competition will not only fire up his quarterbacks but will also create an infectious electricity throughout his entire team.
The Grenadiers could use a jolt to start the season. They struggled through a 1-8 season last year and are looking to turn that, and a long, frustrating history around.
A year before in 2017, Elk Grove went 0-9, and the program had won just two games in the five seasons prior.
"Our kids have that underdog mentality," Osei said. "Not a lot of people expect a lot from them, but they expect a lot from themselves and I'm excited for them to show that off. They are tired of being the victims from Elk Grove and they want to bring this program to a different place."
Quarterbacks Charlie Janczak and Joey Gaskill are both hoping to be the one to lead the charge.
Janczak, a senior, started the first eight games of last season while Gaskill got the start in the season finale. They have been challenging each other all summer.
"We are in a quarterback battle right now," Osei said. "Both kids are similar in style. They are smart, they work hard, and we put a lot on the plate of our quarterback. I put the most demands on my quarterbacks because I understand that everything goes through them.
"I think a little competition is good, and ideally, we'll have a competition going on a weekly basis because that's how you get the best out of your players."
Either Janczak or Gaskill will be sharing the backfield with junior Ian Ridge, one of the best running backs returning in the Mid-Suburban League. Last year as a sophomore, Ridge rushed for 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns.
"He carried a lot of our load last year," Osei said of Ridge. "He is a natural runner. He has great vision and footwork and he is extremely coachable."
Elk Grove's line is solid with experience with the return of three-year starters Cameron Cruse and Andrew Clausen. James Trost, a junior who started as a sophomore, also returns to the offensive line.
Meanwhile, wide receiver Shane Crimmins is also a returning starter on offense.
Defensively, the Grens are loaded with 3-year starters in Crimmins at cornerback and Kosei Kusunoik and Mark Matos at safety.
Overall, Elk Grove has five 3-year starters in the mix of starters.
"We were just talking to the guys about all the 3-year starters we have and how that can be an advantage in terms of expectations and how they understand how to work hard and how their experience on the field is so helpful," Osei said.
Rounding out the returning starters on defense are Cruse, Clausen and Jake Izzo on the line as well as Gaskill at linebacker. Osei is unsure at this point if Gaskill would still play linebacker if he wins the starting quarterback job.
Focusing on those type of football decisions is what Osei looks forward to. He's spent much of the first two years of his tenure changing minds and vibes.
"The kids are doing a really good job of doing everything we are asking them to do to progress," Osei said. "The program had won just two games in five years before we got here and it's hard to change that losing mentality. But we are moving in the right direction. The kids are taking this very seriously."