Scouting the Antioch Sequoits
Back to back to back to back ...
Those consecutive-conference championships seem endless, like the number of college scholarship offers Tre Watson keeps collecting.
Expectations are high again for Antioch's football team, which seeks its fourth Northern Lake County Conference championship in a row. Boasting three Division-I talents on offense, the Sequoits also understand that many fans, including themselves, are expecting a deep playoff run.
Their 2018 season ended with a loss to host Notre Dame in the Class 6A state quarterfinals.
"I wouldn't say there's that much pressure (to advance deep into the state playoffs)," Watson said. "We know what we have to do. We know what we have to get it done. We're out here working. We got young guys stepping up to the plate. We're focusing on going further in the state (playoffs).
"But we're going to take this year game by game through the conference," he added, "and hopefully win that back-to-back-to-back-to-back conference championship."
While quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis more than lived up to expectations last fall after starting on varsity for Carmel Catholic his freshman year, Watson also had a breakout campaign. His 8 interceptions led the NLCC, and he also caught 22 passes, including 4 touchdowns. He says when college coaches saw him during the track season, his offers started piling up.
The 6-foot-4, 195-pound senior cornerback/wide receiver counts 13 offers, including those from Northern Illinois, Wyoming, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Eastern Illinois, Eastern Kentucky, Fordham, Holy Cross and Bowling Green.
The junior Kaliakmanis (6-4, 197) and his big brother, wide receiver Dino Kaliakmanis, both committed to Minnesota in the off-season.
"Of course it alleviates pressure," Athan Kaliakmanis said of his decision to verbally commit to a Power Five university after his sophomore season. "A lot more people have heard of me now. A lot more people are expecting more from me. I'm just looking to show that I can do it all."
Watson, Athan Kaliakmanis and linebackers Jax DeVaughn and Ryan Shaputis were voted team captains by their teammates. Antioch coach Brian Glashagel can't remember his team ever having a junior serve as a captain. Last year, Kaliakmanis set several school passing records, including yards (2,083) and TDs (26). He also rushed for 578 yards and 11 touchdowns.
"This year I'm watching a lot more film," Kaliakmanis said. "I've been watching Lake Forest (opening-night opponent on Aug. 30) since the day after we lost in the playoffs. I'm looking to complete more passes this year and throw less picks."
Glashagel doesn't worry about his QB's stats.
"I think that's going to happen naturally," said Glashagel, who's 85-37 in 12 seasons at Antioch. "I'm thinking, 'What does it take to have a quarterback that's state-championship caliber and is going to play at a Power Five school?' Taking control of the offense and leadership. I give him control as far as calling the plays, but visually, from the sideline, am I seeing a guy in command, like an orchestrator? That's what I want to see."
Kaliakmanis' other weapons included junior running back Gavin Calabrese and senior running back Brandon Reynolds. Wingback Victor Monzon is a transfer from McHenry. The offensive line features veterans Shaun Keever, Max Ness, Spencer Lazarz (former defensive lineman) and Robert Shaffer.
Besides Watson, the Sequoits' defensive returnees include senior outside linebacker Ben Wilson, junior safety Ethan Holmes and senior lineman Elkanah Gahima.
The Kaliakmanis brothers and Watson were all named all-conference last year. The Sequoits have gone 7-0 in each of the first three years of the NLCC's existence.
"Ever since last year, right when we lost (to Notre Dame), the next day people were at the weight deck," Athan Kaliakmanis said. "The whole team was. We want to go to the state championship. It might sound a little cheesy, but that's what we want. Our team is working so hard for it."