Quarterback injury hits Maine South again

  • Fremd coach Lou Sponsel, left, will lead his team into battle against Hersey Friday night.

      Fremd coach Lou Sponsel, left, will lead his team into battle against Hersey Friday night. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Updated 9/5/2019 9:18 PM

Lightning can strike twice.

Just as the Maine South football team. It has been struck with early quarterback injuries for two straight seasons.


Last year, quarterback Bobby Inserra left the second half of a Week 2 game against Mount Carmel due to a leg injury. He was out most of the season.

Now, the Hawks are dealing with an injury to quarterback Luke Leongas. The junior came into the season having tweaked his knee during the offseason but he was ready for last week's season opener against Glenbard West and had a strong first quarter.

But late in the second quarter, Leongas, who had already completed 18-of-27 passes for 205 yards and 2 touchdown passes, seemed to reinjure that same knee and left the game.

Leongas saw his doctor on Tuesday and was not ruled out of the season, but he is out for now.

"This is a tough situation for Luke. He's such a great kid and I just love coaching him," said Maine South coach David Inserra, who had this issue hit extremely close to home last year because Bobby Inserra is his son. " (Leongas) was wearing a brace on it (during the season opener) because he hurt it this summer, but he was feeling good. Then he got hurt as he was throwing the ball out of bounds just before halftime. It turned the wrong way and it got rolled on.

"But Luke is pretty resilient. He was back at practice (on Monday) on crutches watching film with us. We're hoping he will be OK, but we also have to keep moving as a team and right the ship. We can't dwell on the past."

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Inserra is a little worried that his players might fall into that trap. After all, it's uncanny that just a year ago the same thing happened with their starting quarterback.

"It is pretty unbelievable that this happened last year, too," Inserra said. "Our job as coaches is to make sure that panic doesn't set it. Obviously, there was a little bit of that last week with Luke. But we still have good weapons and we need to keep working."

Maine South, which was down 24-21 at halftime when Leongas left the game, ended up losing to Glenbard West, 45-28. The Hawks had a hard time passing the ball after Leongas left.

Backup quarterback Justin Marques took the reins of the offense in the second half. Marques was the backup to Leongas last year on the sophomore team and became the starter when Leongas was brought up to the varsity.


Marques is more of a natural wide receiver, though. He has also played safety at Maine South.

"Justin is a very good athlete but I'm not sure he'll be ready to read defenses like Luke can," said Inserra, whose team hosts Mount Carmel Friday night. "We'll be working with him. And it's on us as coaches to help make Justin look good this week."

Familiar foes: Emotions will be high in Friday night's big Mid-Suburban League crossover game between Fremd and Hersey.

It will be a family reunion of sorts.

On one sideline will be Fremd head coach Lou Sponsel.

On the other will be Hersey assistant coach Mike Donatucci, who was Sponsel's head coach at Fremd. Donatucci is now the defensive coordinator at Hersey.

Donatucci retired at the conclusion of the 2011 season after being the head coach at Fremd for 19 years. Sponsel, who graduated from Fremd in 1995, was an all-state linebacker on Donatucci's first playoff team.

After graduating from Northern Illinois, where he played football, Sponsel became an assistant coach at Fremd for Donatucci. Sponsel has worked at Fremd since 2003 and has been the head coach since 2012, taking over for his beloved mentor.

"Not only was he my high school coach, I lived with him for a year in college when I was student teaching, then I worked for him, so Coach Donatucci has been a big part of my life. He's like a second father to me," Sponsel said. "I have a very good relationship with him, so this is an emotional week for me.

"But when you coach against guys who are close to you, you have to be disciplined and put your emotions aside."

Sponsel knows it will be tough to pull a fast one on Donatucci.

"You can't catch him off guard," Sponsel said with a laugh. "He knows what he's taught and his influence is still here. That's the sign of any great leader ... when you leave, what you have taught continues on. It's like a ripple effect and we definitely still do some things that Donatucci started a long time ago."

Unsung heroes: After Fremd's decisive 24-6 win over Lake Zurich last week, there was a common refrain being recited inside the locker room.

Plenty of references to the "win team."

That's Fremd code for "scout team."

"We call our scout team our 'win team' because that's where we feel you really win games," Fremd coach Lou Sponsel said. "During our game against Lake Zurich, guys were coming off the field saying that our 'win team' was tougher than the opponent. They were saying how well they were prepared for the game. Our scout team did a great job of getting us prepared for Lake Zurich

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