Despite adversity, St. Viator still has shot at playoffs
What a difference a year had made for the St. Viator football team.
The Lions went 1-8 last season, and didn't get that sole win until Week 9.
Now, St. Viator (4-4) is on the cusp of an outright conference championship and a playoff berth. If the Lions can defeat rival Carmel Friday night in CCL/ESCC Purple Division play, they'll make the dramatic turnaround a reality.
"We had a stronger offseason in the weight room and we had a strong summer," St. Viator coach Dave Archibald said. "And our team unity has been excellent.
"It's been really great to see how a year ago at this point, we were fighting just to get a win. Now, in Week 9, the playoffs are a possibility for us. We've made great strides as a program and this group of kids deserves it. Our seniors have been very committed to taking steps in the right direction."
Somehow St. Viator is in position to make the playoffs despite some really bad luck at the quarterback position.
Starter Jack Mahoney, among the leading rushing quarterbacks in the area, went down with a broken ankle in Week 6 against St. Patrick. He required season-ending surgery.
Junior Jack Ziebka then stepped in but he turned his ankle the very next week in the Marmion game and he was forced to sit out last week against Mt. Carmel.
Against Mt. Carmel, the Lions had to go with receiver PJ Scales at quarterback. They also brought up two sophomore quarterbacks, Alex Konopka and Dominic McKevitt for reinforcements.
"PJ had never started a varsity game at quarterback before," St. Viator coach Dave Archibald said. "But he is a great athlete and had played some quarterback when he was younger and on the lower levels. We just tried to tailor things to his strengths.
"Even though we lost that Mt. Carmel game, we were competitive with them and I think that has given the entire team confidence that we are capable of being on the field with anyone, even with adversity."
A pleasant surprise for St. Viator this season has been the play of middle linebacker Carson Eggebraten.
Just a sophomore, Eggebraten has started every game for the Lions.
"We knew he would be a very good player," St. Viator coach Dave Archibald said of Eggebraten. "He works really hard in the weight room. He runs well, has a long reach and loves contact. He also has been very coachable and his confidence has been rising with every game. He's already had a big impact on our defense."
The senior class at Hoffman Estates has had a rough stretch over the last couple weeks.
"We've been reeling lately with injuries," Hoffman Estates coach Tim Heyse said. "We start six seniors and going into last week, four of the six were out."
The four injured senior Hawks were Max Lock, Justice Bamisaiye, Marcos Bustos and Jeff Meyer.
The good news for Hoffman Estates, which is trying to earn its fifth win and a playoff spot on points Friday night with a victory over Fremd, is that three of the seniors are back.
"It's big to have them back," Heyse said. "The biggest thing for a high school team is seniors and we don't have that many seniors to start with. To not have them last week was huge. We had two sophomores with no varsity experience out there and that's a big change in speed and strength and experience."
The seniors had big motivation to return to the lineup.
"Our senior class doesn't want to be the first senior class in three years not to go to the playoffs," Heyse said. "They don't want to let anyone down. They are really motivated to get four (playoff appearances) in a row."
Looking to get red hot
Hoffman Estates has lost three of its last four games and has scored a total of only 6 points in those losses.
Part of the problem the Hawks are trying to solve in their quest to slip into the playoffs with 5 wins (which would require a win over Fremd Friday night) is red zone efficiency.
Over the last two weeks, a 21-0 loss to Palatine and a 28-0 loss to Barrington, Hoffman Estates has gone 0-for-8 in the red zone.
"It can get contagious," Hoffman Estates coach Tim Heyse said. "Kids can just lose confidence when they get in the red zone if they haven't had much success. You get balls hitting off wide receivers' hands in the end zone, you overthrow people, turnovers, foolish penalties.
"We have to be able to score in the red zone. We have to fix our red zone woes."