Maine South's running game thriving with Sajenko leading the way
Being the youngest brother can be hard at times. Especially following in your older brother's footsteps.
But Maine South's Mike Sajenko has been making his own mark.
Sajenko, who is 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, is the team's leading rusher. The two-time CSL South offensive player of the year has 1,189 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns. He also has 33 receptions for 361 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Not bad for team that is known for throwing the football at will.
"I feel the change," Sajenko said. "I know that we have always been known as a spread offense and throwing it the whole game. We have made some changes this year."
Maine South coach Dave Inserra knows just why that is.
"We think we have enough talent to throw the ball," Inserra said. "It is just that Mike is our top player and we just want the ball in the top players' hands. We throw to him a bit, but since he is standing next to the quarterback it is just easier to hand it to him."
Sajenko was named to the Class 8A Illinois High School Football Coaches Association All-State team for the second year in a row. And rightfully so.
Sajenko is a big part of the reason that the Hawks, who have racked up 4,346 yards this season while piling up 407 points, are playing in the Class 8A state semifinals Saturday at 1 p.m. at Marist.
"We are working as a team," Sajenko said. "We have a thing going on. We call it: 'A state apart'. I think that is definitely what we are doing."
Inserra said that Sajenko has a quiet confidence about him.
"He is a quiet-spoken kid," Inserra said. "He doesn't say a whole lot. But he is one of our hardest workers and he is definitely our toughest kid. He takes a beating and he pushes himself in practice. He works his butt off."
Growing up, Mike Sajenko was always at his brother George or Nick's games when they played for Maine South. Both brothers were star players in their own right and played Division III football.
"Of course, I went to their games," Mike Sajenko said. "And I knew it was 100 percent that it would be me one day playing for Maine South. It was great watching them play, especially when they came home. After a big win, I would talk to them all day, or at least as long as I could."
But neither George or Mike Sajenko's teams, made it past the quarterfinals. And with a win on Saturday, Mike Sajenko would have the ultimate bragging rights -- a trip to the state finals.
"I would love to talk to them about that," he said. "But they would be rooting hard for us too."
Playoff time has been Sajenko-time this year for the Hawks. In the three playoff games, Sajenko has rushed for 501 yards and 9 touchdowns.
"I think it is just that it's my senior year," Sajenko said. "It is either win that game or I am going home. I have to keep pushing and do my best every game, so I have no regrets coming off that field."
Inserra is not surprised on how Sajenko has responded.
"He is definitely living play-by-play," Inserra said. "He is having fun. He doesn't get too high or get too low. You just love his frame of mind."
But Inserra is surprised by something else. Inserra, who has seen many of his players go on to successful careers in college football, is amazed that Sajenko has not drawn much interest.
"He has had none," Inserra said. "He runs extremely well speed-wise. He has good enough size I just don't know. He has flown under the radar. I think he will start to get D-II and FCS looks after the playoffs."