Defending champ IC Catholic prepares for grueling schedule
The IC Catholic Prep football program is set to embark into new territory this season.
The Knights, under coach Bill Krefft, have become one of the top programs in Illinois in the last decade.
But IC Catholic, despite a strong senior class and an influx of new and talented players, must navigate a difficult schedule filled with state powerhouses.
The Knights, who finished with a 13-1 record en route to the Class 3A state title last season, shifted conferences in the offseason. The change was significant, moving to the Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Orange Division, which includes Nazareth, Fenwick and St. Francis. The Knights will also play Benet, Marist, Loyola and De La Salle.
The Knights defeated Williamsville 48-17 in the 3A title game to capture the program's fourth state championship since 2016. Overall, IC Catholic has lost just three games in the last two seasons.
But Krefft and his players understand the 2023 schedule is loaded.
"The schedule is obviously a tough one, but definitely something we are up for," IC Catholic senior linebacker/wide receiver JP Schmidt said. "We love the opportunity to play the best teams in the state because we get to see where we stack up with them. Beyond that, we want to win every game, but mostly use the regular season as a way to get better and better every week to prepare for the playoffs and a chance at another championship run."
"The senior class is one of those that's unparalleled in its talent. We're more motivated than ever to prove that we're good enough to play with the best teams in the state. The competition this year will definitely be a challenge."
Krefft said the senior class is filled with experienced players ready for the challenge of the some of the best teams in the state during the regular season.
"We might be the greatest football team in IC Catholic history. but we're worried about making the playoffs," he said. "The level of talent in our program is high, but we're worried about winning summer camp days, and August days. We've not talked about the idea of winning football games. We have to compete every game due to the teams in our conference. We're excited for it. It's one of those things we are embracing and it made us better already knowing what we have to go through and how explosive some of the programs are. It speeded up our learning and development."
The Knights bring back plenty of firepower on both sides of the ball, led by senior quarterback Dennis Mandala and senior two-way star KJ Parker, who committed to Iowa on June 29.
Still, Schmidt said the entire team is primed for the weekly challenge in the loaded schedule.
Schmidt said he understands the importance of setting a good example for the younger players this season. He pushed himself during the offseason to become a complete player.
"In the offseason, I worked a lot on improving my hips trying to make my transitions in and out of breaks more fluid," Schmidt said. "I worked hard in the weight room to get bigger, faster and stronger."
The Knights will rely on their 16 seniors to carry the load for the 35-player roster.
"We're excited with the way the senior class is leading," Krefft said. "It might be one of the best senior classes ever at IC Catholic. They've really been driven through camp, and we're excited to see how far we can advance and push the system because of the experience of the seniors. They've been together so long and are very comfortable going into the season, just with the way they attack things, which makes things easier for us."
"We have leadership at all the groups and it's widespread, which will serve us well."