Football: Lemont young but eager to extend winning ways
Albeit without a state championship, Lemont is in the team picture for most successful football programs in Illinois over the previous decade.
In the last nine years under coach Eric Michaelsen and his veteran staff, the Indians boast a 95-17 record (.848). Lemont, which never lost more than three games in those nine seasons, was second in the state in 2007 and ’08, a quarterfinalist in ’09 and ’10 and a semifinalist the past two years, all in Class 6A. The semifinal defeats were 34-31 to Peoria Richwoods in ’11 and 28-27 to Laquon Treadwell and eventual champion Crete-Monee last season.
Part of the reason for all that success is the steady stream of big-time players who have come through the program, especially linemen. Last year’s main man, Ethan Pocic, was rated among the very best offensive linemen in the nation and has been at LSU since January, while his classmate, Tim McAuliffe, has moved on to Bowling Green.
When a program gets on a roll the way Lemont’s has, the question invariably is raised about how long it can continue. When is the rebuilding year coming? Will it ever?
The Indians participated in last week’s opening day of the annual University of St. Francis 7-on-7 Passing Jamboree at ATI Field at Joliet Memorial Stadium. Michaelsen acknowledged the 2013 season will have a somewhat different feel, at least early.
“We’re inexperienced,” he said. “We have one offensive starter back and four back on defense.
“But the kids we have are hard workers. We feel they will be OK. They learned from the kids who made this program into what it is and have moved on.”
Lemont’s senior class is not short on prime athletes. However, fewer perhaps are football players than is usually the case.
“We will be young,” Michaelsen said. “However, this is an exciting time because you don’t know what you are going to have. What I do know is this is a really nice group of kids who like to be coached and work hard.”
Senior lineman Connor Melvin is the returning offensive starter. Defensively, senior middle linebacker Drew Hayes and junior middle linebacker Frank Pignone are back, along with Andrew Miller in the line and Anthony Berta in the secondary.
The skill position players naturally are in the spotlight at a 7-on-7, and Michaelsen mentioned tight end Ethan Chester and wide receivers Matt Monaco, Mike Disanto and Atri Bethani as seniors who should be contributors.
In addition, running backs Julio Aleman and Mike Larkins and quarterback Joe Bailey will help provide senior leadership. Michaelsen said three juniors also will vie with Aleman and Larkins for playing time at running back, and junior Ryan Dawson and sophomore Chris Thompson have joined Bailey in the quarterback derby.
“These kids all have grown up in the tradition we have, and the tradition is what gets them in the weight room to be ready when their time comes,” Michaelsen said. “They learned the work ethic that it takes to succeed.
“The fact we have a lot of the same coaches who have been with me forever also helps.”