Football: Tinley Park confident it will extend playoff run
By Pat Disabato firstname.lastname@example.org July 1, 2013 10:06PM
Tinley Park 's #44, Preston Thompson, during their game at Rich East High School in Park Forest, IL on Saturday September 1, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 3, 2013 6:07AM
Tinley Park has qualified for the state playoffs the past three seasons, winning 21 games in the process.
And with fullback Preston Thompson, a 2012 SouthtownStar All-Area performer, and three offensive linemen back in the fold, the Titans are in position to extend their playoff run to four.
They open their season Aug. 31 at Stillman Valley.
“That’s the goal,” Tinley Park coach Nick Johnston said of qualifying for the postseason. “I’m happy with the guys who have been coming to workouts and summer conditioning every day.”
What Johnston isn’t very happy about is losing up to six returning starters to academic ineligibility and transfers.
In the case of Tinley Park, the rich didn’t get richer during the offseason.
Johnston opted to stay off that topic and focus on the players who have done the necessary work on and off the field.
It all begins with Thompson, who topped 1,600 yards on the ground as a junior in 2012 and is entering his fourth year on the varsity.
“He’s a horse. He’s strong as an ox,” Johnston said of Thompson, who also plays baseball. “He’s a step faster ... and he’s worked hard in the offseason. We’re expecting big things again from him this season.”
Quinn Kelly will be the Titans’ signal-caller. He doesn’t have the speed of past Tinley Park quarterbacks, but has a strong, accurate arm.
“Quinn puts the ball where you want it,” Johnston said. “He’s a competitor and comes from a line of really good athletes in his family. He’s not really a running threat, but he throws the ball well.”
Kelly has three returning starters on the line in seniors Courtney Doss and Lee Smith and sophomore Adam Simon.
When it’s time to go the air, Kelly will have a pair of quality targets in Cory Doss and Randell Newton.
“Our O-line has some beef,” Johnston said. “We’ve got to get them moving off the ball. We’re confident they’ll be able to let Thompson move the ball, and with the way Kelly can throw the ball, opponents are going to respect our passing game.
“If they (O-line) can keep working hard and keep gelling, we can have something special going.”
Defensively, the Titans will heavily rely on the experience of linemen Isaac Furlough and Cory Doss, linebacker Billy Johnson and cornerback Johnny Taylor.
Johnston has avoided relying on two-way players in recent years, something he attributes to the Titans finishing 7-4 in 2010, 8-3 in ’11 and 6-5 in ’12.
However, that luxury might end in the fall, depending on how much he utilizes a sophomore class that won six games as freshmen to fill some unexpected holes.
“We’ve played guys one way and that’s helped us in the fourth quarter when other teams are physically tired,” Johnston said. “We’ve been able to wear other teams down. Hopefully, we’ll still be able to do that this season. Either way, the defense is going to have to step up.
“I’ve told the seniors that it’s their time to carry the (playoff) torch. We want to keep this playoff streak going.”