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Disabato: Argo, Rich Central aim to show they’re among state’s football elite

D'Ken Jones Argo rushes for first down against Oak Lawn Oak Lawn Friday September 20th 2013 Oak Lawn. | Gary

D'Ken Jones, of Argo, rushes for a first down against Oak Lawn at Oak Lawn, Friday, September 20th, 2013, in Oak Lawn. | Gary Middendorf/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 9, 2013 10:32AM



The first round of the high school football playoffs wasn’t exactly kind to our local recipients.

Twenty-one teams qualified. Just 13 remain.

Of those baker’s dozen, most are familiar to the eyes and ears: St. Rita, Mount Carmel, Lincoln-Way East, Providence, Richards, Homewood-Flossmoor.

Each, coincidentally, has experienced the feeling of winning a state championship at one time or another.

In the case of Mount Carmel and Providence, that championship feeling has been experienced many times over — 11 for the Caravan, nine for the Celtics.

Others local teams still in the playoff hunt entering the second round include Marist, Lincoln-Way North, Evergreen Park, De La Salle and Lincoln-Way West. Most have earned an invitation to the postseason in recent years. That each still is around in the second round is not a complete surprise.

At least it’s not at a level of surprise as Argo and Rich Central. That’s not a knock on either team, mind you. They’ve had outstanding seasons and boast serious talent.

However, “football” and “playoffs” rarely have been companions at either school, similar to the captain of the chess club dating the homecoming queen.

This season marks the third time Argo has qualified for the playoffs since 1974, the two others coming in 1998 and 2001.

There have been more cicada sightings than Argo playoff appearances the past 39 years.

Jim Innis has presided over the program as its coach for 26 years. During that time the Argonauts have produced four winning seasons, including identical 5-4 marks in 2007 and ’10. Argo, however, didn’t have enough playoff points those seasons to qualify.

That wasn’t a problem this season. In fact, the Argonauts finished 7-2 in the regular season, setting a school record for wins. They added to their achievement by way of a 14-12 come-from-behind win Friday over Oak Forest in a Class 6A opener.

It’s the first time Argo has advanced to the second round.

“It’s a good feeling,” Innis said. “It’s nice to get the extra practice.”

Argo is experiencing firsthand the power of a winning football program and how it unites a school and the community it serves, in this case Summit.

“The faculty and the community are behind us 100 percent,” Innis said. “Teachers wore players’ jerseys at school last week. There are signs all over the community promoting the program. I’ve never experienced anything like this here before. I’ve had former players emailing me and congratulating the team. It’s been nice.”

Argo travels to Richards on Saturday. That’s the same Richards that recorded a 27-0 win over the ’Nauts during the regular season.

That was then. This is now.

Argo quarterback Jason Noel was not 100 percent the first game against Richards, suffering from a severe ankle injury that limited his mobility.

Noel’s strength is his ability to scramble and make plays on the move; to improvise, if you will. He’s more RGIII than Andrew Luck.

“Jason wasn’t able to scramble,” Innis said of his quarterback’s condition vs. Richards the first time around. “They just came after him and he really couldn’t do anything. Our attitude is that Jason wasn’t at full strength last time and now he is.”

Then there’s Rich Central, which has qualified for the playoffs 11 times, though this is the first time since 2007.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Olympians coach Terrell Alexander said. “I’m impressed with the way people are latching on to the excitement.”

The Olympians held off Romeoville 18-14 to earn a 6A first-round win. If you’re under the impression the Olympians are content with advancing to the second round and a road date Friday vs. Lincoln-Way North, you would be sadly mistaken.

From Day 1, Rich Central’s goals have extend beyond this week.

“There’s no satisfaction making the playoffs and winning the first game,” Alexander said. “We set our goals a lot higher. We’re on a mission.”

And that mission has yet to be accomplished.



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