Football: Optimism for Ernst debut at Lincoln-Way West
By Dick Goss firstname.lastname@example.org July 13, 2012 8:28PM
Lincoln-Way West's Andrew Gray (40). | File photo
One in an occasional series on Southland
athletes and teams gearing up for the
2012-13 high school season.
Updated: August 17, 2012 6:50AM
The Lincoln-Way West football team returned to the scene of the big hurt, and the Warriors were without their big man.
Still, they were more than happy to be involved in the recent University of St. Francis 7-on-7 Passing Jamboree.
When West last visited ATI Field at Joliet Memorial Stadium, the Warriors fell behind Joliet Catholic 48-0 before scoring twice in the fourth quarter and dropping a 48-14 decision in the opening round of the 2011 Class 5A state playoffs.
Summer 7-on-7s, of course, are geared toward the passing game and defending the pass. Linemen are elsewhere doing their own work.
The West behemoth who will command so much attention in the fall is 6-foot-5, 297-pound senior offensive tackle Colin McGovern, who committed during the offseason to Notre Dame. Warriors first-year coach Dave Ernst, the former longtime offensive coordinator at West, in the Lincoln-Way district and at Providence before that, noted how much the big guy means.
“What Colin has done with our offensive line is he has made the commitment to perform, and that has improved the level of everyone, to the point I really like our offensive line,” Ernst said. “So that has been great. By the end of our camp, everyone was starting to get it.
“It’s nice to have a match-up where we know our guy is going to win every play, or at least most of them. He can dominate, but to a different degree against different guys.”
And yes, in certain situations, McGovern likely will be called upon to bolster the defensive line as well.
As with every team, West suffered graduation losses after last season, including quarterback Kyle Millner. But Ernst said he likes what the Warriors have back.
The quarterback derby is between junior Justin Keuch and senior Chris Wilkes, both of whom proved capable when they received varsity experience last season.
The running backs, senior Rich Kruis and junior Javy Montalvo, both will play, and Ernst thinks the Warriors have enough receiving weapons to complete a successful passing game.
Senior Adam Slattery, who enjoyed some big games last season, “is our best receiver,” Ernst said. “Jake Robbins, a junior, is No. 2.”
Twins Alex and Andrew Gray, defensive regulars a season ago as sophomores, will add to the receiving corps. Alex was the free safety/outside linebacker in 2011, Andrew a cornerback.
“I’ll be going from corner to safety this year,” Andrew Gray said. “I think that will be a good move for me.”
“The twins are our two best defensive players,” Ernst said. “They might be big-time linebackers before they’re through.”
Senior linebacker Jake Bohne, a standout wrestler who hopes to continue that pursuit in college and is among the defensive leaders, said, “I’m really excited for this year. We had a good defense last year, we have lots of kids who got a lot of playing time and the Grays will be a lot better.”
“I think everyone is coming along well,” said Slattery, who’s been limited in his summer activity because of a hip pointer. “We have a good bond, good team chemistry.
“On offense, we have guys who can stretch the field, like Robbins. And the Grays could step up.
“We have McGovern and a couple other returning starters in the offensive line. Center and right guard really are the only question marks.”
West has been to the playoffs the past two years, reaching the second round in 2010. The Warriors believe a third straight trip to the postseason is attainable.
“The optimal will be to get a nice playoff run going this season, especially after the one and done last year,” Slattery said.