Football: Stagg looks to take a good turn
By Pat Disabato email@example.com August 5, 2013 8:06PM
Stagg's Adam Pilota | File photo
Updated: September 7, 2013 6:17AM
For the third time in three seasons, Stagg welcomes a new football coach.
Chargers fans, however, hope that’s not the only change this season. A change in the standings would wholeheartedly be embraced.
Stagg has struggled in recent years, going 16-47 from 2006 through ’12 after finishing 9-2 in 2005.
The Chargers were 8-28 during Brian Buglio’s four-year tenure (2008 through ’11) and 2-7 in Mark Kleinpeter’s lone season in 2012.
Now it’s Mike Fahey’s turn to try to transform Stagg into a competitive program.
“I’m very excited,” Fahey said. “The kids have worked hard all summer. They’ve bought into the program quickly. They’re well conditioned, and we expect them to put all of their energy into every game.”
Fahey, a 1993 Andrew graduate, has been an assistant on and off at Stagg for 11 seasons. He’s experienced the highs — the Chargers qualified for the state playoffs in 2002, ’03 and ’05 — and has witnessed some of the recent lows. Fahey spent 10 seasons at Stagg before heading to Chicago Christian for one season in 2008 and then to Bremen for three seasons from 2009 to ’11. He returned to Stagg last season as an assistant.
“Our goal is to get consistency back to the program,” said Fahey, who played college ball at Millikin. “I’m the third head coach in three years. We need to have a plan and stick to it.”
Much of the plan, at least on offense, will be handing the ball to senior Austin Kelly, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound fullback. The Chargers will run an option-based offense, with a few wrinkles thrown in to keep opponents honest.
“Austin is going to have to take a lot of carries for us,” Fahey said. “He’s a guy who can withstand some punishment.”
Senior Jack Duffner and junior Dennis Egan will also get chances to exhibit their skills out of the backfield.
Adam Pilota will begin his second season at quarterback. The Chargers will rely more on Pilota’s legs and decision-making than his arm.
“We’re going to have to throw the ball a little bit,” Fahey said. “Adam has improved his throwing over the summer. He’s been working hard. But we want to be able to shorten the game and run the ball effectively.”
When Pilota does drop back to pass, he can target experienced receivers in seniors Tyler Mackessy and Amir Almasri.
Many of the names on offense will be logging time on defense. A big key on defense will be the play of lineman Roger Boylan.
“We’re going to have to have some guys go both ways, but we’re going to try to limit it as much as possible,” Fahey said. “Roger has worked very hard in the offseason and is very athletic. He should have a breakout season.”
The Chargers defense would get a big boost if lineman/linebackers Laith Sadi and Anthony Fox produce stellar seasons. Some newcomers who will see time on both sides of the ball include senior Mantas Drukentis, juniors Ryan Slager, Frank Knaperak and Jmari Armon, and sophomore Brian Haack.
Another change for Stagg is shifting from the SouthWest Suburban Red to the Blue Division. After opening the season with nonconference games against Hillcrest and Oak Lawn, the Chargers begin Blue play with a road game at Class 7A state runner-up Lincoln-Way East and a Week 4 home date vs. perennial power Bolingbrook.
Did someone say, “baptism by fire”?
“Blue or Red, the SouthWest Suburban Conference, to me, is one of the best in the state,” Fahey said. “Whether we’re in the Blue or the Red, it’s going to be a challenge for us. We just have to come out of those first two conference games healthy. Depth is a concern for us. But I know our guys will show up on Friday nights and compete.”