Football: Change in the air game at Oak Lawn
By Pat Disabato email@example.com August 5, 2014 8:42PM
Oak Lawn's Joe Cosenza (left) can't stop Shepard's Devon Landfair as he breaks out of a group of Oak Lawn defenders for some yards as Shepard plays Oak Lawn at Oak Lawn on 9/7/12. | Judy Fidkowski/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 7, 2014 6:34AM
It’s not often a coach asks his most valuable player on defense to shift to full-time quarterback.
That’s precisely what Oak Lawn coach Sean Lucas has asked of linebacker Joe Cosenza after the Spartans starting quarterback from 2013, rising junior Konrad Lach, transferred to Stagg.
Cosenza, a senior, played quarterback in eighth grade for St. Gerald School. So he does have familiarity with the position. Once he arrived at Oak Lawn, though, he was shifted to defense.
“Joe’s a great athlete and has a high football IQ,” Lucas said. “He had a very good summer. I told him maybe we should have kept him at quarterback his freshman year.”
Cosenza has been a difference-maker on defense. However, desperate times call for desperate measures. Cosenza agreed to make the switch to quarterback without hesitation.
He’s confident in his abilities, having led the St. Gerald Giants to an 8-1 conference championship season in 2010. He’s diligently been working on fine-tuning his footwork and passing skills.
“I’ll play anywhere to help the team win,” Cosenza said. “It’s been hard making the switch, but I’m learning. The biggest challenge is reading the defense. It helps that I play linebacker. I missed playing quarterback. It’s exciting.”
Cosenza and the rest of the Spartans hope that excitement transitions to games. Oak Lawn finished 2-7 in 2013. Three of those losses were by a combined 18 points: 28-26 to Argo, 22-20 to Eisenhower and 20-6 to Reavis. A bounce here or there and the Spartans could have finished 5-4.
“We missed some key blocks and some key tackles,” Cosenza said. “We’ve been working hard to eliminate those mistakes. We’re going to win those close games this year.”
While Cosenza will be a key cog in the Spartans offense, he won’t entirely abandon his linebacker responsibilities.
“I’m going to have to take a breather on defense sometimes,” he said. “Maybe sit out on third downs or something. We’re still working on that.”
The Spartans return five starters on offense, led by linemen Mitchell Gonsch, Mustafa Kanan and Joe Quigley.
Cosenza has a top-notch receiving target in Joe Robinson, a three-year varsity starter. Tyler Loehr, Alec McCarthy and Ryne Melnik provide depth at receiver.
A big key to the Spartans offensive attack is how well senior Darius Gipson responds to being the go-to guy out of the backfield.
“Darius has worked really hard,” Lucas said. “He’s ready to be the guy.”
Defensively, the Spartans welcome back five starters. Robinson, like Cosenza, will log double duty and play defensive back. Vince Olejniczak (line), Joe Dodaro (linebacker) and Scott Quinn (secondary) provide the Spartans with muscle and experience.
“We’re excited about this senior class,” Lucas said. “It was a very productive summer. We’re going to come out and try to beat Kenwood in our season opener and take it week to week. Ultimately, we want to make the playoffs.”
Cosenza has endured three straight seasons of finishing 2-7, including his freshman year on the sophomore squad. He’s confident he’ll end his prep career on a winning note.
“We will definitely turn it around this year,” he said.