Football: Argo gets to tinkering to put pieces in place
By Pat Disabato firstname.lastname@example.org August 15, 2014 9:52PM
Ridgewood senior Esiah Martell tackles Argo sophomore Diamonte Mallory (right) during a varsity football game at Ridgewood High School in Norridge on Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. | Ryan Pagelow/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 18, 2014 6:38AM
Argo produced a season for the memory bank in 2013, setting the school record for wins in a season (8) and registering its first-ever playoff victory.
In fact, it was just the third time since 1974 that Argo had qualified for the postseason.
So what does coach Jim Innis’ squad do for an encore?
“We lost quite a bit of talent,” Innis said. “We don’t have a lot of numbers (players). We’re under 30 players on our roster. We can’t get anybody hurt.”
What the Argonauts do have are five three-year starters in Corde O’Neal, Diamonte Mallory, Mike Dzierega, Emir Asani and Matt Wesolowski.
It sounds promising until it’s revealed that O’Neal and Mallory, after playing receiver for two years, will shift to quarterback and running back, respectively.
“They’re both lanky kids; it will be a little unusual backfield,” Innis said. “O’Neal is 6-3 and Mallory is 6-1. What it came down to is what’s best for the team.”
With a healthy dose of good, young receivers — watch out for junior Aaron Morrison — and glaring holes at quarterback and running back, Innis thought it was best to move O’Neal and Mallory to new positions.
Will it work? Time will tell.
“Mallory played running back but it’s been three years,” Innis said. “O’Neal has never been a quarterback. The complexity of our passing game isn’t going to be what it was. We’re going to be doing some different things with those two guys.
“The big thing is that they were both willing to make the switch.”
O’Neal’s and Mallory’s transition should be enhanced by the return of Dzierega, Asani and Wesolowski to the offensive line.
Seniors Pat Budyn and Roscoe Robertson, along with sophomore Audel Ochoa, also will see time on the line.
“It’s always good to have linemen back,” Innis said. “We feel good about the line. But, again, we can’t afford to have any injuries.”
Many of the same players on offense will see duty on defense. That includes O’Neal and Mallory in the secondary.
What the Argonauts lack in depth, they hope to make up in speed, skill and toughness.
“We have speed,” Innis said. “We have guys who can make some big plays.”
The 2014 season will be the final one for Innis, who will retire after 34 years as coach, including 27 as the man in charge at Argo.
“I’m not going to treat it any differently than other years,” Innis said. “Thirty four years is an awfully long time. We have hard-nosed kids. We won a lot of close games last year, games that could have gone either way.
Can we win those close games and can we stay healthy? I think that’s what it’s going to come down to for us to have a successful season.”