Both Elgin and Larkin attempt to move forward after last week’s Town Jug game continuing efforts to end losing cultures.
Elgin coach Kyle Rohde hopes stopping a 19-game losing streak provides a launching point to reverse a cycle of four straight losing seasons, while the winless Royals go forth to conclude coach Dragan Teonic’s first season with the same eye on the future that they’ve had all season.
Essentially, the year has been about both trying to make certain this type of season doesn’t happen again.
“A win always justifies a lot of things the coaches are trying to tell you,” said Rohde, whose team finishes at home with playoff-bound St. Charles North Friday. “When you keep losing, (players are) like, ‘well, why should I listen to you. Why?’ So this validates a lot of things for them and I’m hoping this will propel them here in the next week against St. Charles North.”
Rohde and the players had said throughout the year the losing becomes difficult to handle.
“I get mad at them, they’re mad at me, winning is something that tends to clear a lot of that up,” Rohde said before the win.
The future would appear positive for Larkin with all 22 sophomores playing on the varsity all year, even if they have gone winless heading into Friday’s finale at state-qualifying Geneva.
With a sophomore quarterback in David Hibbler, and junior receiving threat A.J. Hunter, it’s easy to see potential. The problem is supplementing them with numbers.
“That’s our No. 1 thing is recruiting the kids and retaining them,” Teonic said. “That’s going to be the next step.
“Our work ethic culture, the expectations of being on time, working hard, keeping your mouth shut, putting in the work, listening to coaching, going to class every day, doing all these kinds of things every day, that’s the challenge. We’re getting better at it.
“We’ve only had one kid academically ineligible all season out of 80 (in the program).
“We have nobody in trouble in school or any of that stuff, so we’ve cleaned up that act. Now we need to get in the weight room and get better.”
Rohde thinks a flag football program at the middle school level that the school district is starting will help supply talent. Elgin middle schools used to have football, but discontinued it in the last decade when the economic crunch hit.
“We have eight different youth football feeder programs and so we’re not going to ever be like Cary-Grove, where they come in as freshmen running the same plays since sixth grade or whatever,” Rohde said. “But this can’t hurt us, that’s for sure.”
Teonic said recruiting within is a priority.
“There are players in the hallway here still,” he said. “I had three kids come up to me in the hallway (last week) who had been in the program before and want to be a part of it again.
“It’s a grassroots deal. That’s why our motto is ‘win from within.’ ”
Players with the right program-first attitude help.
Elgin senior Jordan Smith looked at all the sophomores Elgin had up with varsity Friday because Larkin had no sophomore team, and hoped they took the varsity win to heart.
“It’s not always about us,” Smith said. “It’s about the program. And I want the program to thrive.
“Seeing them, a lot of sophomores came and watched us play, some of them played. Seeing us win, that ignites something under them and then they’ll go out and be great, hopefully.”