Silver lining exists for teams in Elgin

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One week still remains in the high school football season, but the teams that call Elgin home are already beginning to look ahead to the 2013 campaign.

Things haven’t gone according to plan this fall for Elgin, Larkin and St. Edward as all three limp toward the finish line. The good news is there is promise for all three schools looking ahead after a nucleus of young players gained valuable varsity experience this fall for the Maroons, Royals and Green Wave.

But the reality is that promise won’t be fulfilled without a lot of hard work, which is why the coaches at the three schools are already beginning to talk about offseason conditioning and hitting the weight room.

“We’re trying to get these kids to understand things aren’t going to be handed to them,” Larkin coach Mike Scianna said of the approach he is taking with the Royals. “They just need to do what they need to do in the offseason to be able to compete a full season.”

Make no mistake, the local landscape certainly looks bleak going into the final week of the 2012 campaign.

Barring an upset for the ages next week against undefeated Batavia, Elgin High will finish with back-to-back 1-8 seasons for the first time since the early 1980s. Larkin (2-6) is in the midst of a five-game losing streak and will miss the playoffs for the sixth straight year. St. Edward (2-6) has struggled not only against the powerhouses in the Suburban Christian Conference, but also against opponents of similar stature.

The challenges facing the Maroons, Royals and Green Wave are similar as all three have been hamstrung by thin rosters. It hasn’t been uncommon for the three teams in town to have fewer than 30 players in uniform for games this season, with that number dipping close to or under 20 on several occasions.

The reasons for the lack of participation vary, but until the numbers rise sustained success over the long term will be hard to come by. However, that isn’t to say Elgin, Larkin and St. Edward won’t be able to turn things around and compete as soon as next year.

Quarterback Kemmerin Blalark and running back Damion Clemons headline a junior class filled with speed and athleticism that has helped the Royals hang tough in a number of games this season. Next year Larkin will miss the size of this year’s seniors, most notably brawny offensive linemen Alex Schabert and Adam Hamiel, but those upperclassmen have helped pass along the program’s hard-nosed attitude.

At St. Edward, the vast majority of this year’s team will be back for a Green Wave squad that had sophomores outnumber seniors on the varsity roster this season. Topping the list of players expected to return is standout junior running back Davontae Elam.

“We’ve had a couple freshmen on the field and several sophomores in key roles,” St. Edward coach Mike Rolando said. “Those kids are getting valuable experience, and several of them have played very well and really shown what they can do.

“With these young guys getting a taste of the varsity game, hopefully that lights a fire and sparks some offseason lifting motivation.”

Elgin might seem like the team in town with the smallest chance of righting the ship, but don’t forget the Maroons are only two years removed from a trip to the playoffs.

Junior quarterback Ryan Sitter and junior running back Jaylen Clemons are both expected to be back for their third varsity seasons next fall after showing steady improvement this year. Several sophomores have also come up and made contributions at the varsity level late in the season for a Maroons squad that continues to plug away.

“The kids keep coming to practice and I’m proud of their effort throughout the week,” Elgin coach Dave Bierman said. “It’s easy to get down and turn it in sometimes, but these kids are going to see it through.

“They’re getting better and they know that. Even though it may not be showing on the scoreboard or in the record, you can still see improvement. That’s the good thing.”

No supporter of high school sports in Elgin likes seeing all three teams in town struggle, so here’s hoping the Maroons, Royals and Green Wave can take whatever gains they’ve made this fall and build on them in the offseason.

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