Nine months removed from a second-round playoff loss to Batavia, Lake Forest coach Chuck Spagnoli has yet to watch the tape.
“What’s the point? It doesn’t do us any good,” said Spagnoli. “That was last year.”
And while there is some logic in not dwelling on defeats, it’s from the victories where much can be learned. And in 2011, the Scouts had plenty of them.
Eight in fact, Lake Forest’s highest total since 1996, which was also the last time the Scouts had won a conference championship.
When you are building a consistently winning program as Spagnoli is, those lessons must be passed down from senior class to the next. Beating traditional conference foes Stevenson, Warren and Libertyville in 2011 are a legacy for those seniors, but now more is expected as a result.
“We’re not getting our face kicked in every week and we are competing with the best teams,” said Spagnoli, who guided his 2011 team to share of the NSC Lake. “We have to continue to compete but at a higher level and be better for us to make the next move. It’s just that simple.”
That next move will have to come with an overhauled offense, one now led by senior Andrew Clifford. He has grown two inches and added 15 pounds of muscle, both of which will come in handy as he takes over full-time quarterbacking duties.
“Mentality-wise I can get into a rhythm quicker, get into a game right from the beginning and get going instead of waiting and getting nervous,” said Clifford, who would play one or two series a game for the Scouts in 2011 and started the team’s final two regular season games.
More of a traditional drop-back passer, Clifford’s emergence as the starter will add more dimensions to Lake Forest’s offense in 2012. Heavily reliant on one player last season — running back Owen Williams accounted for 37 percent of the team’s offense — the Scouts will present a more balanced look to opponents, with more focus on the passing game.
Clifford’s stats from 2011 show he can get the ball downfield: 36-of-72 for 396 yards and four touchdowns. His 11 yards-per-completion (with a long of 41 yards) show he has the arm strength to zip passes into tight spaces.
“He’s a different guy completely,” said Spagnoli. “Jordan (Beck) was more of a runner. Andrew’s less of a foot guy. If it’s not there he’ll have to move to the second or third (progression). We hope he’ll be good, we think he’ll be good. We like what we see.”
Moving the sticks: Expect Clifford have a lot of options to throw and hand the ball off to. Junior running back Hub Cirame (188 yards, two touchdowns in ’11) takes over for Williams at running back along with Scott Powell.
A 6-foot, 185-pound senior, Powell had a 94-yard touchdown run in the team’s playoff win over Fenton in 2011.
“We’ll have different personnel groups but I’ll be at fullback, in the slot, more of an all-purpose back,” said Powell.
Clifford’s main receiving targets will be seniors Jack Troller and Brian Murphy along with tight end Andrew Freeman.
The offensive line returns junior Peter Durot. Senior Jack Ellis and junior Spencer Bleecker are expected to start.
Making the Stops: Lake Forest had a ball-hawking, aggressive defense in 2011 (11 interceptions, 16 fumble recoveries). Returning from 2011 are leading tackler, junior lineman Jack Kutschke (57.5 tackles in ’11) and older brother, senior Tom Kutschke, who had 12 tackles for loss as a junior.
“He’s getting big, he’s getting good, I expect big things out of him,” said the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Tom Kutschke of Jack. “I expect a lot out of myself and my teammates. I expect to do twice as good.”
Other contributors on defense will be cornerbacks Tom Doherty and Alex Moore, linebackers Chris Wilson, Trent Williams and David Glynn along with linemen Rich Daniels.
Special Forces: Returning placekicker Baylor Broughton will miss the first four-to-six weeks of the season with an injured foot. No replacement has been named.