A year ago, Elgin football coach Kyle Rohde prepared to bring his team over to St. Edward’s Greg True Field for the annual St. Edward 7-on-7 and Lineman Challenge, and he didn’t quite meet the quota.
“We had one lineman and four players at the other positions, skill positions,” Rohde recalled.
One year later, Elgin’s football team has made a complete transformation as it prepares for Friday’s 7 p.m. St. Edward event.
Whether it shows up in terms of wins and losses this coming season for a team that has lost 12 straight varsity games is another matter, because Rohde first had to lay a foundation before victories could ever be produced with any consistency.
Consider the foundation in place. Now it’s a matter of letting it set.
“We are light years ahead of last year,” he said. “You can see it in our participation in the summer. It’s very noticeable.
“Our offensive and defensive players understand the expectations, they understand their roles. Everybody has been working together and adjusting to what I expect.”
Rohde runs a camp at the beginning of summer, and in 2013 between all the levels, he estimates he had “20-something” athletes involved.
“This year we had 56 guys in it,” he said. “In the weightlifting program, we were around 50 some days, other days between 30 and 35. Never did it get below about 25. Last year we were lucky to ever get more than 15.”
The Maroons were able to participate in some small scale 7-on-7s, including one with Belvidere North and Taylorville against coaches that Rohde knows well. They also played against Wheaton Academy, St. Edward and Westminster Christian.
“I would say we’re probably a year away from being able to go and compete in one of those big 7-on-7 leagues that are held, but we’re working toward that,” Rohde said.
Friday’s one-night tournament featuring Elgin, St. Edward, South Elgin and Streamwood will give Rohde the chance to put his quarterback battle on display.
Elgin hasn’t had to worry about a quarterback for three years when Ryan Sitter was starter, but he graduated, and senior Dontrell Gaddy and juniors Patrick Gallagher and Terrance Allen-Miller are involved in a three-way battle that will likely go on well past the start of fall practices Aug. 11.
The event will also let the Maroons showcase one asset they are certain to have — great speed. Wide receiver Jordon Smith and wingback Johnny Higgins are three-year starters, while junior backs Trae Sallis and Joseph Span also can get up and down the field.
Senior defensive players who have stood out for the Maroons in the offseason: linebacker Michael Behining, defensive end Elijah Bonds, and Gaddy and Smith in the secondary.
“I would say our linemen are a little bit behind our skilled position guys at this point,” Rohde said. “It’s not real football yet, despite what everybody thinks.”
The competition consists of rotating 7-on-7 games for 45 minutes at 7, 8 and 9 p.m. between the teams and also a lineman competition that features a tractor tire flip, sled push, bench press, relay race and 5-on-5 tug of war.
Regardless of the results, Rohde is certain after a summer of workouts that he has the team headed in the right direction.
“I believe in what we’re doing,” he said.
“We’re not even close, though. In a year or two we hope to get the program real competitive. Everybody realizes and things don’t change overnight but will change if we continue to do the work.”