Conventional wisdom says Dundee-Crown has some big shoes to fill after losing standout running back Cody Lane to a torn ACL this summer.
Enter Chargers coach Vito Andriola, who turns conventional wisdom on its head when assessing a revamped backfield that includes seniors Cordero Parson and TJ Moss and junior Caleb Parson.
“This is the best backfield I’ve ever had as a coach,” Andriola said. “We ask our backs to block, fake, catch the ball and run the ball, and all of them do that.”
Andriola’s confidence in his running backs underscores Dundee-Crown’s depth and is a sign of how far the program has come in his three years at the helm.
Despite Lane’s absence, the Chargers are still stacked with talent on both sides of the ball as they look to improve upon last year’s 3-6 finish in hopes of reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1994. The challenges figure to be steep as always in the rugged Fox Valley Valley, but Dundee-Crown is no longer a pushover.
“We can talk all we want about how well things have been going so far in practice, but we’ve got to play football and we’ve got to win games,” Andriola said. “Last year we lost three or four games we should have won.”
Plugging the gap left by Lane won’t be easy after the standout ran for 1,217 yards and 18 touchdowns during an All-FVC junior season, but the Chargers have the personnel to give it a shot.
The plan involves Cordero Parson moving to the offense after starting at linebacker as a junior. He is a three-year varsity player who saw time at running back as a sophomore, and he’ll bring a bruising style to complement the versatility of his younger brother Caleb and the speed of Moss.
It doesn’t hurt that Dundee-Crown has a strong offensive line led by a trio of senior returning starters in guards Mike Utley and Jeremy Marshall and tackle Trent Hanselmann. Rounding out the line are sophomore tackle Josh Mosley and senior center Brad Spangenberg.
An effective running game will be key to alleviating pressure on junior Jeff Atherton, who takes over at quarterback. Junior Kiwaun Seals and tight end Connor Stienmitz will be two of Atherton’s main targets.
On defense, the Chargers return five starters from last year and have a few other players with big upsides in the mix as they look to tighten the screws.
“We have to play better defense,” Andriola said. “We have not played the type of defense I expect since I’ve been here. There have been spurts of it, but we’ve never been able to sustain the disciplined, physical defense I want.”
Senior Xzavier Torres is back to help anchor the defensive line along with senior Christian Ochoa, who started as a sophomore but missed last year with a wrestling injury. Junior Jarrod Rapp, sophomore Albert Putlak and senior CJ Johnson are in the mix at defensive end.
Tim Schanmier is a three-year starter returning at linebacker. He’ll be joined by junior Zach Thelen and senior Jordan Linson, who is back after tearing an ACL in last year’s opener.
Seniors Sam Franckowiak and Fabian Guiterez are returning starters in the secondary. Senior Fabian Ramirez will also be in the mix as a defensive back along with junior Malik Dunner, who is expected to make an impact after transferring from Elgin.
Dundee-Crown has a notable addition on its coaching staff with the arrival of Matt Gehrig, who was formerly a head coach at Huntley and Larkin. He joins Mike Steinhaus, Dave Alters, Brendan Dowling and Adam Lester among Andriola’s key assistants.
“Our coaches get it,” Andriola said. “We have a really good staff and they work really hard.”
2012 record: 3-6
Coach: Vito Andriola (3-15 in 3rd season at Dundee-Crown; 19-37 career)
Players to watch: OG Mike Utley, sr.; OG Jeremy Marshall, sr.; RB Cordero Parson, sr.; RB TJ Moss, sr.; LB Tim Schanmier, sr.
Aug. 30 Elgin, 7:15
Sept. 6 at Streamwood, 7:30
Sept. 13 x- Crystal Lake South, 7:15
Sept. 20 x-at Cary-Grove, 7:15
Sept. 27 x- Huntley, 7:15
Oct. 4 Grayslake Central, 7:15
Oct. 11 x-at Prairie Ridge, 7:15
Oct. 18 x-McHenry, 7:15
Oct. 25 x-at Jacobs, 7:15
x-Fox Valley Valley game