Connor Rago won’t be content with Oak Forest simply extending its playoff appearances to 15 straight this season.
Rago sees the potential the Bengals have and realizes it’s much greater than a one- or two-game postseason appearance.
“I don’t feel, personally, that getting to the playoffs is enough,” Rago said. “We have the talent this year to accomplish so much more. But we have to stay focused and not get flustered. I believe we’re capable of achieving whatever we want.”
With Rago leading the way, the Bengals and their loyal fans are positioned to realize their lofty ambitions.
A three-year varsity starter, the 6-1, 195-pound senior finds himself at wingback after having to play quarterback in 2013 when starter Nick Ciufia went down with an injury in Week 5 against Hillcrest.
“I never had played quarterback before,” Rago said. “I wasn’t groomed for it at all. It was a roller coaster. All the glory or all the punishment is on you. It helped me mature a lot. You have to take responsibility — good and bad.”
When it comes to the classroom, Rago has experienced nothing but good. He ranks sixth in his class and scored a 32 on the ACT.
Rago made it perfectly clear who is responsible for making sure he prioritized academic excellence over athletic achievement.
“My mom (Lori) pushed me and my siblings to get good grades,” said
Rago, who has two older sisters and a brother. “She never wanted us to be average. She always wanted us to do better and to reach our potential.”
Rago recalled an incident when he was a first-grader at St. Damian that provided an example of how serious his mother was about schoolwork.
“My sister Caitlin came home with all Cs,” Rago said. “My mom moved all of my sister’s furniture out of her bedroom as punishment. It was an empty room. The only thing in the room was carpet. My sister was upset. It set an example for me. I never wanted to come home with bad grades and see what my punishment would be.”
Rago instead followed the path of his other sister, Allison, who finished fourth in her class at Oak Forest and scored a 33 on the ACT.
Rago still has a shot at bettering Allison in class rank, but he’s going to have to settle for second-best in the ACT exam.
“Allison has helped me a lot,” said Rago, whose older brother, Parker Carroll, was a three-sport athlete at Oak Forest. “We’ve always had a competition. It bugs me that she scored one point higher on the ACT.
You always want to do better than your siblings.”
With similar determination, Rago badly wants to lead the undefeated Bengals (3-0) beyond their Class 6A quarterfinals appearance when he was a sophomore. He’s doing his part, racking up a team-high 293 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 15 carries and recording 173 yards receiving and two scores on eight catches.
Once the football season ends, Rago will trade in his cleats for his basketball sneakers.
As far as college, Rago is undecided on a destination, though he would prefer to stay close to home and continue to play football. He’ll major in kinesiology, with plans on a career in athletic training.
Oak Forest football coach Brian McDonough is certain no matter where his star player decides to attend college, he’ll be successful.
“He’s a great kid,” McDonough said. “He’s tough and he works hard. He’s excelled in the classroom and on the football field. He’s the heart and soul of our team.”