There are rumblings that No. 4 Maine South’s unbelievably dominant run in the Central Suburban League South will face a stiff test this season. The Hawks have won 70 consecutive conference games and 14 consecutive conference titles.
Conference rivals New Trier advanced to the second round of the state playoffs last season. Evanston has some elite talent including three Division I players. And just logically, the streak can’t possibly go on forever.
Hawks coach Dave Inserra says conference title number 15 is every bit as important as all the rest and acknowledges that “the conference is getting stronger and stronger throughout.”
Offensive lineman Liam O’Sullivan, a Cincinnati recruit, isn’t buying any hype about the other CSL South teams and apparently isn’t the slightest bit concerned about providing any bulletin board material.
“There is absolutely no way the streak ends this year,” said O’Sullivan. “Sophomore, freshman year we annihilated every conference team we played. The only one I can really think of that might slightly give us a run for our money is Niles North because of (Iowa-bound running back Barrington Wade). But I think with our defensive line we will put that kid on locks.”
A lot of O’Sullivan’s confidence is due to three-year starting quarterback Brian Collis. That kind of experience is rare in high school football. It should give Maine South a solid advantage throughout the season.
“(Collis) is way more experienced than pretty much every quarterback in the state,” said O’Sullivan. “He can sling the ball. I wouldn’t want anyone else taking the snaps right now, I absolutely love it.”
Collis has been a pocket quarterback in the past, but he’s hoping to expand his game in his senior season.
“That’s my main goal this year, run the ball more and give our offense some more options,” said Collis. “If I become more of a dual threat it will open up a lot of things on our offense. Opens up the passing game and gives our running backs a little bit more space.”
The running backs, Antonio Cristiano and Fotis Kokosioulis, are inexperienced. Three starters return on the offensive line (including standout junior Kevin Jarvis) and the receiving corps is led by basketball standout Jonathan Arenas. The Hawks will depend on Collis to be the major difference maker though.
“Brian’s got an unbelievable arm,” said Inserra. “He can make all the throws. When he throws it’s just instantly ‘wow, that’s a throw.’ As a third-year guy now it is his team, time to step up and make the plays.”
Two players stood out to Inserra in the first week of practice.
“Defensively I’d say Dylan Burdelik at linebacker,” said Inserra. “He’s a solid performer, just a great leader and communicator really understands the game.
“And at nose guard Ibrahim Nasir. He went to the nationals in wrestling this summer, I think that helped him a lot. He’s a big kid up front and uses his hands really well.”
Maine South, like most elite teams, struggled to fill their non-conference schedule. The Hawks will open with Montini and then face Loyola in Week 2.
“No one wanted to play us,” said Inserra. “We called around everywhere. Turns out no one wanted to play Montini or Loyola either so we are playing each other.”
“It’s definitely a tough start but it’s exciting to be able to have two great tests and see where we are at as a team,” said Collis. “I think we will be fine. We are definitely ready. These two weeks we are just polishing everything up and making sure we are ready to go.”