Monday was the first day of football practice across the state. On the Southwest Side at Solorio, the field was exceptionally loud. The PA system blasted Guns ‘N Roses over the constant hum of planes from Midway Airport.
Junior quarterback Quincy Patterson, the city’s newest football star, stood at the 50 yard line taking snaps.
“He’s a freak,” Solorio coach Matt Erlenbaugh said. “He’s just getting better and better.”
Patterson was a tall, thin, unknown at the end of last season. He completed just one pass in the Sun Warriors’ first round Class 5A state playoff win against Lindblom.
The 6-4 junior had a tremendous summer, picking up scholarship offers from Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico and Penn State.
“My goal this summer was to get to 230 and right now I’m at 226, almost there,” Patterson said. “I knew if I weighed more I could be unstoppable, I’d be that much harder to bring down.”
Patterson flashed plenty of potential last season, but he didn’t look like a player on the verge of picking up major offers.
“Yeah, I didn’t really expect it,” Patterson said. “All the camps went well and I guess I kind of got lucky with the offers.”
Size and experience won’t be the only difference with Patterson this season. He’s going to play linebacker.
“[Patterson] came to me and said he didn’t want to be off the field at all,” Erlenbaugh said. “It killed him last year being on the sidelines.”
Solorio’s football program doesn’t have the high-profile of Phillips or Simeon. The school opened in 2010 and has never had a losing season, but they’ve never had a star attraction like Patterson. Last year the Sun Warriors finished 6-5 and were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by Nazareth, the eventual state champs.
Erlenbaugh is the new head coach. He’s a teacher at Solorio and was defensive coordinator at Riverside-Brookfield the past two seasons.
“I’m the son of a coach so I’ve been around football my whole life,” Erlenbaugh said. “I started coaching as an undergrad at Western Illinois.”
Solorio has more than a dozen starters back from last season and senior Terrence Bolden, the starting safety in 2013 and 2014, is back from a serious knee injury.
“Watching last year was hard, I knew a huge piece of the team was missing,” Bolden said. “It was fun getting back out there with the guys today, it is obvious they’ve gotten better.”
Running back Justin Members, the star of the playoff win over Lindblom, returns and Erlenbaugh is expecting big things from Robert Chayka, a transfer from St. Laurence.
Unlike some city schools, Solorio has its own field and no equipment issues.
“Our administration is very supportive, anything that we need they find a way to get it, whether it is fundraising or stuff like that,” Erlenbaugh said. “This year we have more coaches on staff, we are able to have two wide receiver coaches. Where it was more just getting plays in last year, now we can get them coached up and make sure that everything is right.”