Maine South senior Cam Stacy isn’t about to downplay the immensity of what happened last season. The Hawks won the Class 8A state title in November and ended Loyola’s 30-game winning streak in the process.
‘‘There was nothing like it; I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,’’ Stacy said. ‘‘It was once in a lifetime. Well, hopefully not once in a lifetime.’’
Stacy caught himself quickly because No. 2 Maine South wants to repeat.
‘‘Everyone is going 100 percent,’’ Stacy said. ‘‘No one is taking plays off on either side of the ball, even in practice. We play hard, just like last year. We don’t back down from anyone.’’
Stacy, a receiver and safety, will be a key player for the Hawks.
‘‘[Stacy] has an outstanding skill set,’’ Maine South coach Dave Inserra said. ‘‘All summer and offseason, he has set the tone for us.’’
Inserra’s major offensive weapon, running back Fotis Kokosioulis, also returns. The Northern Illinois recruit amassed more than 4,000 all-purpose yards in his sophomore and junior seasons.
‘‘He’s extremely electric,’’ Inserra said. ‘‘We have to be creative and find ways to get him the ball. I think everybody knows that; it isn’t a secret. When the ball is in his hands, he can do some special things.
‘‘There has been enough hype about him [that opponents] are going to be gunning for him. But he’s a special kid. He likes that pressure.’’
The Hawks have an all-new offensive line, but Kokosioulis doesn’t expect the running game to miss a beat.
‘‘They don’t have the experience or the size that last year’s line did, but they definitely have the heart and the toughness,’’ Kokosioulis said. ‘‘They won some lineman challenges over the summer.’’
Inserra said the line has learned well and thinks senior Tom Yager might have a breakout season blocking for Kokosioulis.
Senior John O’Sullivan takes over at quarterback. He played well in a couple of appearances as the backup last season.
‘‘John has a nice arm and nice size,’’ Inserra said. ‘‘He’s more of a pocket guy. Early on, he doesn’t have to make all the plays; he can use the guys around him. Those big plays will come. If he is trying to force things, it could be hard on him.’’
Maine South returns only three starters on offense and three on defense, but don’t expect the Hawks to struggle. Inserra never has lost more than three games in his 16 seasons as a head coach.
‘‘The last seven to nine years, we have constantly had to convince people,’’ Inserra said. ‘‘I guess our guys last year did a great job of convincing people. There was a great work ethic last year, and they are following it up this season. The offseason has been tremendous. Our summer has been fantastic, with guys just pushing each other to repeat.’’
Maine South has won six state titles, and Inserra has been at the helm for four. Football-participation numbers are down all over the country, but things haven’t changed much in Park Ridge.
‘‘They grow up with it here; this is a town of football families,’’ Inserra said. ‘‘We have three sets of brothers on the team. There is so much pride in this community. Kids with outstanding work ethic and parents who support the work ethic.’’
MAINE SOUTH SCHEDULE
Aug. 26 at Glenbard West
Sep. 1 vs. Lincoln-Way East
Sep. 8 vs. Fremd
Sep. 15 at Palatine
Sep. 22 vs. Evanston
Sep. 29 at Niles North
Oct. 6 vs. Glenbrook South
Oct. 13 at New Trier
Oct. 20 at Niles West
This is the sixth story in the Sun-Times 2017 Football Countdown series. Here’s what you can expect over the next couple weeks:
Aug. 23: Week 1’s top games
Aug. 24: A capsule look at the Super 25, Top 50 players