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Football notebook: New coaches at Eisenhower, Young and more college commitments

After writing a Public League success story at Back of the Yards, where he built a successful program from the ground up, Sheamus Murphy took over this spring as head coach at Eisenhower.

Sheamus Murphy, who built a football program from scratch at Back of the Yards, is the new head coach at Eisenhower.
Sheamus Murphy, who built a football program from scratch at Back of the Yards, is the new head coach at Eisenhower.
Mike Clark/For the Sun-Times

In business terms, Sheamus Murphy used to be running both and start-up and a mom-and-pop operation.

Now he’s moved on to become CEO of a bigger enterprise.

After writing a Public League success story at Back of the Yards, where he built a successful program from the ground up, Murphy took over this spring as head coach at Eisenhower. He replaced Travis Moore, who left to become an assistant at Northern Illinois after going 51-63 with five playoff berths and two conference titles in 12 seasons.

“I’ve always wanted to coach in a community and a school that had a rich football tradition -- in the south suburbs especially because that’s where I’m from,” said Murphy, who graduated from Sandburg.

Murphy wasn’t necessarily looking to leave Back of the Yards, where he started the football program in 2015 and also served as athletic director. The Bobcats began in the Inter City, the lowest of three tiers of Public League football, and rapidly rose through the ranks, reaching the Chicago level in 2017 and the Illini last season.

They never had a losing season, going 28-10 on Murphy’s watch and making the IHSA playoffs each of the past two seasons. They had some rare advantages for a Public League school, including an on-campus field with artificial turf.

But there are some things a suburban school can offer that CPS can’t, including better numbers.

When summer workouts began, Murphy had around 50 players in the sophomore through senior classes.

“There’s going to be a freshman, a sophomore and a varsity team,” Murphy said. “That’s something we didn’t have at Back of the Yards.”

There also are more coaches, and more support. When Back of the Yards hosted several makeup games on Columbus Day last season, Murphy’s parents pitched in by running the game clock and selling bottled water.

“I think they’re going to be relieved from concession duties,” Murphy said with a smile. “Mom just made the request, ‘I don’t want to be selling raffle tickets, I want to actually watch the game.’ So Mom is going to be able to actually watch the game, but they’re going to be helping out in some capacity.”

Murphy has big goals for the Cardinals on and off the field.

“I really want these kids prioritizing the classroom, making sure that we’re all eligible, really working toward that 3.0 (team) GPA,” he said. “Then as far as football’s concerned, we really want to compete in the (South Suburban Red) conference, we want to be in the state playoffs.”

Murphy used a run-oriented offense at Back of the Yards featuring workhorse back Carl McNickles. The focus of Eisenhower’s attack will be senior quarterback Daniel McLaurin.

“Having a quarterback who can run and throw is really what I look for,” Murphy said. “Dual-threat, those are the quarterbacks I enjoy the most.”

McLaurin likes what he’s seen of his new coach.

“Very inspirational, very ready to go,” McLaurin said. “He’s willing to teach everybody new things and I like his energy.”

Young stays in-house

Young didn’t need to look far for a replacement for Christopher Mallette, who left to become football coach, athletic director and director of community relations and outreach at Hope Academy.

Taking over is Dan Finger, a 25-year-old Young grad who was on Mallette’s staff last season when the Dolphins went 8-0. It was a remarkable rebirth for a program that had to shut down because of a lack of numbers the year before.

Finger sees a template for success with the school’s other programs.

“Coach (Tyrone) Slaughter and coach (Chris) Cassidy have done an awesome job of excelling in sports,” Finger said, citing the boys basketball and baseball teams. He also noted the support of principal Joyce Kenner.

Given what happened to the program not long ago, Finger’s top priority is boosting participation. He aims to have 45 players this season and “I’d like to get it up over 60 in the next two, three years.”

After winning the Chicago Madison Street title last year, the Dolphins move up to the Illini Great Lakes this fall.

“One hundred percent, we expect to play in a state playoff game this season,” Finger said.

More MAC men

Mid-American Conference schools continue to snap up local recruits in the Class of 2020. Western Michigan added two more Illinois players in late June: three-star safety Ryan Kilburg of Maine South and wide receiver Anthony Sambucci of Lemont. The Broncos previously picked up oral commitments from three-star cornerback Ronald Pledger of Phillips and three-star safety Giacomo Iraci of Brother Rice.

Elsewhere, Lincoln-Way East defensive end Adrian Wilson committed to Bowling Green.