The pandemic dealt a blow to Public League football that some programs are still recovering from.
A year of remote learning, missed offseason workouts and an on-the-fly spring season left a number of teams back at square one.
But in the Ashburn neighborhood, one program is not only surviving but thriving. And that came in the wake of some struggles after promotion to the more competitive Illini sections.
This calendar year, Goode is 11-2 with conference titles in the Illini Big Shoulders in the spring and the Illini Great Lakes in the fall. The Knights have qualified for the IHSA playoffs for the second time in program history and are in the Public League playoffs for the first time.
What’s the secret to Goode’s success? Trusting the process, senior quarterback Marquis Brown said.
“COVID season, it was really tough to get through,” Brown said. “We stayed active, went to the field, threw some passes around. If we have a season or not, we’re still family. We’ll get through this together.”
The Knights went 4-1 in the spring with the only loss 45-0 to Carver, a rival they’d never defeated. This fall, Goode beat Carver — also an IHSA playoff qualifier after winning the Illini Second City — 65-6.
“It’s a big accomplishment,” Brown said. “No one thought we were going to win that game.
“We’re getting everybody to practice. We have some players who didn’t play in the spring due to COVID. The energy is up now.”
Coach Terrence McClarn has been at Goode since the start of the varsity program in 2014, two years after the school opened. He has climbed the ladder from defensive backs coach to special-teams coordinator to JV head coach to defensive coordinator. The head coach since 2019, he has seen the highs and the lows.
In the program’s third year, Goode went 9-0 in the regular season, won the Chicago Great Lakes and lost 46-6 to Nazareth in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
But, like a lot of CPS teams that are successful in the Chicago sections, Goode initially struggled after promotion to the Illini. The Knights went 5-21 overall and 0-14 in conference play in their first three seasons in the Illini.
A key to getting the program back on track, McClarn said, was having more help. The early Goode teams had only four coaches; now there are nine. Like McClarn, they played for assistant head coach Mike Glenn’s youth football program.
With an enrollment of 981, Goode has around 60 players in the program. This year’s JV team is actually larger than the varsity with about 35 players. But McClarn resisted the urge to move anyone up because every one of those players was in his first season of football.
There is experience and talent on the varsity. Brown splits reps at quarterback with senior Jaheed Puckett, who also plays wingback and defensive back.
Other mainstays include junior twins Martese Whitehurst, a defensive end/running back, and Marques Whitehurst, a linebacker/running back, and two-way junior lineman Alejandro Guzman.
As the Knights keep checking off items on the program’s to-do list, a few remain. Former quarterback Jamari Johnson, now a redshirt junior defensive end at Division II McKendree, is Goode’s most prominent player at the next level.
Sending a player to Division I is high on McClarn’s priority list. The school’s academics help. Through a partnership with Daley College, students can not only take college classes but can graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree.
In the meantime, there are other goals to chase, including the program’s first postseason victory.
“What legacy do you want to leave behind?” McClarn said he asks his players. “We want to set the bar high for the next person.”