Boys basketball casts a big shadow at Young.
But Pat McHale, Aleks Dale and their teammates are making headway in getting some attention for the football program too.
McHale ran for two touchdowns and threw for another Saturday, and Dale filled in at tight end and set up a special-teams score as Young opened with a 52-6 win over Clemente at Rockne.
It’s a pivotal season for the Dolphins, who have joined Public League powers Phillips and Taft in the Illini Land of Lincoln section after going 3-0 as a member of the Illini Prairie State in the spring.
“Our goal, moving up in this top conference, is to show Whitney Young is an elite CPS team,” said McHale, a senior quarterback and safety. “We had our biggest freshman class and we’re looking to build for the future.
“We don’t want this to be one-and-done in this top conference.”
That would be a big step forward for a program that had to hit the reset button in 2017 when it shut down in midseason because of low numbers.
“When I first got here, it was a year after they got rid of the team and had to cancel the season,” McHale said. “When I was a freshman, people didn’t even know we played football that year.
“Now I feel like we’re getting recognition and praise from the school.”
“We’re having more fans, people take us more seriously around the school,” Dale said.
Credit that to players like McHale; Dale, a junior who plays all over the field; senior running back Frank Schotanus, who ran for two TDs; and sophomore Anthony Hood, who had a touchdown run and touchdown catch against Clemente.
Dale, a 6-foot, 215-pounder, played tailback in the spring and was scheduled to start on the offensive line this fall.
But tight end Sam Wyatt was sidelined by injury Saturday, so coach Dan Finger moved Dale there.
“He’s just a freak,” Finger said of Dale. “When we get our best 11, Aleks is going to play guard.”
That’s fine with Dale, who blocked a punt that teammate Joseph Clayton recovered in the end zone for Young’s first touchdown on Saturday.
“Aleks didn’t bat an eye,” Finger said of the position shifts. “We said, ‘We think you’re better when you’re at guard.’ He said, ‘Sign me up.’
“He goes where we need him. He knows the whole offense.”
McHale, meanwhile, is locked in at quarterback. He was 5-for-7 passing for 97 yards and ran four times for 28 yards.
“He’s the quintessential lead-by-example [player] and it’s been awesome to see him develop his voice in the past year,” Finger said. “
An indication of McHale’s standing among his peers: Finger said he received 57 of 60 votes for captain.
Young is farther along than Clemente, which dressed 16 players on Saturday after having an average of 10 players at preseason workouts.
Coach Patrick Murray sees brighter days ahead with school starting on Monday and players returning to practice after finishing their summer jobs.
“In a couple of weeks, I think we’ll be a lot better,” Murray said.
One highlight for the Wildcats on Saturday was Johnny Williams’ 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
“Johnny’s a speedster,” Murray said. “He was one of the guys who was working so he hasn’t had much practice time yet. ... We’re just excited about the future.”