Almost every football program is at its best when a regular routine is adhered to.
But the past few high school football seasons one’s ability to achieve that has been severely hampered.
And while Lincoln-Way Central was no different than any other program in the state in trying to adapt to what became the new normal, the Knights are more than happy to get themselves back into a situation that more resembles the program building that head coach Jeremy Cordell feels his squad really needs.
“A lot of the intangibles that we do here at Central that have gone by the wayside the last two years are now starting to come back,” Cordell said. “And that’s a really good thing because that’s who we are. I think some of those things that people don’t see that we do internally are things that will come to fruition now that we aren’t dealing with [COVID-19].”
That stretch of time when things were in utero really hampered Lincoln-Way Central after gaining some positive vibes during the spring of 2021 that as much as the Knights enjoyed a 4-2 campaign that ended with three consecutive wins, it left them with a sense of incompletion.
“Our spring team in 2021, I wish and prayed to God that we would have had playoffs, because we were a good football team and we would have had a deep run in Class 7A,” Cordell said. “I really believe that. We ended on a high note, beat a ranked Evanston team and our kids were sky high.
“But we were senior heavy, and we were starting over. With a lot of seniors that didn’t have a lot of experience and you pair that with no offseason and you are just jumping right back in in the fall, it didn’t fit well for us. Just getting back to our offseason cycle is big for us.”
It’s an offseason cycle that once again will require some building back up with limited returners on both sides of the football. But given the full cycle of time to run through the process, Cordell is eager to continue the work this group already has started in earnest.
“It’s just exciting to be out here with a new group, new faces, and obviously sophomores coming up to play varsity football. Every year is new and that’s the beautiful part about it. I love our group. They are very coachable,” Cordell said. “We only ran six concepts today, but we ran those six concepts with intent and purpose. Our kids are getting good at football, and their football IQ keeps improving, and I think that’s the most important thing, from a schematic standpoint from a logistics standpoint.”
Cordell recognizes that his team’s football IQ had to improve after last year’s 2-7 mark that included a five-game slide at the end of the year.
“You look back as a head coach and think what needs to improve? What needs to get better? What changes do you need to make?,” Cordell said. “And that’s a mix of everything.”
Personnel largely will be different on both sides of the football. The Knights are breaking in a new starting quarterback junior Michael Kuehl, although he does have some experienced receivers in Ethan Grebeck and Austin Williams to throw to.
Defensively, lineman Peyton Wilkerson will be the anchor that the defensive unit will be built around. Wilkerson is drawing Division I and FCS-level interest for his services after high school.
From there, it will be about weaving in a number of talented underclassmen into the mix from the lower levels where Lincoln-Way Central was a combined 15-3 last year.
“Varsity is different,” Cordell said. “And we know that. But the fact that we’re going to be able to do the things that we’ve always done with this group should be a big help and getting them more in tune to what it takes at this level.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle