Football Preview: Tough Schedule Provides Motivation For Maine South – Journal & Topics Newspapers Online

Maine South is annually one of the top high school football programs in Illinois, qualifying for the playoffs each year since 1992 and all but two times since 1985.

Maine South coach Dave Inserra (196-30 record, 4 state championships, 3 state runner-ups) is entering his 19th season just 4 wins away from 200 in his career. The Hawks are 345-82 since 1982. South has had only one losing season since 1984 (2-7 in 1991).

They started last season 2-1 before winning eight straight to advance to the state quarterfinals, where they fell 17-0 to eventual state champion Loyola Academy. It was the Hawks first shutout loss since 2013, ironically enough to Loyola in the quarterfinals.

Maine South won state in 2016 by beating the Ramblers, but fell in the semifinals in 2017 to eventual state champion Lincoln-Way East. The Hawks hope to fly to the state title game again in 2019.

“Losing in the state semifinals and quarterfinals over the last two years to the eventual state champion, it means you are playing the best, which is nice,” Inserra said. “You have to beat the best if you want to win state. It is motivation for us to move forward. The guys were fully focused from the beginning of workouts in November. We have some nice senior leadership that has stepped up. We have some returning weapons on offense, which is very helpful. We think they’ve gotten better over the summer.”

One thing about the Hawks: they never seem to have a rebuilding year. They just reload with new talent, plus a few returning players who up their game the next year.

Leading the way for the Hawks this season are Michael Velazquez (Sr., WR/CB), Ryan Kilburg (Sr., WR/SS), Nathan Smith (Sr., WR/KR), Danny Lazic (Sr., WR/CB/KR), Peter Skoronski (Sr., LT/DL, committed to Northwestern) and Sean Hayes (Sr., LB/WR/QB).

Skoronski (6-4, 285) is one of the top ranked players in the state. Inserra said you can’t ask for a better football player, better kid or better worker than Skoronski. The team rallies around Skoronski, according to Inserra.

“He is very humble,” Inserra said of Skoronski. “He is very easy to coach. We don’t have to push him hard, he does it himself. He is a leader by example. There isn’t a harder worker and he’s very intelligent on and off the field.”

Some of the newcomers Inserra is relying on are Danny Locascio (Sr., FS), Luke Leongas (Jr., starting QB), Mike Sajenko (So., RB) and Johnny Palumbo (Sr., RB/LB, transfer from Montini). Palumbo was also a star track athlete at Montini, finishing 11th at state in the Class 2A 100-meter dash last year. He also was on the Montini football team that finished second at state in Class 5A last year, falling 35-27 in the finals to Joliet Catholic.

Maine South QB Luke Leongas unleashes a pass during the CSL 7-on-7 tournament.

Last year the Hawks had a lot of returning athletes on defense, but this year it is the offense with more returning players, according to Inserra.

Maine South joined the CSL South division in 1999 after a successful run in the CSL North. Over the 20 seasons in the CSL South, the Hawks are 96-4 with 17 conference titles and three runner-ups. Unless the IHSA changes course with districts in 2021, the Hawks only have two more chances to try and claim the conference crown.

“Our goal each year is to win the CSL South, but in this case defend the CSL South title,” Inserra said. “We take a lot of pride in that. We have mentioned to the sophomore group that they will be the group that won’t see conference anymore. We have two years left, so we better take care of business. We want to go out on a high note.”

The conference schedule gets a slight adjustment with Glenbrook North replacing Niles North. Maine South’s last game against GBN was Sept. 12, 2014. The Hawks won 40-0. The Hawks also shutout GBN in the two previous games before that, 41-0 in 2013 and 42-0 in 2008. GBN did defeat Maine South 13-10 in 2007. The Hawks are 8-1 against GBN overall since 1996.

Maine South also adds Fremd and Palatine to the schedule in weeks 3 and 4. They beat Palatine and Fremd in 2017, but didn’t play them in 2018.

Inserra said it’s fun facing new opponents, because you have to prepare differently and do some background work. He said Glenbrook North is a formidable opponent to add to the conference schedule.

The Hawks open again with the devastating 1-2 punch of Glenbard West (8/31) and Mount Carmel (9/6).

Maine South Last 5 Years:

2018: 10-2 (5-0 in CSL South) * Playoffs

2017: 11-2 (5-0) * Playoffs (lost in semifinals)

2016: 11-3 (4-1) * Playoffs (Class 8A state champions)

2015: 8-3 (5-0) * Playoffs

2014: 10-1 (5-0) * Playoffs

Maine South

8/31 – at Glenbard West (Duchon Field), 1:30 p.m. 

9/6 – vs. Mount Carmel, 7 p.m.

9/13 – at Fremd, 7:30 p.m.

9/20 – vs. Palatine, 7:30 p.m.

9/27 – at Niles West, 7 p.m.

10/4 – at Evanston, 7:30 p.m.

10/11 – at Glenbrook North, 7 p.m.

10/18 – vs. Glenbrook South, 7 p.m.

10/25 – at New Trier, 7 p.m.

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