March 29, 2023
Sports - McHenry County

Sports - McHenry County

High school football: Dundee-Crown hopes to turn close losses into wins

Dundee-Crown senior tight end Tommy Warner practices tackling Thursday, July 20, 2017, in Carpentersville.

CARPENTERSVILLE – The Dundee-Crown football team has been stuck on two wins in each of the past three seasons, but coach Mike Steinhaus is encouraged by the direction of his program.

He thinks other area coaches would agree.

"Last year, I thought we really stepped up the way we were willing to compete," said Steinhaus, who is 6-21 in three seasons at D-C. "I think that, in every one one of our games, other schools would say the same, that it was a different Dundee-Crown they were playing.

"We know what we are, and we’re trying to change the mindset of what people think of Dundee-Crown football. You’re going to have to go through some things if you’re going to do it right. And we’re going to continue to do things the right way."

D-C went 2-7 last season, including a 1-7 mark in the rugged Fox Valley Conference. Despite their record, the Chargers played many of their opponents close, with a one-point loss to Crystal Lake South and a seven-point loss to Hampshire to open the year.

Two of their other losses were by fewer than two scores.

With perennial playoff contenders in Prairie Ridge, Cary-Grove and Huntley at the top, the Chargers know they have their work cut out for them. They’re also ready for the challenge.

"It makes us all want to get better," said tight end and linebacker Tommy Warner, who missed his junior year with a torn ACL suffered in the Chargers' scrimmage before the regular season.

"We work hard, and we’re like a family. We like to spend time with each other after school, talk about football, talk about the plays and everything. The people that want to be here want to be here."

Isiah Ziegler, a 5-foot-10, 280-pound offensive lineman, is entering his third season on varsity and said the close losses provided a valuable lesson.

"When we’re out here practicing and it's 100 degrees and it’s hot and humid, I feel like we all thought about those close games where we lost by one point or a touchdown," Ziegler said.

"We’ve got to put in the work now. Because, honestly, losing by a point really [stinks]. It’s the worst feeling in the world when you’re up at halftime and you lose by a point because we didn't do a block right. We all have to work together as a team. That’s the biggest thing, because last year, we didn’t have a lot of great communication."

McHenry beat D-C, 27-16, last year to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons. The Chargers last made the postseason in 2013. That year's 6-4 team is the last one at D-C with a winning record over the past 22 seasons.

The Chargers had 23 seniors and eight juniors on the varsity roster last season, meaning this year's team mostly will be young and with some inexperience.

Josh Raby is the leading candidate to replace Conor Ryan at quarterback, and Ricky Ibarra (405 yards, nine touchdowns) will be one of the running backs taking over for Greg Williams. Both are juniors.

Williams was third in the FVC last year with 1,082 rushing yards.

"I'm going to have very big shoes to fill because he did a lot for us," Ibarra said of Williams. "We’re still young, so we have a lot to think about. I think the main thing is to take our coaches seriously, and do more than what’s expected of us. Go to practice, do your work, and then not just go home. Do more."

Raby suffered a broken collarbone last year and didn't have any reps behind Ryan but said he learned a lot from watching on the sidelines and going over calls with Ryan and other coaches.

D-C went to Northern Illinois University for a 7-on-7 camp this summer, and Raby said the team really clicked there.

"We're a lot more confident in our passing game," Raby said. "We worked on it a lot more over this summer. That was one of our weaknesses last year, because everyone was keying on the run. We have a good group of receivers, and the line is busting their butts every snap to keep me safe."

Already this summer, Steinhaus sees his team taking positive steps and is hopeful it carries over to the regular season. D-C opens the season Aug. 25 at Hampshire. The Chargers held a 21-14 lead in the fourth quarter in Week 1 last year against the Whip-Purs but let it get away.

“I know that we’re going to play with a great attitude and effort in practices and in games,” Steinhaus said. “I think that’s the makeup of the team. We’ll see from everything else where we go from there. The kids that are here are the kids that care about the school and care about the program.”

Alex Kantecki

Alex Kantecki

Alex is a sports writer for the Northwest Herald.