CARPENTERSVILLE – At Dundee-Crown, the first day of football practice in 2018 looked completely different from the first day of practice in 2017.
“We basically do everything faster because we’re a senior-heavy team and we have more leaders at each position group,” senior lineman Gabe Kurzynski said. “We feel very comfortable and in sync with each other.”
The Chargers finished the 2017 season at 1-8. Their preseason roster last year listed 10 seniors and 30 juniors. Now, many of those juniors return as seniors with varsity experience.
D-C brings back nine of 11 starters on offense.
“It was definitely hard at times when you look at the scoreboard at the end of the game and you’re always on the [losing] side,” senior quarterback Josh Raby said. “We knew it was going to be a tough year and we wanted to use it as a building year. We went out to win every game, like you should, but we knew there were going to be growing pains.”
Raby is the top returning passer in McHenry County. He threw for 1,437 yards and 13 touchdowns, while completing 59.8 percent of his passes.
D-C coach Mike Steinhaus said Raby’s accuracy is one of his biggest strengths. At 6-foot-5, Raby has no problem seeing over his offensive line. His top to targets in 2017 also return: Jack Michalski and Brad Stec.
Pair that with the FVC’s top returning rusher in Ricky Ibarra (1,196 yards, 11 touchdowns), and the Chargers should have no problem scoring points.
The question is, can they put it all together in a tough conference?
“We took the losses as lessons,” Kurzynski said. “We learned from our mistakes and now that we’re a senior-heavy team, a lot of schools in our conference were senior-heavy last year, they might be encountering the same thing we encountered last year. We have a shot at being more successful than we were last year.”
In 2017, with such a young team, Steinhaus didn’t talk about the playoffs much, according to Kurzynski. This year, the players hear him use the P-word more often.
“When we’re not participating at our highest level, our coaches will bring it up: ‘That’s not playoff-worthy,’” Raby said.
The Chargers don’t have to talk about it to know that it’s one of their goals. D-C has not reached the IHSA playoffs since 2013, and that postseason appearance broke a 19-year drought dating back to the 1994 season.
“We’re all working toward the same goal to make the playoffs this year because we all feel we have the group to do it,” Raby said. “The coaching staff is behind us, the players are behind each other. We’ve just got a good chemistry growing this summer.”
Kurzynski has heard the stories from his older sister about what the vibe around school was in 2013 when the Chargers made the playoffs.
“It would mean a lot to not only the team, but to the seniors,” Kurzynski said. “We’ve busted our butts for four years here. For the community and the school, it would mean so much.”