Suburban Life football notes: Senior Jimmy Janicki provides major boost to Downers Grove North

York's Luke Mallander (84) is gang tackled by Downers Grove North's Jimmy Janicki (9) and Joseph Edwards (8) during football game between York at Downers Grove North.  Sept 29, 2023.

Three weeks before the start of his senior season, Jimmy Janicki suffered the biggest loss of his season.

The Downers Grove North linebacker and special teams master broke the scaphoid bone in his wrist to derail his individual goals.

“I was super frustrated, especially due to the fact it was my senior season and I most likely won’t be playing football ever again,” Janicki said.

Janicki, a Troy University baseball recruit, is a vital do-it-all player for the Trojans in football. His five-week absence can’t solely be measured in statistics due to his experience, leadership and versatility.

The Trojans won their first five games but lost consecutive games to York and Lyons despite Janicki’s return to the field.

Janicki said he gained a deeper love for football during his absence, though he contributed on special teams for the first five weeks. Janicki, a catcher, batted .488 with 61 hits and six homers to go with 53 RBIs last spring. On the football field, in his junior year, his impact was just as valuable. He finished with 92 tackles, three interceptions, two pass deflections and forced three fumbles, while averaging 42 yards per punt last season.

Downers Grove North's Jimmy Janicki

“As soon as I got back, my adrenaline was through the roof and I was so excited,” he said. “I had a big hit on a York player, and it felt great. I never realized how much I loved football until I was out those five weeks.”

Downers Grove North coach Joe Horeni said Janicki is a multi-faceted player for his program. He called Janicki’s return a key factor for the Trojans winning their first two playoff games. Downers Grove North plays at Lincoln-Way West on Saturday in a Class 7A quarterfinal game.

“Jimmy has had a great year, fought through a lot of adversity from getting an injury the day before practice in August,” Horeni said. “He was not able to play other than kicking and punting in the first five weeks. He was our leading tackler last year, so having him back is a difference maker. He’s a great kid and a tremendous worker.”

Now, the Trojans (9-2) attempt to knock off another quality opponent following their stunning second-half comeback against Hersey in the second round.

“I’m really proud of our kids and their efforts and all hard work they have put in,” Horeni said. “You think about all the people who have helped you and pushed the program in the right direction. The history at Downers Grove North is fantastic. A lot of people did a lot of work to get our team to where it needs to be, not just the kids, but also the coaches and the family support. I’m thankful for everybody who has been involved, and happy everybody got to be a part of our success to beat Hersey.

“Lincoln-Way West is a really good team. They won conference this year, and in that league, that’s no small feat, just considering all the great teams they play. They’ve been through the gauntlet, like our league, and seem similar to us in that they like to run the football, throw ball when they can and their defense can fly around.”

Janicki said the Warriors (9-2) are a tough team, with a high-octane offense averaging 30.1 points per game. Janicki said the Trojans’ defense is primed for the challenge.

“Our defense is crazy good and our potential is through the roof,” Janicki said. “We play fast and physical. We have a bunch of great athletes.”

York advances to quarterbacks again: In Class 8A, York advanced to the quarterfinals for the second straight year thanks to a Damian Glodz hitting a 30-yard field goal as time expired to lead the Dukes to a 17-14 win over Lyons in the second round.

The Dukes (10-1) host Edwardsville (10-1) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The Tigers crushed Glenbard West 48-14 in the second round.

“Edwardsville is an extremely well-coached team and they have a great scheme offensively and defensively with tremendous players on both sides of the ball,” coach Mike Fitzgerald said. “They have great team speed and play very physical on both sides of the ball. They are very balanced on offense and have a really good quarterback who commands their offense well.

“Like any big game, you have to take care of the football and try to create some takeaways defensively. We need to play great team defense to contain their speed and tackle well to eliminate the big plays. Offensively, we need to be able to run the ball, sustain drives, and finish in the red zone. The kicking game always plays a big role in these games too so we need to be sharp on special teams as well.”

Fitzgerald said the Dukes had several players who had outstanding efforts in Saturday’s thrilling victory, most notably nose guard Ravi Pradhan.

“Ravi had seven tackles and three and a half tackles for a loss, a sack and three quarterback pressures,” he said. “Our defensive ends, Joe Reiff and Jack Trautmann, get a lot of attention on the edge, but Ravi was very productive from the interior nose position and caused a lot of havoc for Lyons. Our defense held Lyons to 47 rushing yards.”

Tidbits: Glenbard East hosts Normal Community at 2 p.m. Saturday in a Class 7A quarterfinal. … St. Francis entertains Morgan Park at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in a 5A quarterfinal, while Nazareth travels to Carmel for a 5A 2 p.m. game. … Wheaton Academy takes on Sandwich in a 4A game at home oat 7 p.m. Friday, and IC Catholic hosts St. Laurence at 4 p.m. Saturday. ... Montini takes on Princeton at 1 p.m. Saturday in Lombard in 3A.