ALGONQUIN – The shortened spring football season provided plenty of challenges for a young Jacobs team and first-year head coach Brian Zimmerman.
There was, however, a silver lining. The Golden Eagles, who went 2-2 before missing their final two games because of protocols, will return 14 starters this fall, including senior running backs Nasir Canty and Ben Ludlum.
Zimmerman knows that’s not a bad place to start for a team that likes to run the football.
“We’re going to have two guys that can both run for 7, 8, 900 yards,” said Zimmerman, who took over the program after former head coach Bill Mitz resigned just weeks before the spring season began. “That’s going to be a dangerous combination.”
Zimmerman, who was on the staff of Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame coach Mitz for six seasons, also has coached under Lincoln-Way East head coach Rob Zvonar, who has guided the Griffins to three state titles.
In the shortened spring season, Ludlum rushed 549 yards, which led the McHenry County area, and had back-to-back four-touchdown games. Ludlum, who also played in the defensive backfield during the spring, sprained his ankle running the 4x100 relay during a sectional track meet in early June but returned to the football field late last month.
Canty carried 105 times for 479 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore in 2019. The bruising tailback added 247 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 37 carries during the spring season.
Both Ludlum and Canty have high hopes for the season, especially with 14 returning starters. Canty spoke highly on his fellow running back.
“If you look at the kid, he came a long way,” Canty said of Ludlum. “He’s an outstanding running back. If he gets the ball, if I block, and he makes a touchdown, I’m happy for him. We get on each other when we feel one isn’t doing what we should be doing, but when everything comes together, and you saw it last year, we rock and roll.
“Our chemistry is good. You go to my side, and you go back to his side, then you go to my side, I don’t think you can stop that. We’ve got two of the best running backs in the conference.”
Zimmerman is feeling confident in the Eagles and is excited to see the combinations that Ludlum (5-9, 165 pounds) and Canty (6-1, 205) bring to the field.
“Nasir is more of a power runner, he’s going to take it outside but still run you over,” Zimmerman said. “Ben is going to put moves on you. Thunder and lightning, I guess. Those two compliment each other, they both block for each other, which is really the essence of our offense. They both block for each other, which a couple of years ago we weren’t fully getting that from our running backs, but now we’re getting that, which is really important. Everything has to be working together with this offense.”
The Eagles open the fall season Aug. 27 at home against Crystal Lake South. After missing the playoffs and finishing 3-6 in 2019, along with only playing four games this past spring, Canty said the team is anxious to get back on track.
“We have unfinished business,” Canty said. “We’re hoping to make it far and reach the playoffs. The sky is the limit for this team.”