Hinsdale Central football coach Brian Griffin dealt with constant turmoil in his first few seasons leading the program.
At the outset, he accepted the head coaching job in the midst of the controversial $140 million referendum, which led to a temporary suspension of the program in the winter of 2018-19.
After the program was reinstated and posted an 8-2 record in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic was another obstacle for Griffin to overcome last year.
Throughout the chaos and uncertainty, Griffin could rely on one constant: Michael Brescia. The dual-threat quarterback was the epitome of stability, leading the Red Devils to a 14-2 record in his final two seasons. Brescia provided big-play ability with his legs and arm on a consistent basis, and his leadership, toughness and experience brought stability and confidence to the offense. The Red Devils won all six of their games in the spring behind a stout defense and diverse offense.
The graduation of the Colgate recruit leaves a gaping hole at quarterback that remains unfilled at this point of the summer. Griffin said three players are competing for the starting job.
At a 7-on-7 at Downers Grove South on July 17, Griffin talked more about the open QB1 spot, which is a battle between senior Lynden McCarroll and juniors Benjamin Monahan and Billy Cemugel.
“The three are all great kids,” Griffin said. “They’re all competing. It’s fun. They all want to win but understand the team aspect as well. It’s an eclectic mix with one senior who has worked really hard and two juniors competing and working their way up to play quarterback. But competition makes everybody better.”
McCarroll has a slight edge for the starting position after backing up Brescia. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound McCarroll is the most experienced among the three quarterbacks after getting reps late in a few games in the spring.
“I learned a lot from Brescia, and he really inspired me to take the quarterback position seriously,” McCarroll said. “I think I’m getting better at staying in the pocket. I used to like to run a lot, but now I sit in the pocket more. I’m excited for the season, and it will be great competition with Ben and Billy.”
Cemugel, who is 6-3 and 175 pounds, played exclusively on the lower levels last season.
“I’m looking forward to the competition in 7-on-7s and practice,” Cemugel said. “In the summer, I think my passes have been good, but in games, my running ability will show.”
The 6-2, 195-pound Monahan split time with Cemugel last season, earning valuable reps while building confidence to compete for the varsity job.
“I’m definitely a pass-first quarterback, but when I feel pressure, I’ll definitely run the ball,” Monahan said. “This is a great opportunity. I’m really excited. We’re all having fun, competing and slinging the ball.
“Michael was a great mentor, took us all under his wing and taught us to be resilient and to keep pounding and be a leader.”
In the spring, the Red Devils’ defense was the strength of the squad, holding five teams, including Glenbard West, to one score or less. The defense allowed a scant 31 points in six games.
The defense must retool by replacing eight starters. The offense brings back several linemen among its six returning starters.
So there may be greater importance on the offense this fall to carry the load.
And that starts at quarterback, where Brescia led the way the past two seasons. As a junior, Brescia passed for 1,314 yards and 19 touchdowns and ran for 496 yards and nine scores. In his senior year, Brescia threw for 955 yards and nine TDs and rushed for 490 yards and 12 touchdowns in the six-game abbreviated spring season.
Those numbers will be hard to duplicate, let alone replacing Brescia’s understanding of the offense.
“It’s been a fun couple of weeks,” Griffin said of summer workouts. “All three of them have skills that are different. It’s hard to make those decisions. The kids are more comfortable with it than the coaches are. They’ve done it, and that’s been their experience. They’re used to competing every day. These are great problems to have. It’s fun to have three talented kids competing for a position.”