IC Catholic Prep’s Dennis Mandala is starting to make a special mark early in his career.
The sophomore quarterback is one of the leading forces behind the Knights’ undefeated record through seven games. Mandala showed off his poise and quick-read ability in Friday’s 55-14 rout over Riverside-Brookfield.
Mandala tossed six touchdowns, including five touchdowns to five different targets.
“All my receivers are fast, quick and efficient, so I just try and get them the ball and they can do what they do,” Mandala said.
Mandala said he didn’t start the spring season opener, but became a key factor in the Knights winning three of their four games. Mandala said he fulfilled his dream of attending and playing for the Knights’ esteemed program. The Knights won three straight state titles from 2016-18, and have posted a 72-6 record since 2015.
“It’s a great feeling because I’ve always been a quarterback, and always wanted to come here and show people what I can do,” Mandala said. “I still have a couple of years ahead of me, so I’m excited about the future. I learned a lot from our junior quarterback last season, George O’Brien. He taught me a lot, and I just tried to take it from there.”
“I’m starting to feel more comfortable and better now that I know more and everyone on the team and can talk to anyone.”
The Knights have another sophomore making big plays all over the field. KJ Parker caught four passes for 92 yards and a touchdown, intercepted a pass and returned the pick 36 yards for a touchdown and returned punts and kickoffs.
“(KJ) is a special player,” Mandala said. “It’s nice that we have a connection.”
The Mandala-Parker connection is certainly one to watch, with the Knights possessing a number of weapons on offense to go with a solid offensive line and a strong defense.
“We’re playing really well as a team, and everyone is contributing,” Parker said.
Downers Grove South junior tight end Mack O’Halloran is out for the rest of the season due to an injured shoulder. The Mustangs (3-4) are in the midst of a playoff run, winning three straight games to wipe away the frustration of an 0-4 start that included three consecutive shutout losses to start the season.
The Mustangs have a good shot at winning five games, hosting Morton and playing at Leyden in their final two games.
Still, the Mustangs will be without O’Halloran, which is a big blow to the offense. O’Halloran, a emerging Division I recruit, missed two games this season – Week 5 and 7 – before being ruled out for the season.
“I’m planning to have surgery in the first week of November,” O’Halloran said. “I’ll start rehab soon after that. They gave me a four to six month timetable.”
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound O’Halloran said his injury came at an inopportune time in regards to his recruiting. He has yet to pick up an offer, but has been getting interest from a number of schools. He attended Iowa’s home game against Penn State last Saturday, his first game-day visit.
“It was an awesome experience,” he said. “I had a lot of fans come up to me because they saw I had a (recruit) pass. It was a great college football game and a great atmosphere, just to see how the fans impacted the game. It was definitely overwhelming, even seeing how big the (recruits) and players were there.”
O’Halloran said he’s going to be cheering and pushing his teammates to finish the regular season strong and make the playoffs.
“I’m really proud of how guys are bouncing back, especially after our 0-4 start,” he said. “No one wants to start that way.”
Downers Grove South Mark Molinari said his team is starting to come together at the right time of the season. Molinari added that star wide receiver Eli Reed, who sat out last week’s game with an ankle injury, is slated to play against Morton on Friday.
“We started to count every game as a playoff game once we got to our fourth loss,” Molinari said. “We have 16 sophomores up, and we’re starting to play them more. Our schedule did ease up a bit, so we’re starting to play some teams where we match up better with. Our youth is starting to mature, which bodes well for the future. We want to get in the playoffs again and get them that experience. Morton is a good team, always done some good things. It will be a challenge for us.”
More notes: Lyons is another area team making a run at the playoffs. The Lions (4-3) have rebounded from a 1-2 start by winning their last two games, though their road to the postseason is not an easy one. The Lions host Glenbard West (6-1) and travel to Downers Grove North (4-3).
“Glenbard West is a very good football team and a great program,” Lyons coach Jon Beutjer said. “They’re tough and physical and have a very good offense and defense and they play hard. They’re well-coached and kids play very hard. Our kids have worked really hard and looking forward to the challenge. We know going into the season this conference is very tough. In addition, we played New Trier in the first week, a typical playoff team. Going into these last two weeks, we’re focusing on ourselves and to get better in practice. We have to not try to do too much. We have to do our job and focus on what we want to do. The guys really want to win, and we have to play within ourselves and minimize mistakes and protect the football and not allow big plays. We have to also protect the football.”
Also, Morton (3-4, 3-1 West Suburban Gold) is looking to make a push toward the playoffs with games remaining at Downers Grove South and at home against Willowbrook.