Features | Friday Night Drive

Lockport to follow title year with almost entirely new cast of characters

The Lockport football program got exactly the result it was hoping for with an experienced roster returning for the 2021 season as they led the way to a Class 8A State Championship.

The Porters had 20 seniors in the starting lineup for that title game against Maine South, and that experienced unit played its way to a 24-6 win over Maine South.

It was a rapid turnaround for a team that went 0-9 in 2018.

Now the challenge for Porters head coach George Czart will be sustaining that success with an almost entirely new group of players in key positions.

“That’s why we were good. We were a senior dominated team, " Czart said. “But now we need to come out to 7 on 7′s and evaluate the talent and get these guys experience. It’s going to be nice to have an extended summer so we have a little more time to get them there.”

Offensive lineman Christos Alexandros and defensive back Joey Manzo were the only underclassmen in the starting 22 for the Porters last season. Troy Mutz, another secondary player, also saw multiple starting opportunities throughout the 14-game Porters schedule.

But after that, there’s a lot of untested Porters as well as some other players that are expected to see expanded roles over what they had a season ago.

However, Czart is quick to point out that while many of those players didn’t see a lot of on-field minutes, the entire roster had the benefit of several extra weeks of practice with players at a state championship caliber level. That extra time can only pay dividends according to Czart.

“Our kids were practicing five extra weeks last year, and they were going against good competition,” Czart said. “They might not have necessarily been in the position that they are going to be playing in, they were just giving us looks. But in the end of the year we could end up being another senior dominated team again, we’re just not going to have the experience going in that we had last year.”

One of the primary challenges for Czart in the offeseason will be replacing graduated quarterback Hayden Timosciek, who threw 23 touchdowns with one interception last season. Drew Gallagher, Brady Pfeiffer and Caden Miller are in the mix to be under center for the Porters in the Week 1 matchup against Joliet West.

“They all have good size, good arms and good leadership skills,” Czart said. “They are all the things that you want back there.”

Another challenge for the Porters will be replacing standout running back Ty Schultz, but Czart loves the potential of Giovani Zaragoza and he will be given a substantial role.

“He has a chance to be a pretty special back, too,” Czart said of the 5-foot-7, 165-pound speedster. “We just didn’t get to see him last year, but he would have been fine back there for us.”

An expanded role is expected for junior tight end Hyatt Timosciek as well. At 6-6, he will make for an inviting target for whoever ends up playing quarterback.

“A guy that size and with those hands and his desire to be the best he can be, he’s a guy we can move all over the place and put at different positions,” Czart said.

However, the looming challenge is rebuilding a defense that was outstanding a season ago. Last season, Czart felt his offensive line got better locking horns daily with his defensive front seven in practice. Now he’s hoping the reverse comes into play, as the offensive line has a little more seasoning than the defensive front.

As for the lone returner on defense, Manzo, he feels the progression of the new-look Porter defense is going well.

“The biggest transition for me last year [is] it was senior heavy, but I was one of the lucky juniors that got to see regular playing time,” Manzo said. “This year I’m trying to transition into being more of a leader, who has experience in the playoffs, trying to become less of a follower of those big names and more of a leader for the new guys coming in.

“We have to come together and play as one single unit and not individual position groups. We’re going from being the hunters to now we are the hunted. We have to be ready for everyone’s best shot every game, and I’m very excited for that.”