Features | Friday Night Drive

Minooka looking to reload for 2022 season

Quarterback Gavin Dooley returns after starting 8 games for last season’s 6-5 Indians

Minooka’s Gavin Dooley passes during a scrimmage against Lincoln-Way Central. Tuesday, June 28, 2022 in New Lenox.

NEW LENOX – After spending the first six days of summer practice going against their own players, Tuesday’s practice at Lincoln-Way Central was a welcome change for the Minooka football team. The two teams practiced individually, then went against each other in 7-on-7 and linemen drills.

If the performances at Central’s Jonas A. Lashmet Field were any indication, the Indians – who finished 6-5 last season after a Class 8A second-round playoff loss to Lincoln-Way East – will be an offensive force.

Leading the way for Minooka will be senior quarterback Gavin Dooley who started eight games as a junior last season. Although top weapons Malik Armstrong [18 TDs, now playing for NIU] and Trevor Hudak graduated, the cupboard is hardly bare, and that makes Dooley happy.

“We have a lot of talent to replace,” Dooley said. “Malik was a very talented player, but the guys we have taking Malik and Trevor’s place this year are really good. Our receivers, Donovan Anderson, D.J. McIntosh and Connor Christensen, and our running back, Joey Partridge, are all really good. It’s nice as a quarterback to have that many weapons to choose from. They can all go get the ball, and they can all make plays once they have it.”

Minooka coach Matt Harding is equally impressed with the passing phase of the offense so far.

“We have been in a 7-on-7 league, so the passing game is ahead of the running game right now,” he said. “We have a lot of talent in that area. The receivers are very athletic. Gavin can sling it, and he makes quick reads. That year of experience last year has really helped him, and he has worked hard and gotten bigger and stronger. Him coming back is a big key for us.”

Now a senior, Dooley relishes his role as a team leader.

“I am excited for this season,” he said. “I like being the leader. I try to lead by example most of the time, but I can be a vocal leader when the situation calls for it.

“I think, with the talent we have at receiver and running back and a good offensive line, we should be able to win every spot. That will make us a tough team to defend.”

While the Indians appear poised to put plenty of points on the board, the defense promises to bring its share to the table as well.

The Indians will be led defensively by linebackers Isaiah Dupree, Cayden Garcia and Carson Johnson, with the secondary featuring Christensen, Konnor Sears, Efrein Ramirez and Jase Skasel, among others.

“We have both of our outside linebackers returning from last year,” Harding said. “That’s a nice starting point. And our secondary has looked really good so far in the 7-on-7s.

“We should have a good mix of juniors and seniors. The sophomore team went 8-1 and won the conference last year, so we are excited about that group coming up to the varsity this year. There are a lot of studs in that group.”

One thing on the Indians’ mind is a deeper playoff run than last season.

“It was fun being in the playoffs last year, but we lost in the second round,” Dooley said. “We are looking to get further than that this year. At least the fourth or fifth round.”