Features | Friday Night Drive

Sam Reichert, seven third-year starters have Downers Grove North poised for return to playoffs

Downers Grove North’s Sam Reichert passes the ball during the Downers Grove South 7-on-7 in Downers Grove on Saturday, July 16, 2022.

Downers Grove North quarterback Sam Reichert had a good vantage point watching one of the best receptions on July 16.

Standing on the sidelines, Reichert witnessed one of his receivers haul in a highlight-reel, one-handed catch near the goal line at the Downers Grove South 7-on-7 and Linemen Challenge.

A three-year starter, Reichert plans on tossing his fair share of memorable passes for the Trojans this fall. Downers Grove North’s quest to avoid missing the playoffs for a second straight full season hinges on Reichert’s development and leadership.

“I think this year we have a lot of seniors with experience and varsity reps,” Reichert said. “We have seven guys that started as sophomores who are three-year starters. We looked solid in 7 on 7s. I feel like this is the best I’ve ever felt in terms of reading defenses and making throws. I’ve been making throws I wouldn’t make last year. I think our offense has a lot more chemistry this year. We hang out and know each other.”

A smart and athletic quarterback, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Reichert oozes potential in part because of his vast experience, quality size, pocket presence and passing touch. Downers Grove North fifth-year coach Joe Horeni said Reichert is a player to watch in the Chicago area this season.

“I’m really excited about Sam and what he can do,” he said. “He’s a three-year starter and worked really hard during the offseason.”

Reichert said his career “flew by” partly because the Trojans played only four games in the shortened COVID season. The Trojans showed promise last season by winning their first three games only to drop five of their final six, including losing their last four games.

Reichert said he plans to lean on his experience and has focused on becoming a better leader this season. His chemistry with standout senior wide receiver Ethan Thulin, who caught 45 passes for 650 yards and seven touchdowns last season, is vital for the success of the offense.

“We have a lot of good skill guys, and I think we can air it out and score a lot of points and we have a solid defense,” he said.

Downers Grove North’s Jimmy Carroll, left, pursues Oswego East’s Tyler Dubiel during the Downers Grove South 7-on-7 in Downers Grove on Saturday, July 16, 2022.

Senior linebacker/safety Josh Lambert, another three-year starter, is a key figure on the defensive side. He’s slated to play safety for the first time in his career. At 6-3 and 200 pounds, Lambert is an imposing figure in the back end of the defense.

“Coach likes me back there because I know the defense well and can help others on the field,” Lambert said. “I’m hoping for this season to be my best season, and also hoping something for the future comes from it for me. I can’t wait for the season to start. The defense has been clicking a lot, especially the last couple of weeks.”

Horeni said his players have benefited from the complete offseason. Two years ago, he brought up several underclassmen during the abridged season. The Trojans return a wealth of experience on offense, with eight starters back and five on defense.

“I feel really good about how the summer is going and the offseason,” Horeni said. “We have a lot of returning kids, which is great. In the spring season, we started six sophomores, so all those kids are now seniors. We bring back a lot of experience. We felt really good about the start of last year, starting 3-0 but once we got to the conference, we struggled a bit.

“We’re excited about where we’re progressing and really happy with the senior leadership. Our numbers are way up, plus having these guys when they were freshman is big. We also bring a lot of experience on our coaching staff back. I’m really excited to see what the guys can do.”