Features | Friday Night Drive

Colorado State recruit Andrew Laurich, Yorkville ‘hungry’ to take the next step in the SPC

Strong, experienced defensive line has Foxes in position to contend for conference title

Lineman Andrew Laurich practices arm skills during rushing drills at a football practice at Yorkville High School on Friday, August 12, 2022.

YORKVILLE – Andrew Laurich and the rest of Yorkville’s seniors have won a lot of games over the course of the last three seasons.

They’ve been a huge part of putting Foxes’ football back on the map.

The chip on the shoulder, though, remains.

“Bunch of kids coming back this year, we have the same goal,” said Laurich, Yorkville’s senior defensive lineman and a Colorado State recruit. “We want to go out there and prove ourselves. We don’t really have too much respect in this conference and around the area. We have to earn everything. We all understand that, and know what it takes.”

Yorkville has more than proved it can compete in the Southwest Prairie Conference as the league’s smallest school, and established itself as a playoff contender.

The Foxes have made three consecutive playoff appearances, the last two as members of the SPC, and reached the second round all three times. Yorkville last year beat SPC West co-champion Oswego in the regular season finale, further establishing its credentials.

Now the Foxes, coming off a 6-5 season, have their sights set higher – a conference championship, a feat not accomplished by the program since 1989.

“Our kids are pretty hungry,” Yorkville coach Dan McGuire said. “We want to be able to compete week in and week out. It’s been a really long time since we’ve won a conference championship, and we’ve been in some tough conferences. We just want to be in the conversation. I really feel like our conference champ could have two losses, maybe more. It’s going to be a dogfight.”

It helps to have the big dogs McGuire can bring to the fight.

Yorkville returns the entire defensive line from its strongest unit last season, led by third-year starters Laurich and All-Stater Jake Davies. Fellow seniors Andrew Zook and Amani Kortie are also back up front.

“Being on varsity, going into my third season, there is just something different about practices, there is something different about the weight room, there is something different about kids wanting to learn,” said Laurich, who had 41 tackles and five sacks as a junior. “We have some talent coming through this year.”

None more talented than Laurich, who will also moonlight at times on the offensive side.

“Two words that come to mind when I think of him are explosiveness and maturity,” McGuire said. “He has been a really good leveling factor for our team, not getting too high or too low. When I see him on the field I think how can a kid that big be that explosive. He is a great leader and a great football player.”

McGuire has plenty of them. Third-year starter Blake Kersting, Ben Alvarez and Hunter Janeczko also return at linebacker for a strong front seven.

“Any time you bring any kids back it’s huge for your confidence. We’re lucky with that defensively we can add some more wrinkles with what we did in the past,” McGuire said. “That said, every year is different. Last year we were able to catch some people by surprise with our D-line whereas this year teams are going to scheme to try to figure out ways for our D-line from making a big impact. We need to make sure we’re good at the back and front end.”

Yorkville will likely lean on its defense early while an offense that returns just two full-time starters – linemen Sam Tholen and Logan Brasfield – gets its collective feet on the ground.

Senior Gio Zeman was one of a host of running backs to get touches out of the backfield last year. He was slowed by a sprained ankle, but did enjoy a spectacular game against Oswego with 132 yards and five touchdowns.

“No doubt offensively we’re a big question mark,” McGuire said. “Gio did play some, but was nicked up here and there. Any time you replace your quarterback it’s a big deal but I would say we have some good pieces and will borrow some from our defense.”

One player who might not a household name yet, but could open eyes is senior Bobby Gonzalez. McGuire said he was one of the freshman team’s better players three years ago, “scoring all their points.” Gonzalez tore his ACL on the second or third play of the season opener in the spring of 2021, and missed basically his entire sophomore and junior seasons, but is back now.

“He will be I think a difference-maker for us,” McGuire said. “He’s played pretty much every position offensively, he plays defensive back, punter. We were joking that he’s played like 10 positions in practice.”