The last full regular season that Lincoln-Way Central played was one it would like to forget.
The Knights went 2-7 in 2019, snapping a string of three consecutive years that ended with playoff appearances, including a quarterfinal appearance in 2017.
So when Lincoln-Way Central was granted a chance to finally put that 2019 season in the rearview mirror, the Knights approached the shortened spring season with the same vigor they would have an ordinary campaign.
“We were in it to win it,” Central coach Jeremy Cordell said. “In my eyes it wasn’t fair to the seniors whether we were senior dominated or not, it’s still a season. That was their last go around. You only get one time playing high school football, and they waited a long time to do it. We treated it just like fall, and we went all guns blazing.”
That effort netted a 4-2 record for the Knights, with wins over some impressive programs along the way. The Knights ended the spring season with three straight wins, including against Plainfield North and Evanston. The two programs they lost to, Lincoln-Way East and Lincoln-Way West, combined to finish with records of 11-1.
“We won some games in a big football schedule, and obviously we didn’t play a light schedule,” Cordell said. “Our then juniors and sophomores that saw that need to carry that momentum into this season.”
A senior heavy lineup in the spring doesn’t leave a lot of returning experience on the roster, but Cordell is confident in his group’s ability to make the adjustments needed before the lights go on in late August.
“We are going to work. We are going to rep. We are going to try to put guys in the best position for them to be successful,” Cordell said. “It’s all about not trying to stick a square peg into a round hole. It’s all about finding out about who your personnel is and who can do what and making it tailored to them and putting them in good spots.
“We are still learning. We are still jelling. Thankfully, we’ve still got some time. It’s still July. Our juniors now need to become seniors and our seniors need to become super seniors. It has to be accelerated.”
Despite losing a lot of talent to graduation in the spring, the cupboard isn’t entirely bare.
Cordell described returning defensive lineman Braeden Barrett as “an animal” from his play as a junior in the spring, while defensive back Jake Mackowiak looks like a strong anchor to build the secondary around.
Offensively, Lucas Shanahan and Paul Claussen provide experience to the offensive line, but many of the skill position players will be new faces.
“You just have to simplify. You have to refine quickly,” Cordell said. “Over the years as a coach I think I’ve got better at that. When you start you think more is better, but you find out that isn’t always the case. Our offense and defensive playbooks are much smaller than they have been. We just want our guys to be able to not have to think so much and play fast.”