AMBOY – After Saturday’s season-ending loss to Amboy-LaMoille-Ohio in the 8-Man Football Association quarterfinals, the seniors of the Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland joined hands and walked the length of the field while their junior, sophomore and freshman teammates remained huddled behind them.
The work put in by those 13 seniors – Drew Novotney, Noah Fink, Logan Steinquist, Ian Garcia, Kesler Collins, Emerson Weber, Logan Dennis, Isaac Follmer, Josh Lane, Brennan Edens, Jonathan Moore, Payton Quaintance and Kenny Eutsey – led FCW back to the playoffs, something that used to be a given in the early years after the co-op’s formation in 2006.
“It’s always a tear-jerker when your seniors walk off the field hand-in-hand one last time, and the underclassmen, seeing the tears in their eyes knowing the big shoes they’ve got to fill next year.”— Todd Reed, FCW football coach
After nine straight IHSA playoff appearances, including a Class 2A quarterfinal appearance in 2007, however, the Falcons managed only one win between 2015 and 2018. FCW moved to eight-man and promoted Todd Reed to head coach in 2019, finding immediate success.
It’s been a year in the postseason and then a year out ever since. This year’s Falcons won their final six regular-season games and an I8FA playoff game before Saturday’s loss in Amboy, capping an 8-3 season that came after 2022′s disappointing 2-7 mark.
Rediscovering that year-to-year consistency the co-op enjoyed in its early years under then-FCW head coach/now Seneca athletic director Ted O’Boyle was what Saturday’s postgame huddle and senior send-off were all about.
“I’m so extremely proud of these guys, a group of young men who bought into what we as coaches wanted them to do to be successful,” Reed said. “They saw the rewards, and you could see it in the tears in their eyes after the game.
“It’s always a tear-jerker when your seniors walk off the field hand-in-hand one last time, and the underclassmen, seeing the tears in their eyes knowing the big shoes they’ve got to fill next year.”
The losses of senior leaders such as Novotney and Weber, anchors on the lines, and all three starting running backs – 1,000-yard rushers Collins and Quaintance as well as fullback Edens – to graduation will be a hard hit. That’s especially true as it pertains to FCW’s hopes of scoring back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since that nine-year run that ended nine years ago.
But returners such as quarterback Seth Jones, receiver Connor Reed and linemen Aydan Radke, Toby Hansen and Calix Stout all returning for their senior season are a good place to start.
And as FCW’s coaching staff said in their postgame huddle while the Falcons seniors were greeted on the other end of the field by their families, now is a good time to begin.
“At our awards banquet last year, we knew what we had to do to turn this thing around,” Coach Reed said Saturday as he walked across the field in Amboy following the loss. “The biggest thing was the time commitment in the weight room, and those guys saw the rewards for that.
“They bought in. They put the time in there. They got stronger. Their confidence grew, and after last year – and last year’s schedule was a tough schedule, don’t get me wrong – we knew if we had to play that schedule year in and year out, we had to get stronger.
“It started in the weight room, and we did it. Now we’ve got to keep it going.”