High School Football: Lemont not puzzled despite missing piecesLemont quarterback Zach Brosseau delivers a pass during the Richards 7-on-7 camp Saturday, June 16, 2012, at the District 218 ADM Fields in Oak Lawn. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
One in an occasional series on athletes and teams gearing up for the 2012-13 high school season.
Updated: August 10, 2012 6:22AM
A rebuilding season might be the default setting for some football programs after losing 13 starters to graduation. But for Lemont and Eric Michaelsen — the SouthtownStar’s reigning coach of the year — the only thing they’re set on is putting together another winner.
“We’re taking a lot of time figuring out who’s going to play where, but that’s the fun part of coaching,” Michaelsen said. “We lost six of our front seven on defense, and we’ll have to replace a lot of our skill kids on offense.”
Michaelsen can take solace in the bevy of experience each of his nine returning starters possesses. Lemont finished 12-1 last season and reached the 6A semifinals. The Indians fell just short of the championship game, falling to Peoria Richwoods 34-31 in double overtime.
“It motivates me every day knowing we’ve had that great success,” said Connor O’Brien, the lone defensive returner up front. “We don’t want to be the guys who drop the ball on defense. We want to keep the tradition going and keep getting those shutouts.”
O’Brien, a three-year starter at outside linebacker, will command the defense with fellow three-year starter and close friend Jake Lemming (defensive back).
“Jake and I are trying to be leaders for the younger guys,” O’Brien said. “There is a little pressure on us this year due to the fact we have so many young guys, but I’m excited to be the guy on defense, leading defensive huddle.”
O’Brien scored a 28 on his first pass at the ACT and is scheduled to visit with the football programs at Harvard, Brown and Holy Cross this summer. The smarts help a Lemont linebacker.
“Our defense is pretty complex, so knowing what I’m doing out there is an advantage to the younger guys because I can help them out,” O’Brien said. “I know where everyone is at on every play. I really developed the football instinct toward the end of my junior year.”
One unit Michaelsen won’t need to tinker with is Lemont’s colossal offensive line. Three starters return, led by future collegiate players Ethan Pocic and Tim McAulliffe.
Pocic, rated one of the top offensive linemen in the country, committed to LSU, while McAullife has fielded offers from five D-1 programs including Ball State, Toledo and Western Michigan.
“Ethan Pocic and Tim McAuliffe are two of the best lineman ever to come through Lemont,” Michaelsen said. “You include them with Nick Runnfeldt who started last year (at center), and Rick Sniegowski, who started at tight end last year and it gives us a good starting point up front.”
The line will be asked to open holes for returning fullback Chris Giatras, an endzone magnet with 14 scores last season.
“I love running the football, running through people. I’m excited to get out there and beat up some teams up front,” McAullife said. “Giatras is a big, strong kid. It’s fun blocking for him because you know he’s going to run hard on every play. You see some fun things with the power guys running.
“I’ve been to the quarterfinals and semifinals in my first two years on the varsity. We want to keep advancing deep in the playoffs.”