Super 25 football countdown: No 19 Elk GroveElk Grove's Alfonso Lavin (left) and a teammate celebrate a sack against Barrington. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 6, 2012 7:11PM
Coming off a 10-win season and its third straight trip to the IHSA playoffs – a first in school history – Elk Grove’s football team clearly isn’t broken.
So new coach Larry Calhoun, who took over this summer when Brian Doll resigned after three seasons, isn’t trying to fix it. But the former Texas prep coach will bring his own perspective to one of the area’s rising programs.
“We want to continue the success,” Calhoun said. “At the same time, we’re not going to be exactly the same team. But I don’t think the expectations should change.”
One thing that could be different for the Grenadiers, who are No. 19 in the Sun-Times’ preseason Super 25, comes from Calhoun’s desire to spread out the playing time this fall.
“I’m used to two-platooning,” he said. “Right now we’re not doing that and we may not get to that. ... [But] we’re going to try to get to 22 [different starters].”
One player who looms large in Elk Grove’s plans is junior quarterback Adam O’Malley, who stepped in last season when starter Dejan Basara was sidelined by injury.
“Adam is really getting comfortable with the wide receivers,” senior running back/linebacker Mike Maize said.
“He’s a great kid, he’s learning every day,” Calhoun said of his quarterback.
O’Malley played a starring role in late June when the Grenadiers beat out some highly regarded opponents to win the Red Grange Classic 7-on-7 title at Wheaton Warrenville South, and along with it, a trip to a national 7-on-7 last month in Hoover, Ala.
The trip provided some extra motivation for the Grenadiers as they attempt to improve on last year’s Class 7A quarterfinal showing.
“We saw some good things,” Calhoun said. “We saw some outstanding athletes, I’ll tell you that.”
One of them was Robert Nkemdiche, a 6-5, 260-pound defensive end ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect in the Class of 2013 by Rivals.com. The Clemson recruit was used as receiver and a back in Alabama.
“Seeing all that, it makes us want to get better and play at that level with all those [elite] kids,” Maize said.
Some other players who could make an impact for the Grenadiers include Travon Royal, Kishan Patel and Michael Bishoff, though roles are still being sorted out.
One thing that’s certain is Calhoun likes the approach of his players.
“It’s my favorite thing about this group of kids,” he said. “They’re scrappy, they don’t quit. They never give up.
“You look at them walking off the bus, you’d think they were overmatched.”
But the Grenadiers’ success last season and this summer have demonstrated that’s not the case at all.