Football: Stacked Hales expects to make wavesThe Hales Franciscan High School football team huddles during practice at the school, 4930 S. Cottage Grove Ave., Wednesday, August 8, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
Updated: August 8, 2012 5:36PM
Football is no longer just a way to pass time till basketball starts at Hales.
The Spartans are coming off a breakthrough season, the best since the football program was reinstated in the mid-1990s. Hales won the Catholic League Red title and earned its first IHSA playoff berth en route to a 7-5 finish a year ago.
As the Spartans began preseason workouts Wednesday along with Illinois’ other football teams, expectations were for more of the same.
“Summer was good, we worked hard and ... we got some new players like Darrien Boone,” said senior receiver Joe Morrow, who is committed to Central Michigan. “Now we’ve got three-a-days so it’s time to take it [seriously].”
Boone is a 6-foot-4, 190-pound senior quarterback who transferred in from Fenger. Coincidentally, he also is a Central Michigan recruit — even though he hadn’t met Morrow before registering at Hales.
Boone and Morrow are just two of the Spartans getting major-college interest. Denzel Ward, a 6-9, 285-pound junior transfer from North Lawndale, has an offer from Purdue. One senior lineman, Jeremiah Douchee, has an offer from Western Illinois and another, 6-5, 250-pound Jordan Watson, is getting plenty of high D-I looks, according to coach Randall Townsel. Linebackers Kendall Nowlings and Yenka Sykes are also players to watch on a roster long on talent if short on depth.
That comes with the territory at the all-boys school, whose enrollment is expected to be around 130 or 140 this fall. The Spartans had been on the losing end of the numbers game for years. But when the Catholic League realigned to three divisions last season, Hales showed it could more than hold its own against schools its own size.
“It did put Hales on the map as a football powerhouse,” Morrow said of the playoff berth. “We weren’t really a powerhouse for football before. ... We have a target on our back, so people are out for us more this year.”
Townsel hopes last year’s success provides a spur for his own team as well.
“What it does is it sets a precedent,” he said. “Now, to make it to state is not good enough for these guys. These guys want to compete and go further. They’ve seen the bright lights, so to speak, and they want to build on that.”