If you see a group of Lake Forest High School football players around town, you may notice them wearing the same article of clothing.
No, it’s not the typical blue-and-gold colored dry-fit shirt. Instead it’s the message on the shirt that counts: Relentless 142.
The number stands for the hours of off-season training—weight lifting, conditioning—the Scouts were expected to put in to prepare for 2012. As for the “Relentless” part? Well that’s not hard to understand.
“It’s on the back of the shirt,” said senior running back Scott Powell of the slogan. “There’s different phases to workouts, relentless effort, relentless commitment. So at every end, it still has relentless as we are a relentless team.”
Adopting a motto or creed can galvanize a team during a season; create a rally effect which activates a personality. Last year’s Scouts defense adopted a “Sharks” persona, representative of their ball-hawking ways.
Friday, the Scouts open up their season at home against Buffalo Grove. Until then just how this year’s team will play is unknown. But if they are to approach last season’s success (eight wins, North Suburban Conference Championship) fresh faces must emerge.
Just as defensive backs Phil Sheridan and Tim Wilson were game changers not on the radar until pre-season practices in 2011, Tom Doherty and Alex Moore are replacements who give the Scouts athleticism and aggressiveness in the secondary.
Doherty, Moore Strengthen Secondary
“I learned under Ben Warren who was a two-year starter,” Moore, a 5-11, 180 pound cornerback, said. “He taught me what to do in certain situations, how to play cover two, what you are supposed to do. Everyone has to do their job.”
Much of the 2011 defense’s impact was predicated on forcing turnovers (11 interceptions, 16 forced fumbles) and the Scouts creating havoc by taking the ball away and giving the offense short fields.
Both Kutschke brothers return—senior Tom and junior Jack—and with them, a mentality of stuffing ball carriers before they reach the line of scrimmage. The defensive lineman had a combined 20 tackles for a loss in 2011. New starters such as Doherty expect that backfield chaos to have a trickle-down effect.
“I think we’re going to play as fast as last year, Doherty, a 5-10, 170-pounder, said. “We have smart players that will know assignments. We will fly around on defense and make the same number of plays.”
So much of the Scouts offensive personality was defined by the juking, devil-may-care brashness of quarterback Jordan Beck and the steady, bruising running style of Owen Williams. Together, they combined for 2,642 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2011. The question isn’t whether Lake Forest can replace them. They cannot. The question is who will match their production.
Clifford, Cirame Ready to Fill Roles
Quarterback Andrew Clifford is a familiar face, one who started two games last year for the Scouts when Beck injured his elbow. Inserted into one or two series a game when Beck started, he is now the full-time starter backed by an entirely new crop of skill position players, the exception being junior Hub Cirame (188 yards rushing, two touchdowns in 2011).
If you were to pick two early candidates to emerge, it would be Scott Powell and wide receiver Jack Troller, both distinguishing themselves in camp. Powell has not appeared to slow down since his 94-yard touchdown run in the team’s playoff win over Fenton in October, adding 15 pounds to his frame (6-0, 185 pounds) and impressing his coaches with his ability to block.
“He’s taken everything we’ve taught him and broken it down in different segments. It doesn’t seem like a big deal but it is when the (quarterback) is getting hit,” Coach Chuck Spagnoli said of Powell. “He’s not perfect by any stretch but he’s a guy who does whatever he can to be perfect.”
Troller, who missed five games, last year with a foot injury, added an inch (6-1) and 20 pounds since last year (175). He is representative of the balance the Scouts hope to show on offense this year.
“Everyone knows they don’t have a spot locked up. Once you feel comfortable with a starting spot you start taking off reps,” Troller said. “It’s like (receivers coach Ahmad Merritt) said, ‘you guys are really slow but you have to be in with technique.’ That’s our thing this year. Smarter, better informed on how to beat the defense.”
And if they are to beat their opponents consistently this season, new generations of players will have to step in and fill the void created by graduation.
Next to the word “relentless” printed on their t-shirts, leave space for “resourcefulness”.