Their accomplishments, so far, have been very successful, but there is more history yet to be written for the 23 seniors on the Lemont High School varsity football team.
These players will be honored Friday on Senior Night as the unbeaten South Suburban Blue Conference champion Indians (8-0, 5-0) play host to rival Oak Forest (6-2, 3-2) at 7 p.m.
“Seniors always lead us,” Lemont coach Eric Michaelsen said. “This year's group has excelled. They worked hard in the weight room, in the summers and during the season; they do well in the classroom.
"I am proud of the effort that they have put into Lemont football. They are still working on their legacy. But no matter what happens, I am proud of the young men they have become.”
The Indians have won a conference title for four straight years, and made the quarterfinals of the IHSA playoffs during the same time period. Lemont has been conference champs five of the last six seasons and have made eight consecutive playoff appearances.
“We want to win this game to be undefeated in conference,” Michaelsen said. “(Our) playoff goal is to win as many as possible.”
Oak Forest, coached by Brian McDonough, is bound for the playoffs, too. The Bengals are also looking for a victory to improve their playoff prospects.
“Our goal every year is to make the playoffs and we have accomplished that,” McDonough said. “Our kids have worked all year to advance in the playoffs and going in at 7-2 would make it easier to advance.”
Last week, the Bengals blanked Hillcrest 49-0 behind three scores by sophomore running back Matt Barry and two rushing touchdowns by quarterback Thomas Zale (4 of 7 for 95 yards). It was the second shutout posted by the Oak Forest defense, which is the third best in the conference in points allowed with 125. The offense is also third best in the league, scoring a total of 300 or an average of 37.5 points a game.
“Oak Forest is a well coached team that plays the game fundamentally well,” Michaelsen said. “Defensively, their front seven is physical and flies to the ball. Alex Hansen at defensive end, Blake Waller at safety and Kyle Sleeman at linebacker stand out.
"Their defensive backs cover well. Offensively, they have a great player (in running back) Tevin Coleman, and Barry is a great, hard-nosed runner. Their quarterback (Zale) runs their offense well and their offensive line moves people. (On) special teams, their return teams are dangerous, especially Coleman.”
“We run an option offense with our main threat being Coleman, one of the best players in the state,” McDonough said. “On defense, we are a base 4-3 team led by Hansen. He is a tremendous rush end. He is currently leading the team in tackles. He has also helped with our defensive tackle Nick Bukowski (79), who takes care of the middle.”
Lemont has the top defense and top offense in the South Suburban Blue Conference. The defense has allowed just 32 points – a mere 4 points a game. On offense, the Indians have racked up 324 points – an average of almost 41 points a game.
Lemont’s defense collected its fifth shutout of the season in the Indians’ 37-0 win over Thornton Fractional North. Two other Michaelsen coached teams – 2007 and 2009 – also collected five shutouts.
“Our defense has been a strength this year,” Michaelsen said. “All eight returning starters (Kyle Krull, Brad Uher, Vince Letizia, John Tomala, Sebastian Koziel, Arnas Laurinaitis, Jake Lemming and Tommy Kunkel) have had a hand in leading us this year. We look to them for leadership and making of big plays.
"Krull has been a three-year starter and takes the calls from the defensive coordinator (John Howell).”
Krull led the way against Thornton Fractional North with six solo tackles and had three assists, and Letizia had three solos and four assists to lead in tackling. The Indians also had six sacks with Koziel getting two and Letizia, Connor O'Brien, Uher, and Justin Lulek getting one each and three interceptions (Lulek, Kunkel and Lemming).
“Lemont has a tremendous defense, it is tough to find a weakness in it,” McDonough said. “They are very big and athletic up front, which may cause problems with our style of play.”
Lemont’s running backs Mike Anzalone (three touchdowns, 101 yards for his fifth game over 100) and Christos Giatras (two touchdowns, 82 yards) piled up the yards behind the offensive line. The Indians rushed the ball 40 times with seven runners for 219 yards, and quarterback Damon Aleman was 4 of 8 for 68 yards.
“On offense, they mix up the power game with some very accurate passing,” McDonough said. “I do not know if we can shut down Lemont. Our goal is to slow them down.”
“We are always looking to improve on offense,” Michaelsen said. “We are working on our blocking and passing schemes.”
Michaelsen said his team’s special team’s play is improving. Against Thornton Fractional North, he pointed out that Tyler Jay was punting well and Joe Hehir’s 25-yard field goal. He said the team is working on tackling and blocking drills in practice. Michaelsen said the Indians committed too many penalties in their last game and they need to cut back on them.
“Their special teams have a great deal of speed and are always well coached,” McDonough said. “We did much better with penalties last week, only committing a few. With our defense playing well and our offense coming together we are hoping to peak at the right time.”
Lemont fans are encouraged to “Go Gold” to support the Indians by wearing gold clothes to the game.
“Fan support has been great,” Michaelsen said. “We have great crowds at home and our supporters follow the team to away games. It means a lot to have their support.”
NOTES: Fans unable to attend the game can watch the game live by going to the Lemont High School website (www.lhs210.net). Navigate to the "Athletics" section and then open the tab watch live event. … Anzalone needs 119 yards to reach the 1,000 mark for the season. … Giatras needs just six yards to reach 500. … Aleman needs 66 yards to reach the 700 mark in passing yards. … Jay needs 22 receiving yards to reach the 300 milestone.