Maine West reaches winning milestone
In addition to battling opponents, the recent Maine West football teams have been fighting a culture.
For the 10 seasons prior to this year, the Warriors program struggled with wins and losses. According to MaxPreps.com, Maine West averaged 1.7 wins and 7.3 losses per year from the 2006 season to 2015.
“It was pretty ingrained in the culture for a little while here,” Head Coach Jason Kradman said in an interview with the North Cook News.
This season, however, that tradition has been broken. With their 17-10 win over Vernon Hills on Sept. 30 at home, the Warriors had a 4-2 record and ensured the most wins in a season for the program since 2005.
“Morale is up for sure, but we know our job's not done,” Kradman said.
Kradman's first season as Maine West's head coach was in 2014, and he said the toughest part of overcoming the culture was the mental aspect.
“You get a critical win in a big game, sometimes they can't see how good they could possibly be or how they can reach their potential,” Kradman said.
This year, however, the Warriors had what Kradman called a good group of seniors, so there was a foundation of veteran leadership before the season started. Also, Kradman said the team's offseason program was better than it had experienced since he arrived, with the number of attendees up.
In addition, the team went to a summer camp in Wisconsin that had an impact.
“Our team kind of crystallized up there, and some great things started to happen after we got back,” Kradman said.
That has carried over to this season, with the defense leading the way. The Warriors allowed 13 or fewer points in five of their first six games. Kradman praised the defensive line's work, led by Malik Siem, who had 12 tackles for losses in that six-game stretch, as well as the secondary, among the defensive unit's other strengths.
“We can put pressure on edge upfront, and our linebackers are steady in the middle, and then our secondary's done a heck of a job this season covering downfield and coming up to make plays at the line of scrimmage,” Kradman said.
On offense, the Warriors use multiple tight ends and fullbacks to create an attack similar to that of Wisconsin, Stanford or Michigan State, Kradman said. A good offensive line, anchored by returning starting guard Stephen Cutro, has cleared the way for some strong rushing performances. Anthony Henley had 389 yards and three touchdowns combined in the first two games, while Marteen Robinson has had two games with more than 100 yards rushing.
Tight end Matt Kentgen has been a big weapon for the offense this season. Through the first six games, he had 26 catches for 387 yards and four touchdowns,and first-year starter Sam Kindle has been a steady hand this season at quarterback, Kradman said.
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