Tynan Leachman believes he and his classmates got the message.
“When we were freshmen and we would see the varsity guys (lifting) there was a lot of standing around in the weight room,” the Yorkville senior wide receiver said. “We never really had an example.
“I think the class ahead of us set an example and we went off that.”
The 5-4 record last year’s team produced in coach Karl Hoinkes’ third season was the program’s first winning record in 10 years and led to its first playoff appearance in the same span.
A 44-0 Class 6A first-round loss at No. 1 seed Richards was no picnic, but the Foxes were pretty banged up by the end of the season.
“It was nice (making the playoffs), but everyone wants to go farther this year,” said Leachman, who has a bright future according to his coach.
The 6-foot-3 senior is a former running back in his third season at wideout and has drawn recruiting interest from MAC schools Eastern Michigan and Ball State.
“Tynan should be an all-area receiver,” said Hoinkes. “He’s got the speed, got the hands. We’ve just gotta get him the ball.”
Starting quarterback Nathan Scott (broken hand) is back and has won the starting job but Hoinkes promises junior Cameron Van Boekel will see action, too.
“It wasn’t all the quarterbacks (fault),” Leachman said. “I didn’t have the greatest season last year. I worked hard this summer to get myself better and help them. I needed to improve consistency with catching the ball and running routes and work on being a polished receiver.”
Don’t, however, look for Hoinkes’ Foxes to turn into an aerial circus.
“Whatever we have to do to win,” said the veteran coach with 202 wins who has a ways to go to catch up with his 19 playoff appearances at Oswego. “We will probably be 65 percent run. We WILL be able to run the ball. And we will get some ridiculous numbers in some games.”
Michael Kurtz (6-0, 190), who led the area in rushing three weeks into 2013 with 410 yards before being sidelined by injury, is back along with Henry Imburgia (5-10, 180), who had big games, too.
They’ll run behind a solid line that features “strong kids, but not overly tall,” Hoinkes said. “The anchor is Tony Badalamenti (5-11, 275). He and Joe Katula (6-1, 270) are both three-year starters. And then there’s junior Lee Humphrey (5-10, 260), who is a really nice player. Our tackles are kinda young.”
Senior defensive back A.J. Foster, who missed several games with a hand injury last year, is back to lead what should be a solid defense.
“A.J. is as good as it gets,” Hoinkes said. “The secondary is gonna be strong. Collin Jones and Brody Sharp are good and Joe Nauman has been showing a lot.”
Michael Pansera and Tyler Mejorado lead a good linebacker group and Nicholas Partida (5-11, 275) anchors the middle of the line, flanked by potential standout defensive end Gunnar Dockan.
“The offseason was awesome and they’re ready to go,” said Hoinkes, who added strong 4A neighbors Plano and Sandwich to the schedule to start the season.
“We, hopefully, have turned the corner like we said we would. Well, we think we’ve done it. We have to prove it.”
The always-tough NI Big 12 East schedule features only four other teams (Morris, Kaneland, Sycamore, DeKalb) but the Foxes still have crossovers with Rochelle (now in the West) and power Geneseo.
“I think we can be competitive and possibly contend,” Hoinkes said. “We’re very optimistic.”
One in a series previewing area prep football teams.