LEMONT – The inactivity on the football field this week is an unfamiliar sight at Lemont High School.
For the first time since 2003, the Indians are not a part of the IHSA playoffs after wrapping up this fall with a 3-6 record. The program’s streak of six consecutive seasons with double-digit wins also came to an end.
“We’ve been lucky to have some good teams, and I’ve had good people working with me,” said Lemont coach Eric Michaelsen, whose teams posted a mark of 95-17 over the past nine years. “This year, we were a couple of plays away from being back in the playoffs.”
The curtain was brought down on the 2013 campaign with a 39-6 loss to TF South on Friday.
A fumble and a blocked punt led to an early 14-0 deficit before the visitors scored their lone touchdown on a 51-yard pass from Ryan Dawson to Jimmy Kepouros. But a long touchdown run by TF South shortly before halftime took the wind out of Lemont’s sails and the home team pulled away in the third quarter.
“It was kind of the story of the season in a nutshell,” Michaelsen said. “The last two weeks, we had 11 turnovers. You are not going to succeed in that situation.
“The one observation I would make, we never played a full four quarters and that made it tough. We would play well and then mistakes would come.”
Dealing with inexperience and injuries throughout the fall, one positive was a group of younger players got their feet wet at the varsity level.
“We got some kids some experience,” Michaelsen said. “Hopefully those kids take that experience and see the benefit of hard work.
“It’s going to be an important offseason for us. We have to make sure the kids are doing well academically, that’s the first thing. And then we need to make sure the kids get in the weight room.”
One group that won’t be back is the senior class. Eighteen players played their final football game in a Lemont uniform Friday, including two-year starters Connor Melvin, Anthony Berta, Joe Bailey, Drew Hayes and Andrew Miller.
“The seniors that stuck it out and worked hard, we appreciate everything they did for the program,” Michaelsen said.
Now the goal of the next group is to begin a new playoff streak next fall.
“There will be some talented kids,” Michaelsen said, “but talent without work doesn’t play out in varsity football. Our conference is improved and if we are going to step back into a role of prominence, we have to improve in a lot of areas.”