By Mark Maxwell
For the first time in two decades, the Chargers of Dundee-Crown have begun their season 3-0.
Three years ago, Vito Andriola took the reins as the new coach of the Chargers. He inherited a program caught in a 26-game losing streak. Immediately, he began making changes to the culture of the program and the mindset of his players. Now three years later, those changes are finally beginning to materialize.
Andriola has had success at every program he has coached. It was a much-needed shock to the system for many Dundee-Crown players when he first arrived on the scene.
“I think when I first got here, they thought I was crazy. We did stuff so different,” Andriola said. “Doing the weight room stuff, doing the leadership classes, everything we do makes for the play on the field. I can relate almost everything we've done on the field on Friday night to something we've done in the school year. It helped us win the game.”
Last Friday night, they battled with Crystal Lake South in a home game. Dundee-Crown won its first two games of the season by a combined score of 111-26. Their third game wouldn’t be so one-sided.
The Chargers fell behind at the start of the game, but their offense showed up and put two quick touchdowns on the board. In the second half, senior strong safety Sam Frankowiack intercepted two passes to help lock down the 14-13 victory for Dundee-Crown.
Frankowiack has been with the Chargers throughout the adventurous three-year journey. After years of struggling, he is proud to say his team is now a confident bunch.
“We knew they were going to be a good team. We knew they were going to be strong,” he said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. We just had to play 48 minutes of hard Dundee-Crown football. We were well prepared for the game, so we were pretty confident.”
Confidence is a welcome feeling in the halls of Dundee-Crown High School. For the first time in years, the students are excited and optimistic about their football program. This resurgence has affected school spirit throughout the entire community.
“After so many years of losing and losing and losing, a lot of people just get used to it,” Frankowiack said. “They don't know the feeling of winning. After our first win last year, we started to really grasp what we were playing for and what we were practicing for all those times. It's a really good feeling. We're starting to see our hard work pay off.”
After the game, Andriola was moved to tears. “It was really exciting,” the coach said. “It was emotional, too, because all of the work we've done. I could sit there and tell them that this stuff works, but if it don't work, they aren't going to believe me. I know it works. They're starting to believe it and we're starting to get there.”
The meat of the Chargers' schedule is just on the horizon. Immediately after facing Cary-Grove, they will play Huntley and Andriola’s former team, Grayslake Central.
Last season, the Chargers started 3-1. However, they failed to win another game. This year, starting offensive tackle Trent Hanselman believes the outcome will be different. Hanselman has been playing on varsity since his sophomore year. His experience leads an offensive line that boasts four returning seniors. Perhaps the most impressive adjustments at Dundee-Crown have been at the line of scrimmage.
Now that the team is off to such a great start, Andriola is working on refining their game. He believes that if they limit their mistakes and play with discipline, they can do some special things this season.
“I'm confident in what we do,” Andriola said. “I have a saying we say before every game: 'Dundee-Crown can beat the other team, but Dundee-Crown can't beat the other team and Dundee-Crown.' That's been our thing here. If we don't have to play ourselves and we can just play the other team, we'll have a shot at it.”