Only three members of the Green Wave will play both ways this season, a stark contrast to the past three years when the undermanned and overmatched team from Elgin was forced to play its top athletes on both sides of the line and on special teams in an attempt to maintain a level of respectability.
It’s been three years since Mike Rolando took over for departed coach Rich Sanders on short notice shortly before fall practice was slated to begin in 2005. Since then St. Edward has gone 1 26 because a rash of transfers left the cupboard virtually bare of upperclassmen for two years.
The Green Wave roster is populated only by upperclassmen in 2008. No longer will freshmen and sophomores start at key positions out of necessity. A contingent of 16 juniors and 15 seniors comprise the current roster.
“That’s more seniors Nike Roshe Run than we’ve had the last three seasons combined,” Rolando said. “You might see something new this year, which would be our players with water bottles in their hands between plays and maybe being coached between plays. That’s just a luxury we haven’t had because they could never come off the field.”
The three players going both ways will be senior fullback/linebacker Moises Quiroga (5 foot 11, 235 pounds), an all Suburban Catholic selection last year, senior tailback/free safety Jimmy Mathisen (5 8, 185) and junior guard/defensive tackle Shane Finnane (6 0, 240).
Finnane is getting mail from Division I programs after turning in a 40 yard dash time of 4.8 seconds at a Nike Free Run Nike summer combine and can bench 225 pounds 24 times.
Eight members of this senior class have played varsity football for Rolando since their freshman year because that’s what the program needed to survive the lean times. Senior tight end Ryan Eigenhauser (6 1, 200) remembers what it was like to play on the offensive line as an undersized freshman.
“That was the problem right there a freshman on the offensive line. Not good,” Eigenhauser said. “It’s a major improvement to actually have football players and athletes in there blocking now. We’ve come so far. We look like a football team. We have good numbers at every level and we’re going to start winning games. That’s what my class is here to do, to say we got the program back up and running.”
Senior Cory Diaz (6 1, 180) moves from receiver to quarterback. The Green Wave intend to run the ball far more than the intend to throw it, but Rolando said Diaz’s passing ability “looks way better than anyone predicted it might be.”
The offensive line jumped from an average of 185 pounds per man to 250 pounds, largely due to the return of 6 foot 5, 305 pound left tackle Joe Juns, who sat out his junior season with knee pain. The agile big man and his experienced line mates will make holes for Quiroga, who gained 602 yards on 128 carries last season (4.8 avg.), and for Mathisen, who ran for 484 yards and 5 touchdowns on 82 carries before his season was cut short due to a MCL injury.
Quiroga leads the defense from his middle linebacker spot, flanked by junior outside linebacker Jordan Torres (6 1, 210) on one side and junior Nathan Gaige (5 10, 190) and Price Davis (6 0, 170) on the other. Each has two years of varsity experience.
Senior Josh Scholly (5 10, 165) has been the Wave’s cover cornerback for two seasons. He’s one more example of a tough player who stuck through the tough times and is ready to reap the rewards as the program attempts to turn the corner.
“Our goal was not to have any underclassmen on the varsity and we’re there,” said Rolando, who coached the school’s softball team to a Class 2A supersectional appearance this past spring. “I don’t think these players feel like we’re a losing program. They have some Nike Free Run confidence and they have their priorities straight. They need one game right now. Win one game, then on Saturday morning we’ll start talking about the next one.”