It was a big season in 2011 for the Lakes Eagles in Lake Villa. The Eagles went to the first state quarterfinal in school history in posting a 9-3 record and a tie for the North Suburban Prairie title. As the 2012 season draws closer, Lakes is looking to move even deeper into the playoffs and maybe even get to the school’s first state championship game. There has been one man there since the beginning of the program in coach Luke Mertens and Mertens said going into his eighth year at the helm that this team has one main goal.
“To be honest, get to the state championship and I don’t mean that to be tongue and cheek,” Mertens said. “That’s been a goal since we got here and we haven’t done that yet. Yes, last year was exciting but we fell short of our goal.”
Mertens added that building a tradition at Lakes is something he would like to see happen.
“When I came here, I completely underestimated the importance of tradition,” Mertens said. “Starting a program from scratch was a very humbling experience and you just realize when there are no seniors in the building and no one has anything to look up to for guidance, it really has an impact.”
The Eagles will return most of their starters from last season including leading rusher Direll Clark, who in the playoffs last season against Rolling Meadows, rushed 40 times for 280 yards as Lakes advanced. The team will need to replace quarterback Chris Hoffman however as it looks to make a run for the state championship. Two players that are back are Troy Crow and Levi Haymaker. Crow said that the road to another deep run will be paved with a lot of the same things from last season.
“We didn’t lose many starters as everyone knows so it’s going to be the same grinding, pounding and winning the division again,” Crow said. “From what we’ve done this summer, it looks like it’s not going to be a hard path.”
Haymaker added that the key of a successful season is the team’s ability to lean on each other if things get tough.
“I think we just need to stick together with the adversity we face and the losses we could have,” Haymaker said.
Lakes will open the 2012 season on the road at Grayslake North on August 24.