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State runs, coaching turnover dominate local sports scene in 2012

The Seneca and Minooka football programs found new coaches while two track athletes claimed state championships and the Minooka girls bowling team just missed one.

Reade out, O’Boyle in at Seneca

The 2012 calendar year was a wild one for the Seneca football program, which underwent a change at the top and ended a string of losing seasons.

On Jan. 1, then-head coach Ryan Reade was arrested and charged with DUI. He eventually pleaded guilty to reckless driving, and by late February, the school announced he would not return as a teacher and coach for the 2012-13 school year.

Less than a month later, the school announced that Ted O’Boyle would be hired to teach physical education and coach the football team. O’Boyle had spent the prior 10 seasons as head football coach at Flanagan-Cornell-Woodland.

“He’s a man of high integrity. He’s a man of high expectations,” Seneca athletic director Steve Haines said of O’Boyle at the time.

O’Boyle left a program with which he had made the playoffs nine times in 10 seasons for one which had not qualified since 2001. He made it clear that returning the Irish to the postseason was a top priority.

“Playoffs is going to be a goal every year,” O’Boyle said in March. “Obviously with those four (Interstate Eight Conference) crossover games and a team that sits there like Wilmington, you’ve got your work cut out for you.”

The first two crossover games the Irish played under O’Boyle put them in a hole in terms of their playoff hopes from which they were unable to recover. They lost their opener 26-19 to Sandwich and then allowed Peotone to score 20 unanswered fourth-quarter points in a 27-20 Week 2 loss.

Seneca went on to a 4-1 showing in I-8 Small Division play, and a thrilling, 10-8 win over Manteno to end the regular season gave the Irish a 5-4 record, but their 35 opponents’ wins were not enough for them to qualify for the Class 3A playoff field.

Applebee, Knapp reach new heights

For one local athlete, the 2012 girls track and field state meet was the swan song to a three-sport career filled with wins, trophies and awards.

For another, the event might ultimately be viewed as a coming-out party — the beginning of an extended run of state success.

For both Alyssa Applebee of Seneca and Haleigh Knapp of Morris, the meet ended with them in the same place — atop the medal stand. Applebee defended her Class 1A title in the pole vault with a height of 11 feet, 9 inches. Knapp won her first championship in the Class 2A high jump with a distance of 5 feet, 7 inches.

It was Applebee’s fourth straight year of competing at state in the pole vault. She finished sixth in 2009 and second in 2010 before winning the following two years. In addition, she qualified twice in the 100-meter hurdles, finishing fifth in 2011 and third in 2012, and once each in the triple jump and the 300-meter hurdles during her career.

In addition, Applebee was a three-time state qualifier in diving for the Morris swimming and diving co-op. She was Seneca’s high scorer in girls basketball in 2011-12.

“To me, her legacy is what she is. She was one girl who had to work for all of her success. It didn’t come natural,” Seneca track and field head coach Kim Sedlock said of Applebee this summer. “Every athlete that comes into Seneca High School, that’s what he or she should strive to be like is Alyssa Applebee.”

Knapp was just a sophomore this spring, but she was no newcomer at state. As a freshman, Knapp placed eighth at the 2011 state meet. She added four inches to her height this year, allowing her to claim the championship.

“It literally means everything to me,” Knapp said at the time. “It’s what I’ve been working for the whole year through training and going to meets.”

Indians finish 22 pins shy of a title

Twenty-two pins is virtually nothing in the context of a 12-game bowling tournament. The total equals about 17 ten-thousandths of Minooka’s total at the 2012 girls state tournament.

But at that tournament, 22 pins meant the world to the Indians. It was the margin between them and state champion Andrew at the end of the second day.

No team other than Minooka finished within 125 pins of Andrew’s 12,349 pins. The 12th-place team, Marengo, was 1,223 pins off the pace. But while the Indians averaged 205.5 pins per individual game over the course of the tournament, their score of 12,327 came up just a bit short. Even in the aftermath of the tournament, however, the Indians were able to focus on the positive.

“It’s our best finish here,” Minooka coach Frank Yudzentis said at the time. “That’s quite an achievement.”

The final several frames were particularly exciting, as the totals for Minooka and Andrew remained close.

“The last few games, it was nerve-wracking knowing we could have it in the palm of our hands, but knowing we could lose it in an instant,” Minooka bowler Emily Koulis said. “It was just nerve-wracking and exciting all at the same time.”

State was the culmination of a season during which the Indians won the Southwest Prairie Conference tournament and had the highest sectional score of any team in the state with a 6,182 at Joliet West. Minooka was no stranger to success, having finished ninth at state the prior year.

Things have not exactly been quiet for the Indians since then. In October, there was some controversy about the fact that the Indians call Town and Country Lanes in Joliet home instead of Channahon Lanes. They will continue to play at Town and Country through at least this season. The Indians have also made some noise in competition, as they won Plainfield North’s Strikefest Invitational in early December

Forsythe named head coach

When 2012 began, Minooka knew it needed a new football coach. Bert Kooi, under whom the Indians had made three straight playoff appearances, stepped down last November.

By Jan. 19, Minooka had found its man — and it did not have to go far to do it. Paul Forsythe, who had already spent 10 years at the school and served as an assistant under Kooi, was named his replacement.

“I think he’s gained the respect of our athletes with his work in the weight program,” Athletic Director Bob Tyrell said at the time. “I think he’s got the respect of the coaches, too.”

Elevating Forsythe gave the Indians some continuity despite the loss of Kooi. They had more continuity through Forsythe keeping offensive coordinator Frank Yudzentis and defensive coordinator Chris Ferko in their roles.

“I’ve been coaching with these guys for years,” Forsythe said late in the summer. “I couldn’t ask for better guys to work with. Those guys are awesome.”

The Indians outscored their opponents 191-168 in Forsythe’s first season, but an 0-3 start helped doom them to a losing, playoffs-free season. The Indians lost 14-6 to Morris, 28-10 to Providence and 42-0 to Oswego to begin their season. Those teams went on to finish a combined 29-7 on the season.

Still, the Indians may well have qualified for the playoffs if not for a pair of close Southwest Prairie Conference losses later in the year. Minooka was defeated 14-10 at Plainfield South on Sept. 28, and a 28-20 loss at Plainfield North on Oct. 12 sealed its fate.

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