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George Czart is going to give it to people straight.
So, when the new Lockport Township football coach had guest speakers come in and talk to the team during the practices leading up to the season, that is exactly what he had them do after they observed practice, too.
“We had guys like [1998 Lockport graduate and former NFL player] Tony Pashos, [former Lockport coach] Jim Hall and [local resident and former MLB first-round draft choice] Mark Doran come out and talk to the team,” Czart said. “I tell them to be honest with the team and not sugarcoat it. Tell them what it takes to work toward a common goal.”
With Czart in charge, the Porters are working toward those common goals, as they look to rebound from an 0-9 season last fall.
“Coming into the season, I’ve just wanted us to practice fundamentals,” said Czart, who was the Porters defensive coordinator between 1994-2006 before moving on to be the coach at Lincoln-Way North between 2008-2015. “That’s who I am. I want to make sure we are practicing well and staying healthy.
“Since I wasn’t here last year, I’m stepping in and learning on the fly as far as all the kids go. But it’s an easy transition because there are great kids who are respectful. That culture was already here in place.”
In addition to high-quality individuals, Lockport has a quantity of players back, too. Last year began with only 17 seniors on the team, so there were plenty of underclassmen who are now seniors. This season’s roster has over double that, as 35 seniors are on the squad.
That experience is going to be a key as the Porters prepare to get back on the winning track.
“We know that with a lot of guys back and a new coach there’s some high expectations for us,” Lockport senior offensive lineman Payton Collins said. “But we worked hard over the summer, and it’s been good. Now, we’re getting ready for Week 1.”
Collins and fellow senior Billy Doyle will be anchoring the offensive line. They will be protecting returning starting quarterback Marcos Voulgaris. Fellow senior Malik Makhlouf is back at wide receiver. Senior Collin Schmutzler will be a little of everything at tailback, free safety and outside linebacker. And junior Joe Suchorabski, who started as a sophomore, will be a big force on defense at linebacker.
“We’re all ready to play; we’re ready to hit back,” Voulgaris said. “We have six home games, a new scoreboard, and it’s going to be awesome. It feels like coach Czart has been here a long time. I’d go to battle any day with these guys for coach.”
So would Schmutzler, who credits Czart with bringing the program up a notch.
“Our intensity, that’s changed from last year,” Schmutzler said. “Everyone has a different intensity coming back this season. We just needed a change, and when it happened, you could feel it around the school.”
Czart believes the offense will be the catalyst of the team early on.
“With four guys on the offensive line and our starting quarterback returning, we have to rely on the offense to carry the load early as the defense develops,” he said. “There is only one way to look, and that is up. We had a solid summer, but the real test will be how we do against the opponents on our schedule.
“The good news is we have many battles going on for starting positions on defense. The bad news is we have many battles going on for defense, so the reps are being shared until someone earns the spot. We will get better as the year goes on.”
Other key players to look for this season include seniors Aidan Ensley at wide receiver and Donovan Kot at linebacker/defensive end. Also, juniors Jett Ciucci at defensive end, Joe Fiorillo at linebacker, Nolan Ganser at cornerback, Kyle Hartman at center, Quinn Kelly at tight end/defensive end, Ty Schultz at running back and Kyle Yehling at wide receiver.
A special thing early in the season will be that the Porters will be part of the ABC 7 Chicago Friday Flyover on Friday, Sept. 6, when they host Wheaton-Warrenville South. A helicopter from ABC 7 Chicago will fly over the stadium as a school showcases its team spirit.
But down below, Lockport will just try to be improving on the field.
“We’re in the process of trying to get better every day,” Czart said. “We’re not setting goals to get a number of wins, but we’re doing the process to get more wins.”
The road ahead
Week 1 – hosts Grandville (MI), 7 p.m. Aug. 30
Week 2 – hosts Wheaton-Warrenville South, 7:15 p.m. Sept. 6
Week 3 – hosts Lincoln-Way Central, 7:15 p.m. Sept. 13
Week 4 – hosts Homewood-Flossmoor, 7:15 p.m. Sept. 20
Week 5 – at Sandburg, 7 p.m. Sept. 27
Week 6 – hosts Bolingbrook, 7 p.m. Oct. 4
Week 7 – at Lincoln-Way East, 7 p.m. Oct. 11
Week 8 – at Andrew, 7 p.m. Oct. 18
Week 9 – hosts Stagg, 7:15 p.m. Oct. 25
Things Can Only Get Better
There is always optimism when a new coach takes over. New coach George Czart inherits a program that was off the charts with a rough record of 0-9 in 2018. That was the Porters’ first winless season since 1934.