LANSING, Ill. (November 2, 2023) – TF North’s most successful football season in more than a decade ended on Saturday with a 23-0 home loss to Sacred Heart-Griffin in an IHSA Class 5A first-round game.
The best finish in years
After managing just three wins total in the previous three years (including the pandemic-shortened 2021 spring season), the Meteors qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and finished 7-3. It’s their most wins since going 8-2 in 2006.
“Our motto coming into the season was, ‘Set the standard,'” first-year coach Anthony Pignatiello said. “I wanted to affirm to our seniors they did.”
Pignatiello, a TF North alum who played on the 2006 team, said he and his staff set expectations not just on the field, but in the classroom and in everyday interactions in the school.
“The seniors, what they accomplished this year was special,” he said. “We couldn’t be more proud of what they put into this. This is what we want TF North football to be year in and year out.”
One of those seniors, quarterback/defensive back/punter Dominic Gradford, was named South Suburban Blue Player of the Year and Pignatiello was named the conference’s Coach of the Year. Another senior, two-way lineman Damari Dogan, was named Class 5A Academic All-State.
Other Meteors named all-conference were: junior defensive back Trevon Conner, senior linebacker/defensive lineman Tremaine Floyd, senior running back/linebacker Tristan Jackson, senior lineman Alvin Lankin III, senior wide receiver/defensive back Terrion Long, junior lineman Carlos Roa, and senior lineman Aramis Steward. Senior wide receiver Aric Moultrie received honorable mention.
Game vs. Sacred-Heart Griffin
On Saturday, Sacred Heart-Griffin, which won the Class 4A state title last season, had four trips to the red zone in the first half but led just 10-0 at the break.
“We started out horribly offensively,” Pignatello said. “The defense stood on its head for most of the rest of the game.”
Jackson led that effort with two tackles for losses on the Meteors’ goal-line stands. Moultrie and Joseph Merritt also stood out, according to Pignatiello.
But the Griffins showed the Meteors what they need to do in the offseason to raise their game.
“One of the things our younger kids took away was the strength and conditioning of their players.” Pignatiello said. “Their (linemen) and skills were big, physical kids.”
This offseason will be different for the Meteors than last. Pignatiello didn’t get the job till the spring, putting coaches and players into hurry-up mode to ramp up in a program with new personnel and schemes.
But they got the job done and finished a successful season with around 80 players in the program on two levels — a huge increase over last fall.
One of Pignatiello’s next goals is to expand to three levels, allowing players to match up against opponents of similar experience and physical attributes.
“The foundation our freshmen need will be so much better if we can get to (fielding) a freshman-only level,” Pignatiello said.
Girls cross country
Sophomore Andrea Sotelo finished 83rd at Saturday’s Class 2A Geneseo Sectional with a 3-mile time of 22:46.70. Senior teammate Daniela Martinez was 131st in 26:06.30.
Senior Jackelin Vargas was named to the All-South Suburban Blue Team.
Five Red Wolves were named to the All-South Suburban Blue Team: junior running back Christian Streeter, senior linebacker Seneca Smith, senior outside linebacker Tailen Gosa, junior defensive back Damarion King and senior defensive lineman Karrell Harvest. Senior defensive back Dennis Hoskin earned special mention.
Girls cross country
Sophomore Yanitzia Luna finished 94th at Saturday’s Class 3A Granite City Sectional, running 20:02.35 for 3 miles.
South’s season ended with a 25-14, 25-7 loss to the host Eagles on Oct. 24 in the Class 4A Sandburg Regional semifinals.
Junior setter Joya Hurley-Scott and sophomore outside hitter Earehc’ Hll were named to the All-South Suburban Blue Team. Two more Red Wolves, Yulissa Macudzinski and Raquel Murphy, received special mention.
Girls cross country
Two Vikings wrapped up their season at the IHSAA state finals in Terre Haute on Saturday.
Junior Ella Olthof finished 73rd in 19:05.2 for 3.1 miles, while senior Avery Olthof was 95th in 19:16.9.
The conference champion Spartans won three major honors in the CCL/ESCC Red. Nick Lopez was named Coach of the Year, junior running back Tyler Lofton was selected the Gordie Gillespie MVP, and senior defensive back Austin Alexander was named Defensive Player of the Year.
Making the all-conference team for Marian were Alexander, Lofton, senior offensive lineman Michael Biesboer, senior wide receiver Maurice Davis, junior linebacker Ronnie Gordon, senior wide receiver/defensive back Kaleb Isom, and senior defensive lineman Caiden O’Neal.
The Spartans (4-5) will open play in the CCL/ESCC Playoffs on Friday against St. Patrick at Triton College. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Spartans finished 15-10 after losing 7-0 to Kankakee on Oct. 24 in the Class 2A Lemont Sectional semifinals.
Junior forward Antonio Ferreira and senior midfielder Jalen Williams have been named All-East Suburban Catholic Conference for the second straight season. Also earning all-league honors for Marian was sophomore defender Langston Wilson-Ahlstrom.
The Spartans (15-19) advanced to the Class 3A Sweet Sixteen with a 25-22, 25-22 sectional semifinal win Monday over Tinley Park at Kankakee.
Marian won its own regional on October 26, beating Oak Forest 25-14, 25-19. Kaitlyn Nichols had 10 assists and Emma Perchinski added eight for the Spartans, while Michelle Charles and Olivia Helfen each had six kills. Also contributing were Carrington Smith with five kills, Kaili Merrick with three blocks and Sarah Gordon with 13 digs.
Charles, a senior outside hitter, and Gordon, a sophomore libero, represented the Spartans on the All-East Suburban Catholic Conference Team.
Boys cross country
Junior Daniel Kasperan qualified for this Saturday’s Class 2A state meet at Peoria’s Detweiller Park by finishing 12th at last Saturday’s Geneseo Sectional with a 3-mile time of 16:08.40. Fellow junior Jayden Downs was 72nd in 17:40.10.
Girls cross country
Senior Joselyn Guzzo finished 112th at the Class 2A Geneseo Sectional on Saturday with a 3-mile time of 24:19.50.
South Suburban College
South Suburban opens the season at No. 5 in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II rankings. Eisenhower grad Jemel Jones, a sophomore guard who is the nation’s top returning scorer, is back to lead the Bulldogs.
- Athlete spotlights of the week: TF North’s Terrion Long and Illiana’s Ella Olthof (October 27, 2023)
- Pair of TF North girls tennis partners end successful season at state (October 26, 2023)
- Video: Turf wars – Red Wolves tackle Oak Forest on new field (October 20, 2023)