Putting in the work: Football practice is still a month away, but suburban teams are preparing now

Maine South quarterback Constantine Coines showed Wednesday at the Maine West 7-on-7 that last season was just a warmup.

Coines, who took over as the starting quarterback last season after an injury to the Hawks’ starter, led the Hawks to a 10-2 record. The senior showed right away Wednesday night in Des Plaines that his poise and ability will be on display again this season.

Coines opened his team’s 10-minute offense looking solid. He played just five minutes, going 9-for-9 with four touchdowns against Fremd. He later looked just as effective against Mundelein.

“It felt great out there,” Coines said. “It has been lot of work. I have been going back and forth with baseball and football. But it is paying off for me.”

Maine South coach Dave Inserra said Coines was impressive.

“He looked really good,” Inserra said. “And he is a real good baseball player. He has had a summer of both, with a lot of baseball. But he is sharp and he is a dynamic runner. So if he looks good in sevens, that is a real good thing.”

While Coines was impressive, so was Fremd quarterback Johnny O’Brien. The junior, who recently committed to Northwestern, threw five touchdown passes in his 10-minute stint on offense against Maine South. Four of those TDs went to talented wide receiver Brennan Saxe.

  Fremd’s Brennan Saxe runs after a catch in a 7 on 7 football game at Maine West High School on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. John Starks/

“I want to see guys compete and make plays,” Fremd coach Lou Sponsel said. “You see who is going to shine on Friday Night Lights and who has to adjust and grow up.”

The Maine West 7-on-7 has been plagued in recent years by rain and lightning, forcing it to be canceled the previous two years.

And when the lightning detector went off during the first rotation of the 19 schools involved, the fear was that it would be a third consecutive year. But after a short delay during which all the teams went into the gym, play resumed.

Each school had four 30-minute matches, with teams rotating on offense and defense. No score was kept in each matchup, but teams got to see how prepared they are after completing some or all of their summer workouts.

Maine West coach George Klupchak, whose team returns a ton of players from their undefeated CSL North squad, was eager to get a good look at new quarterback Tely Litas.

“It has been a great summer,” Klupchak said. “There has been a lot of excitement here after last season. There are a lot of kids who have been waiting to get their shot like Tely.”

York coach Don Gelsomino, who was making his debut for the Dukes with his first 7-on-7, said that it was important for his players to get lots of reps.

“We like that,” said Gelsomino, the defensive coordinator for the Dukes before taking over as coach.

“It is nice to come out here. It is a nice transition to see all the support here. I feel real comfortable.”

Also making his debut was Mundelein coach John Cowhey, who took over the Mustangs. Logan Young, the Mundelein sophomore quarterback last year, also made his first start.

  Several games are played at one time in a 7 on 7 football tournament at Maine West High School on Wednesday, July 10, 2024 before lightning alarms sent everyone inside. John Starks/

“It was good,” Cowhey said. “It is fun to get our guys into competition with other teams. It is cool to compete against schools with great traditions. We are trying to learn things and improve every step of the way. Logan looked good in his first day.”

Grant coach Tom Norwood liked how his quarterback played in his four matches. Matthew Gipson, a junior who helped lead the Bulldogs to the playoffs last year, looked solid in his appearances.

“We had a lot of sophomores start last year,” Norwood said. “Matthew has matured, and this was a good tournament to be at.”

it was a huge opportunity for Dundee-Crown to play against schools it most likely won’t see next season. The Chargers, who play in the Fox Valley Conference, got a shot at four schools.

  Fremd’s Davyn Kuhl runs after a catch in a 7 on 7 football game at Maine West High School on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. John Starks/

“This is really fun for us,” Dundee-Crown coach Michael Steinhaus said. “We are two weeks into camp. It is fun to go against other guys, especially other conferences, and see where you are at.”

Wheeling had its quarterback back at the helm for the Wildcats. Justin Ghibea, a junior last year, will be back to guide his team this year.

“Our kids are really excited,” Wheeling coach JeMarcus Moody said. “They are flying around. It is nice to see what we got. Justin has had a real good off-season and he is having a good day today.”

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