MIKE NIETO: Thornwood can build off its football season

2011-10-27T22:00:00Z 2013-03-15T21:28:19Z MIKE NIETO: Thornwood can build off its football seasonBy Mike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
October 27, 2011 10:00 pm  • 

Sure, the Thornwood football team has a feeling of being left out when the Illinois High School Association announced the playoff pairings Saturday night.

The Thunderbirds finished 5-4 but didn't have enough playoff points to qualify as an at-large team. It would have been the program's first postseason appearance since 2001, which was also the Thunderbirds' last winning season until this year.

"It was devastating to the kids, but at the same time, we were finally able to turn the corner with the program and get a winning season," coach Will Milhouse said. "We sure would like to be playing this weekend, but we also didn't take care of business."

Thornwood started 4-0, then lost the next four before blowing out Thornridge in the season finale.

"We didn't finish in a couple of those games -- Bradley-Bourbonnais and Thornton -- and it cost us," Milhouse said.  "Too many mental as well as physical mistakes. I am glad we were able to finish with a win and one over our rival Thornridge."

In the four years prior to this season, the program was 7-29. It was 19-72 from 2001 through 2010. It took Milhouse a few years, but the community is finally seeing the fruition of the players' and coaching staff's hard work.

"These seniors really put the time in the weight room and the summer workouts to get better," Milhouse said. "We hope we have turned the corner and people coming into the program see what hard work can do."

The job is certainly not finished, but this senior group laid a good foundation on which coming classes can build.

The key will be how well this year's juniors respond in the offseason. This means hitting the weight room or being in another sport. It also means recruiting the halls and the junior high schools to get kids to come out and work to make this a good program.

This year's seniors left a legacy -- a winning record. It's up to the underclassmen to pick up the ball and make sure all this hard work wasn't for naught.

Milhouse and his staff will not rest on a 5-4 season. They put in a lot of work with camps, workouts and the summer conditioning to get the team ready.

The kids returning, they can think about what might have been -- they were a few plays away from reaching the postseason -- or they can work to see what might be next year.

It's a chance to take this program to the next level.

This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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