HOBART TWP. | Malachi Sala and Alex Ballestas don't chalk the football field, do the laundry, drive the team bus and film the games.
They just seem that involved in River Forest football.
Both have played an integral part in the Ingots' fine season by starring on both sides of the ball and will again have a big hand in tonight's Greater South Shore Conference game when River Forest (4-1, 3-0) travels to Wheeler (1-4, 1-2).
Sala is a wide receiver, slotback, backup quarterback and outside linebacker; Ballestas a running back, guard and middle linebacker. It can be physically draining, but they wouldn't have it any other way.
"They're the leaders of our team, of our program. I look at them as two shining examples of hard working paying off," coach Jeff Bean said. "Their football knowledge is pretty good, so we're able to transition them to different positions."
Sala, a junior, has rushed for 318 yards (8.8 avg.) and seven touchdowns. He's caught 16 passes for 193 yards and a TD.
Ballestas, a senior, has 226 yards rushing (5.0 avg.) and three TDs. He's also the team's top tackler (34).
"We're going hard on every play and staying focused on one goal — getting the conference championship and beating every team that's in our way," Sala said.
School support also is on the rise and couldn't come at a better time as the season unfolds.
"We got more people coming to the games, more people cheering for us. They actually ask us, 'What time is the game?'" Ballestas said.
"It's taken a while because everyone had been doubting us," Sala added. "But we've been surprising a lot of people, and we're going to keep surprising a lot of people."
There is no shortage of confidence among the Ingots.
"I'm fast. I'm smart on both sides of the football and I do everything at 110 percent," Sala said of his strengths.
"I run the ball with power and I block," Ballestas said. "I'm just a team leader. I get on everybody to make sure they're hustling until the whistle.
"What keeps us humble is the (2-7) season we had last year. I don't want another season like that and these guys certainly don't."
Wheeler is struggling but when you've lost seven straight to the Bearcats and were outscored 363-21 in that stretch, there are no sympathy cards being sent.
"We try to preach the mental aspect of the game. Right now, Wheeler has owned us and it's time to get over the Wheeler hump," is all Bean would say.