Schurz Bulldogs coaches have high hopes this football season
by JASON MEREL
The all-alumni football coaching staff at Schurz High School, 3601 N. Milwaukee Ave., has high hopes this season for the Bulldogs as they work to rebuild in the face of recruitment setbacks and realities of student life.
Schurz director of football operations Orlando Molina, class of 2000, said confidence is high at the beginning of the season after a rough season in 2021. Their first non-conference game is against the Ridgewood Rebels on Aug. 26.
“LAST YEAR WAS a miserable year for us,” Molina said. “We set a school record for penalties. It was a teaching season, from training camp to season’s end.”
Schurz went 1-7 in 2021.
But Molina said he and the other coaches are seeing those hard-earned lessons paying off in the improvement of returning players. He said recruitment gets more difficult every year so it’s good to see players invest themselves in the team.
MOLINA said that quarterback and senior Monjae Bell is one of the team’s leaders and has Division 1 potential. Another team leader is senior J.G. Abraham, a running back who transferred back to Schurz after being recruited to Taft High School to play football. He said the coach who recruited him left Taft’s program so he transferred back to Schurz, which is closer to his home.
Abraham said he knew this was going to be the Bulldogs’ year after the last three games of last season.
“Now it’s more about rebuilding,” he said.
Molina said a variety of factors have impacted recruitment, including concerns over chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, a neurological condition thought to be caused by repeated trauma to the head. He said those concerns are valid but high school level play is less aggressive than college or professional football and students are taught the correct ways to tackle, which reduces the potential for injury.
“WE WERE hoping that once we had the new field, it would draw some attention and drive recruitment, Molina said. “That hasn’t happened yet, unfortunately.”
The artificial turf field north of the school was dedicated in October of 2019 and is named in honor of former Schurz football head coach Frank Preo.
The field, however, is shorter than the regulation 100 yards so it can only be used for practice. Home games are played either at Lane Stadium, 2601 W. Addison St., or at Winnemac Stadium, 5105 N. Leavitt St.
Another factor impacting recruiting is student life. Molina said some student athletes have jobs and when a scheduling decision has to be made, football falls to the bottom of the priority list behind schoolwork and income.
“Our big thing is that we’re a family,” Schurz offensive coordinator Bobby Stewart, class of 1993, said. “Coach Marable, he’s not a big talker but he’s a great coach.” Head coach James Marable said that he was confident that the team could do better this year than last.
Stewart said that it was more important to him to have players they could mold into good citizens, than to have a winning season, and that the former leads to the latter.
“We want to teach these kids how to be good men,” Stewart said. “In CPS, citywide, a lot of kids don’t have good male role models.”
“We’ve all got experience in college football,” assistant coach Victor Cerda, class of 2014, said. “I knew if I could come back home, I could implement some of the things I learned to help the program improve.”
“It’s deeper than Xs and Os for us,” he said.
“Some of the guys that come here, it’s because it’s their neighborhood school. We wanted to come back and work with these kids. We could go to a suburban school with bigger facilities but we came from this environment, we care about this environment and we want to build this environment.”