Editors note: This is the first in a series of articles @ bergsworld.live about local high school athletes who excel BOTH on AND off the field.
Crystal Lake, IL – It doesn’t take a physics teacher to know that sophomores usually don’t play on the varsity football team. Well, most physics teachers anyways. Crystal Lake South head coach Chuck Ahsmann is an exception to this rule. When he decided to move running back Kyle Leva up to the varsity, the coach was thinking great things were about to happen.
Kyle comes from a good family that supports him and wants to see him succeed but not at all costs. Tony and Tracey, his dad and mom, appreciate the competition and thrill in seeing their only son show his stuff on the gridiron but want to keep him focused on the bigger picture. That being a complete and productive future for Leva after he graduates from Crystal Lake South in the spring of 2018.
The Levas moved to Crystal Lake when Kyle was five years old (Kailynn, a freshman cheerleader at CLS, is his younger sister) and immediately began playing sports. It began with baseball and soccer. According to his dad, Kyle was OK in baseball but didn’t quite fit into the world of youth soccer. Soccer only lasted one season.
According to Tony, “Kyle was a little rough in his soccer matches. His coach kept trying to get him to be less physical but it really didn’t pan out. Kyle spent time on the bench for his aggressive play, sometimes for half the game.” Tony and Tracey realized soccer was not going to be Kyle’s cup of tea.
After baseball and soccer, Kyle moved on to football. The Levas saw this as a perfect outlet for young Kyle’s style of play. It was a very good move.
The first stop on Kyle’s road to “Gatorball” was playing for the Crystal Lake Raiders. The Raiders are the feeder program for both CL’s Central and South HS football teams. Starting in flag, Kyle moved up through the Raiders ranks playing various positions until settling in on running back in 7th and 8th grade. This is where you began to see something special in this young lad.
Leva now entered high school and was looking forward to seeing how he would do playing the game he loved at the next level. He did very well. His Gator team finished their first year at 6-2-1 and he had some great games that caught the attention of the varsity coaches.
One of those games was against Dundee-Crown HS. Kyle now had established himself as the team’s wing back and really showed the Chargers harbingers of the future. Halfway through his freshman campaign, the Gators locked horns with D-C. The game was a blowout with Kyle scoring 4 touchdowns on only 6 touches (Editors Note: Leva scored 4 TD’s against D-C this season also. It was at the Gators 2015 Homecoming game-see picture). He sat out the second half. Kyle had gotten Coach Ahsmann’s attention. The icing on the proverbial cake that would cement Leva’s varsity future came in the last game of the season against the Cary-Grove Trojans. Leva blitzed C-G with a rushing TD, a passing TD and a TD reception that won the game! After that, Coach Ahsmann was sold.
Kyle was going to be on the varsity his sophomore year, the big time, exactly what the Levas had hoped for, right? Not so fast, my friends. His mom, Tracey, was leery of how her son might be treated at the varsity level. Would he be hazed? Would the older boys pick on the young, talented, but shy newcomer? Would the juniors and seniors feel threatened by Kyle’s emergence? Tracey is a mom and moms can and should think these things. The answers to her concerns were no, No and NO. They embraced Leva and treated him like one of them from the very beginning.
Tracey looked back and said,”Not only were my fears unfounded but Kyle made a new group of friends, while keeping his same age friends too. His old friends were proud and happy for him.”
Kyle had a banner sophomore year for the playoff bound Gators. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry on 95 rushes and 517 yards. He also was a very proficient pass receiver. Leva, who has “great hands” according to Coach Ahsmann, compiled 291 yards receiving on 20 catches for a 14.5 average. He scored 8 touchdowns, 6 rushing and 2 receiving.
Leva’s production suffered after the injury to outstanding running back Corey Sheehan midway through the season. It was quite understandable as Sheehan, a senior, was the team’s workhorse. After he got hurt, teams then concentrated on Leva.
Coach Ahsmann was very generous with his time and spoke at length about Leva and his Gators heading into the 2016 season.
“We’re excited about next year because we have Kyle coming back. He was our leading rusher, leading scorer. We get Luke Nolan back, he’s our quarterback.” Ahsmann continued, “We feel real good about his athleticism at QB. Matt Meyers, a junior, comes back at receiver, so we have someone to throw to. We moved Blake Kuffel up at the end of the season to receiver. Likewise, we started a freshman, Trevor Keegan, at right guard and then we started a sophomore, Enok Dragon, at left guard. We felt there were a couple of good sophomores and we started junior Frank Harenza at right tackle. So we feel we have a good core of guys coming back on offense, so we feel good about that.”
On Leva, the head coach had this to say, “He was a big contributor on the offensive side of the ball but the other part of it is that he’s a good student and a great kid. We hope as we go into next year and the next he becomes more of a leader of the team. He’s not super vocal but leads by example.” Ahsmann will be heading into his 7th season as the Gators head coach.
Kyle has a 3.8 grade point average and is on the High Honor roll and also plays a good game of hoops. His basketball coach and Mathematics teacher, Carson Sterchi, had this to say about Leva, “This is my second year coaching Kyle on the sophomore basketball team. I also had Kyle in class last year. Kyle is one of the most dedicated and coachable kids that I have ever been around. Kyle is extremely humble, which is why it’s so fun to watch him succeed in both football and basketball. I am looking forward to watching his career unfold at CLS.”
Brian Murphy, a Social Studies teacher and conditioning coach, enjoyed interacting with Leva, “Kyle was an absolute pleasure to have in class! He was respectful, hard-working, punctual, organized, and intelligent when it came to the content. Kyle is the type of student every teacher wants to have in class.” Murphy went on, “He is a coach’s dream! Kyle has a work ethic and leadership abilities that are far beyond his age.”
Kyle currently plays forward on the Gators sophomore basketball team and after that will continue to lift weights and run in anticipation of his junior year of football. Kyle somewhat reluctantly drinks his dad’s homemade protein shakes. He made the All-FVC football team, IHSA All-Academic team (along with senior linebacker Dylan Sambrano) and was CLS Gators Co-Offensive Player of the Year with good friend QB Luke Nolan. His family has enjoyed Kyle’s journey so far, the excitement of the games, and the camaraderie that football brings. It’s family and friends first for Kyle, then school, followed by sports. No one knows what the future will have in store for Kyle, but I like what I’ve seen to this point. Good luck and God bless the Levas and the Crystal Lake South Gators.