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Losing Grandma: WVSU Dennis Gardeck

Gardeck's tattoo commemorating  loving Grandma
Gardeck’s tattoo commemorating loving Grandma Carol

Lake in the Hills, IL- The Gardeck family goes way back with me. I met Terri and Jim when I was blessed with the opportunity to coach young Ian when he was playing baseball with Lake in the Hills little league. The 4 kids Ian, Andrew, Dennis and Alex (Bubba) were and still are great young gentlemen. Good job Mom and Dad!

While coaching Ian I met Carol Toomey. Carol was Terri’s mom and the Gardeck boy’s Grandma. She was a fantastic Grandma and would help carting the boys all over town as they flew from one activity to another. You see, if you were a Gardeck, you were active.

Gregory V. Monroe Athletic Center at WVSU

Grandma never said to much to me other than the pleasantries normally associated with little league baseball. As time went on though I noticed she would enjoy my rather “strict disciplinary guidance” that I employed with our team. Carol was like me when it came to being tough on kids, love ’em but be tough too. Grandma Carol passed away much too soon. I miss her, she was the Cat’s Meow, baby!

Here is an awesome podcast+ featuring Gardeck Son Number 3, Dennis. He is currently a red shirt junior at West Virginia State University and is a key part of the resurgent Yellow Jackets. The young men have very high expectations next season and have a local flavor to their coaching staff. Tony Benedetto, Crystal Lake South HS and University of Sioux Falls grad, is Dennis’ defensive coordinator at WVSU. Other Yellow Jackets defensive coaches: James Groce, Ryan Bailey & Zach Cook. Read Coach B breakdown his thoughts on Dennis and his defensive responsibilities. This will be a great journey through the eyes and mind of a young man who’s life is only beginning. Enjoy!

Coach Benedetto has nothing but respect for Dennis, “What has made Dennis a successful college football player is his work ethic, discipline, and determination towards the game of football. He will not be outworked. On the field/weight room or in the classroom.  He has a 3.94 GPA (team best). He sets the bar very high and once he reaches that level he moves the bar up.  He came into our football program and has improved every single year.  Because he focuses on daily improvement rather than dealing on past accomplishments.”

“His positive influence on our football team has pushed his teammates get better on a daily basis.  Dennis is a leader of our defense and football team.  His influence in a positive way towards his teammates has allowed our team to improve. His mindset allows him to stay focused on daily improvement.”



The Gardeck Family having fun with their beloved Grandma

Benedetto comes from a fine bloodline himself. His dad, Frank Benedetto was a great coach in his own right at CLS HS. He was sophomore head coach for my son Danny’s undefeated season. Benedetto the Younger has some nice props on his own: defensive captain of the 2008 USF National Champion team that went 14-0.

Son Tony sees some of himself in Dennis, “He is a man of high character and is a tremendous young man to have in our football program. He has been a big part of why we have been able to turn our football program in the right direction.”

Coach Benedetto went on,”He embodies our core values that Coach Jon Anderson (our head coach) has set for our football program. Coach  Isaiah Jackson (our linebacker coach)  does a great job with Dennis, focusing improving his mindset/technique/and football IQ on a daily basis. We are a 3-4 Defense that will show multiple fronts, blitzes, and coverages.  To provide the best match ups for our players week in and out – throughout the course of the season..”

WVSU has their sights on a conference title and the [xx] have put a lot of faith in Dennis. “Our defense is built on trust, accountability, and family.  We must all be on the same page and do our job at a high level of consistency.  Consistency at a high level, will define our success for this upcoming season. We finished in the top 3 in sacks, tackles-for-loss, and creating turnovers last season in the conference. Every year we have improved our ranking in the conference ranking in defending the run.  Yards per attempt.”

Benedetto continues, “We lead the conference in interceptions 2 out of the last 3 years. Last season our  2015 Team (Offense/Defense/Special Teams)  We broke 35 Individual/team school records. Our first season we took a defense that was 125th   (the year before we got here )in the nation in creating turnovers, to 17th in the nation in 2013. Our first season we took a defense that was 135th (the year before we got here ) in the nation in interceptions to,  11th in interceptions in the nation in 2013.”

I don’t know about you but I am a new Yellow Jackets fan. This team will have a breakout year. I know because Grandma Carol will be watching and cheering.



#CoachesSeries Featuring Sean Saylor


Harvard, IL- We find ourselves back in Harvard. Yes sir. We had a heart to heart with head football coach Sean Saylor. I’ve grown to appreciate Coach Saylor after covering his Hittin’ Hornets on numerous occasions. Today, he took me on a tour of the high school. It’s a great older building with some modern upgrades. Classes were being dismissed and the young men and women were scurrying to their next activity when I sat down with the coach. Please sit back and enjoy our time with a great young man, husband, father, teacher and all around good hombre’.

Click here to listen to Coach Saylor:



#BestBallers: Terrific 10 Top Conferences

Terrific 10 Top Conferences May 7, 2016 (II)

  1. Chicago Catholic (last week 1)
  2. Big 12 (2)
  3. Fox Valley (3)
  4. DuPage Valley (5)
  5. NIC-10 (9)
  6. East Suburban Catholic (6)
  7. Central 8 (4)
  8. Mid Suburban (8)
  9. South Suburban (NR)
  10. Central Suburban (NR)

Others: West Suburban, Upstate 8, Chicago Public, North Suburban, Southwestern

#YoungGuns Hittin’ Hornets Dynamic Duo

IMG_4352 (1)

Harvard, IL- I really like Harvard Illinois. There, I said it. It’s high school is super cool to an older gent such is I. Older but with modern amenities. I digress, recently spent the afternoon with some of the Hittin’ Hornets: head coach Sean Saylor and two junior standout student-athletes John Lynch & Adrian Serrano. Please join us for a cool trip through the thought processes of two super intelligent and compelling representatives of their future generation. Our podcast with Coach Saylor will be coming to a near you. Here you go….

Listen here to John and Adrian:



Special Hittin’ Hornets shout out to Tyler Perkins who plays in The Shriners Game on June 18 in Bloomington at Illinois Wesleyan University. Good job #23!!



#YoungGuns Marian Central’s Gavin Scott

MCC HS Lunch Pail
Scott breaking a tackle

Woodstock, IL- Please listen as we hear Marian Central Catholic HS sophomore Gavin Scott tell us his cool story. The only Scott brother that went to Marian. Listen to Gavin talk about growing up in Woodstock and his thought process in selecting a high school. Head coach Mike Maloney gives us his thoughts on the very talented and good student and what plans Gavin may have a part next fall for the Hurricanes. Sit back and enjoy….

Listen to Gavin here:



Listen to Coach Maloney on Gavin Scott: