A lot of things race through a player’s mind when he makes the transition to varsity football.
The game is faster, the players bigger, the pressure greater.
Leyden junior Alex Rose also knows he is replacing one of the best players on last year year’s playoff team, as well as one of the top defensive players in the Western Suburban Conference that past two seasons.
The first-year starting inside linebacker is succeeding Adam Morrison, a two-year starter for the Eagles who now plays at University of St. Francis. Morrison, an all-conference selection, had 80 tackles for a defense that gave up 10.8 points per game in 2012.
“He was a great player,” said Rose. “They’re big shoes I have to fill, but I try not to think about it that much.”
Instead, Rose is concerned with his duties on the field, which include relaying plays to his teammates.
“He gets all the calls from the sideline and tells them to us,” said senior defensive tackle Quintin Morgan. “He also yells strength calls and angle calls for the lineman before the play.”
That ability to communicate is part of what led coaches and players to elect Rose a defensive captain for the season.
“On the field he brings us together in tough situations,” said senior outside linebacker Will Napier.
For the 2012 Western Suburban Gold champions, this season has had its share of tough situations. The Eagles dropped to 1-4 (1-1) Friday after a 31-24 loss to Downers Grove South, a game where Leyden gave up three passing touchdowns.
“We’ve got to get better in the (secondary), and for the linebackers we have to get better in our drops,” said Rose.
At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Rose is recognized as a physical player.
“He is a big body,” said Morgan. “He can lay a hit on you when he fills holes.”
He forced a fumble during the game and made several big tackles, but the play that stuck with him was the one he couldn’t make: a missed tackle on senior running back Alec Arvanitakis that gave Downers Grove a first down with under two minutes to play.
“At the end of the game, I’m sure everyone saw, I missed that tackle,” he said.
This season has been frustrating for the Leyden football team, but so was 2011, Morrison’s junior year. That year the Eagles went just 3-6 and gave up nearly 30 points per game.
Leyden can still become playoff eligible by winning its final four games of the season. That road begins Friday when the Eagles host Hinsdale South (2-3, 2-1).
Originally posted on 10/01/13.
By Jakub Rudnik