Family affair continues for Spartans
ST. JOSEPH — Janice and Roger Koss had four children, all boys.
Each sibling soon will have played in an IHSA state championship football game for St. Joseph-Ogden.
Senior twins Dylan and Ryan Koss get their chance Friday, when the Spartans tackle Stillman Valley in the Class 3A finals at DeKalb’s Northern Illinois University.
“They’re fulfilling a family legacy,” SJ-O coach Dick Duval said. “I saw the dad after the semifinal game and told him it must be the Koss factor.”
That wasn’t all the coach said.
“I told him they should have had 25 kids,” Duval said.
Mitchell Koss came along first and played in the 1999 title game. Mom and Dad watched, but not the twins. They were 4.
Aaron Koss played in the 2006 finals. Dylan and Ryan were among the spectators for a game at the UI’s Memorial Stadium.
“I had the pleasure to coach all four in youth football,” said Roger Koss, an Effingham native.
The former Spartans in the family plan on being at Huskie Stadium. Aaron, a student at Eastern Illinois University, has seen each of the team’s first 13 games. Mitchell, who lives in Mokena, has seen 10 games played by the 11-2 Spartans.
The two youngest are hoping to not just match the achievements of their brothers. “They would like to end their careers with a championship,” Roger Koss said.
It will likely be the final football game they play. The twins plan on attending Parkland and entering the building trades program.
The Kosses are fixtures on the offensive line. They are tackles.
“Dylan is on the power side. Ryan runs a little better. That’s why he’s on the quick side,” Duval said. “They’re both hard-nosed kids.”
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Stillman Valley (11-2) won its first seven games, then lost in weeks 8 and 9 to schools that ended the regular season undefeated.
“To say we’d be here was the furthest thing from my mind at the time,” Stillman Valley coach Mike Lalor said. “Even though they were to good teams, a loss is a loss and does something to you mentally. A lot of things had to go right.”
Last week, the Cardinals took out the two-time defending 3A titlists, Aurora Christian.
Lalor is coaching in his fifth championship game in 15 years. He again will take time to enjoy the moment.
“After each one, you realize how truly special it is,” he said. “You may never get back. The odds are not in your favor.”
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SJ-O’s senior class was a close one, and the bonds grew stronger in the fall of 2010. Tammy Walsh, the mother of quarterback Dalton Walsh, died in an accident after a freshman football jamboree at Jamaica High School. Dalton was injured and missed much of the season.
“That moment made us more brother-like,” senior Jake Stewart said. “Tammy was like a second mother to all of us. At one point, all of us stayed the night with each other weeks at a time.”
Dalton Walsh’s teammates marvel at how well he overcame not only his physical injuries but also the mental anguish.
“He handled it very well,” senior Seth Griswell said. “He has played outstanding and is a great leader.”
Duval remembers predicting a brilliant future for Walsh at the outset of the 2010 freshman season.
“He was, by far, the best quarterback in the jamboree and showed me quite a bit,” Duval said.
As Walsh’s final prep game draws nearer, Duval believes the expectations have been met.
“He has lived up to what I thought he could be,” Duval said. “He creates plays and makes plays with his ability to get out of tight situations and not get tackled for a loss. He has the ability to move and throw on the run. He’s not a rah-rah type but shows his leadership through his toughness.
“His biggest improvement is learning to throw the ball away and live for another down. He has learned sometimes you just have to throw the ball away.”
Stewart believes the way Dalton Walsh has dealt with his personal tragedy has strengthened his resolve.
“Nothing has been in his way that he can’t handle,” Stewart said.
Walsh didn’t go through it alone.
“His support family at home helped him get through it, especially his freshman year,” Duval said. “I know it was difficult at times. This was a pretty close group before, and when that happened, all of them were here for him. That’s one thing that has made this group closer than others.”
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The Spartans may have a welcome addition this week. Senior lineman Nick Barnes injured a knee in Week 5 and sat out most of the next seven games. Barnes has been cleared for action. “We like him on defense,” Duval said. “He’s taller (6-foot-3) and can rush.”
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Four former SJ-O football players are on Duval’s staff, including his son Kiel. The others are Nick Bialeschki, Steve Fiscus and Shawn Skinner.
“I’m so happy Nick’s a part of this,” Dick Duval said. “He lost in the quarterfinals, and this makes it all worth it. He gave up an opportunity to coach at Danville and be paid.”
Like Skinner, Bialeschki is a second-year volunteer. Fiscus was on staff for the 2006 title game.
Assistants Bob Glazier and Marshall Schacht are championship-game veterans. Duval said he gives Glazier a green light to run the defense “similar to when (John) Mackovic was at Illinois and Lou Tepper was the defensive coordinator. I have very little say about the defense. Bob breaks it down and says, ‘Here’s what I’d like to do.’ ”
Schacht coordinates the special teams. He and Duval have a standing argument about one phase.
“He wants to onside kick,” Duval said. “He thinks every one is open.”
The other SJ-O coaches are Don Beckett, who was on the 2006 staff, and Tim Harper, a UI police officer who played college ball at Colorado.
Making their mark
Football is trying to join the list of sports that have captured state championships at St. Joseph-Ogden. The school’s best, thus far:
YEAR SPORT COACH
1990 Girls’ cross-country Jim Acklin
1991 Boys’ cross-country Jim Acklin
1992 Boys’ cross-country Jim Acklin
1993 Boys’ track and field Gary Garrison
2000 Boys’ track and field Gary Garrison
2000 Girls’ track and field Jerry Hewerdine
2006 Softball Randy Wolken