Elk Grove football makes first IHSA playoffs appearance since 2013

Matt Cappello, Staff Reporter

It’s Friday, Aug. 26, and it’s a rowdy night at Robert Haskell Memorial Stadium. After securing a 42-7 win against Maine West, the Elk Grove Grenadiers had a feeling that something special could be happening.

“This game was special compared to the other games,” Jacob Elsner, the team’s running back, said. “We flipped a switch and showed a turning point for Elk Grove football.”

In that game, quarterback Mitch Janczak went to work scoring four touchdowns, three of them rushing. Elsner and Janczak were successful with the help of their outstanding offensive line led by returning starters Christian Tuianna, Ramiro Valdivia Jr., and Toni Brautigam.

And since that game, Elk Grove has marched its way to a 7-2 record, its best showing since going 8-1 in the 2011 fall season. The Grenadiers will also face the Hoffman Estates Hawks in a playoff game Saturday, Oct. 29. It will be the Grens’ first playoff appearance since 2013.

This will be the second time the Grens face the Hawks, as on Sept. 2, the Grens beat Hoffman 24-14.

After the Maine West and Hoffman games, Elk Grove laid the hammer down on the Niles North Vikings just in time for Homecoming with a 43-0. A win a week later against Niles West put the Grens at 4-0. The last time they started 4-0 was in 2004 when the Grens went undefeated in the regular season.

After notching a win against Buffalo Grove — who went 4-5 and still made the 7A state playoffs — the Grens faced their biggest challenge yet, losing to the Prospect Knights (8-1 regular season) by a score of 35-21. Prospect scored three of their touchdowns in the first quarter. 

Elk Grove didn’t let the blemish on their perfect record distract them from their goal of beating Rolling Meadows. Elk Grove scored three touchdowns in the first quarter and ended with a 41-21 victory. A tough 42-0 loss to Hersey the following week put the Grens at 6-2, but a big 49-33 win over Wheeling solidified that the Grens would get a home playoff game. 

If the Grens win on Saturday against Hoffman, they will face the winner of St. Charles North and Maine West the following week.

“It’s easy to win while having 21 other guys with you fighting their tails off, there’s no better feeling in the world than winning a hard-fought game with your brothers,” Tuiaana said.