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Tinley Park players hope that a huge offseason in the weight room will help them get a leg up on opponents in close games. Pictured: Ahmiale Hughes leads the way in practice. JEFF VORVA/22ND CENTURY MEDIA
Jeff Vorva, Sports Editor
3:34 pm CDT August 23, 2019

Wait for it.

“Weight” for it.

Last year, Tinley Park High School’s football team was 4-5 and one game from being playoff eligible, and it is easy to point the finger as to why the Titans missed a shot at the postseason. There were three close games they lost — back-to-back 10-3 losses to Lemont and Thornton Fractional North, as well as a 34-30 Week 7 loss at Oak Forest, which headed into that game with an 0-6 mark.

If the Titans could have won just one of those game, they would have been considered for the Illinois High School Association playoffs. Two wins would have made them a lock.

So, how can the Titans turn close losses into victories this year?

Weight for it.

“The weight room,” said second-year coach Josh O’Shea. “Honestly, it’s the weight room. We’ve kicked butt in the weight room since November.”

Working closely with the Titan players is Cassie Gaines, who not only has been working with students playing other sports but also has brought some national strength coaches to work with athletes in Bremen High School District 228.

“She is an awesome coach,” O’Shea said. “It’s been great. She has transformed a lot of kids. That was an area that we identified in those games as an area we lacked in. The kids have bought in. The offseason work is going to show in those close games. It’s going to change those scores.”

The Titans return a ton of experienced talent, including quarterback Joe Mackessy, running back JoJo Gallegos, three-year starting lineman Ezekiel Childs, linebackers Pete McMahon and versatile Ahmiale Hughes, who could see action at cornerback, running back and wide receiver.

The Titans picked up a transfer from St. Rita, Christian Law, who should shine at wide receiver and cornerback. Junior Brother Rice transfer Kevin Rodiguez could also make an impact in the secondary. The Titans also have transfers from Providence Catholic, Rich South and Rich Central who are getting adjusted to the Titans’ systems.

A talented sophomore class includes tight end Evan King, a 6-foot-3 threat who also plays quarterback, and lineman Leno Campbell. Both will figure to get quality varsity time this season.

O’Shea has big hopes for this season, but optimism was not always high when several of these seniors hit the field for the first time as freshmen.

“They had a rough go of it; they only had 17 or 18 guys,” O’Shea said. “It’s great that these players have so much optimism this year. It’s been a lot of hard work and a grind for them, but I’m glad players like Joe and JoJo stuck with it.”

Gallegos said that the way the Titans finished the season (beating Oak Lawn, 48-16, and Thornton Fractional South 24-21) could carry over to this season.

“We’re working more as a team, and everyone is coming together,” he said. “We have to get better. We’re going to get there. Our younger players need to remember their plays. But we have time to get that right.”