Sandoval shows up-and-comers how it’s done
Joliet Catholic Academy's Ty Isaac (32) runs through tackles by Elmwood Park's Geno Cadetto (3) and Carlos Sandoval (41, far right) during a first round game of the IHSA Class 5A playoffs in Elmwood Park, Ill. on Saturday, October 27, 2012. | Jon Durr~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 2, 2012 6:47AM
ELMWOOD PARK — Carlos Sandoval and the rest of Elmwood Park’s seniors want to be defined by their entire body of work.
The Tigers’ most successful season in a generation ended Saturday night with a 58-0 loss to visiting Joliet Catholic in the first round of the IHSA Class 5A playoffs.
But that result didn’t dim Sandoval’s pride in what he and his teammates accomplished. Elmwood Park won its first conference championship in 27 years and played its first postseason game in 21, thanks in large part to a 20-19 win over perennial Metro Suburban Conference power Glenbard South in Week 5.
“We accomplished our goal from freshman year to win conference,” said Sandoval, who did a little bit of everything for the Tigers. “We just wish we could have gone farther in the playoffs.”
Joliet Catholic, which has an IHSA-record 13 state titles, would be a tough draw in any year. But a healthy Hilltoppers squad — which slipped to a No. 12 seed as running backs Ty Isaac and Tyler Reitz missed time with injuries — made for an especially rough matchup for Elmwood Park.
But though the Hilltoppers dominated from the start, leading 20-0 after one quarter and 51-0 at halftime, Sandoval in particular was able to provide some highlights for the home fans.
He wriggled and juked his way to a 38-yard run on Elmwood Park’s first play from scrimmage after halftime. That was his only carry of the night, but the 5-foot-10, 185-pounder also caught four passes for 24 yards.
“He’s one of our most elusive players,” Elmwood Park coach Luis Arroyo said. “He’s definitely one of the kids we want to get the ball to. We had him everywhere — tailback, receiver, we had him throwing the ball.”
Sandoval was still making plays long after the outcome was not in doubt.
“We’re just trying to be examples for the lower classes and keep the tradition going for the playoffs,” Sandoval said. “We’re a proud group right here, happy to be where we are (but) wish we could have done better.”
The Tigers did very well in Arroyo’s eyes, improving from 1-8 in 2009 to 2-7 the next year and 4-5 last fall before going 7-3 this season.
“We’re champions, that’s the bottom line,” the coach said. “This group (of players) are champions and they’re going to be champions for the rest of their lives. ... They made their mark in history. We will honor them, as we should.”
And future classes will be expected to set their sights higher.
“Without question, the bar has been raised,” Arroyo said.