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Oswego seniors Larsen, Milne return to play key roles

Oswego's Max Larsen makes tackle Waubonsie Valley's Jeff Markham during an Aug. 31 game. | Mike Mantucc~ For Sun-Times Media

Oswego's Max Larsen makes a tackle on Waubonsie Valley's Jeff Markham during an Aug. 31 game. | Mike Mantucca ~ For Sun-Times Media

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Second round games


Class 7A

Oswego (9-1) at Benet, (9-1), 7:30 p.m.


Class 8A

Waubonsie Valley (9-1) at Oak Park (7-3), 1 p.m.

Class 5A

Kaneland (10-0) at Lincoln-Way West (7-3), 1 p.m.

Class 3A

Aurora Christian (9-1) at Immaculate Conception (7-3), 1 p.m.

Class 1A

Stark County (8-2) at Mooseheart (9-1), 4 p.m.

Updated: December 2, 2012 2:13PM

He missed it, Max Larsen had to admit.

“Every Friday I’d go to the sophomore game, but as soon as the varsity (players) came out to warm up, it was hard to watch. I’d end up walking away,” said the Oswego senior, who gave up football for a season.

At 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, he thought he was too small to play linebacker at the varsity level and figured he’d be better off focusing on wrestling.

He wasn’t alone.

Alex Milne, at 6-3, 250, didn’t have the same concerns but he, too, gave up the sport for a season. Milne, a pitcher, decided to play fall baseball instead.

“I enjoyed what I was doing but I did miss Fridays,” Milne said. “That, and not going out to practice every day.”

When Brian Cooney was named head coach last winter, one of the first things he did was gather his staff and identify students who hadn’t played the previous fall who might help the team.

He met with both and convinced them to play their senior year. Team co-captain and defensive back Jamaal Richardson also helped convince Larsen.

“He said they’d find a spot for me on the field,” Larsen said.

Spots were found for both. Milne has started at center on the offensive line all season. Larsen began by splitting time with Griff Lawrence at middle linebacker, then took over the position when Lawrence moved to defensive end after Chad Burdo went down for the season with a knee injury.

Friday, Milne, Larsen and the rest of the 9-1 Panthers travel to Benedictine University to meet 9-1 Benet Academy in a second-round Class 7A playoff game.

“We could not be doing what we’re doing now without them,” Cooney said.

Milne and his mates on the offensive line have helped power an offense that has averaged 40.7 points per game, piling up 2,398 yards on the ground (239.8 average) and another 1,184 (118.4 avg.) through the air.

Larsen has averaged 10.2 tackles per game over the last five contests and his 70 tackles (42 solo, 28 assists) rank second on the team to junior linebacker Bryce Holm (74 tackles) on a defense that has allowed 15.9 ppg.

“He just brings intensity,” Cooney said of Larsen. “He has a nose for the ball. The defensive coaches have worked hard with him on technique and playing his keys.

“He may still be a little bit undersized, but I don’t look at height and weight. I prefer to look at the results.”

Larsen doesn’t find his size to be a detriment.

“I really like to tackle,” he said.

Milne isn’t surprised by the offense’s production because, “I knew what kind of talent we had there. We have good communication on the line, we’re all friends. Benet’s defense is very fast and they all come to the ball, but if we can stay on our blocks, we should do what we do.”

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