Tinley Bulldogs 'Completely Different Team' Ahead Of Super Bowl

TINLEY PARK, IL — When the Tinley Park Bulldogs started their preseason conditioning in July, coach Mike Fazekas felt like his team had the makings of something special.

He still felt that way after the Bulldogs lost to the New Lenox Warriors, 25-0, in the second game of the season, believing that the setback would only motivate the 9-and 10-year-old football team to prove itself. On Sunday, the Bulldogs will get the chance to cap a magical season in the Lightweight Division Super Bowl at Saint Xavier University against the only team to beat them this year.

While Fazekas doesn’t take anything away from the Bulldogs’ championship game opponent, he said that the early-season shutout loss wasn’t indicative of what his team can achieve.

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“We knew we had the players in the spots to be able to give us this opportunity to go the distance,” Fazekas told Patch on Wednesday.

After losing to New Lenox, the Bulldogs (9-1) won six straight regular-season games and have posted back-to-back playoff victories to earn a spot in Sunday’s noon championship game. Yet, despite the team’s current winning streak, Fazekas chose to pull out the game film from the Bulldogs’ lone loss during a team get-together earlier this week.

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The film session at North & Maple wasn’t meant to highlight a disappointing setback or as a reminder of the challenge that the Bulldogs will face in Sunday’s Super Bowl. But instead, Fazekas said he used the opportunity to remind his players of the progress that has been made since.

New Lenox takes a 10-0 record into Sunday’s game, which is also a rematch of the 2015 Lightweight Division Super Bowl, which the Bulldogs won 6-0.

“We’re just a completely different team since then,” he said. “The kids have really taken a lot of direction, they’ve become smarter, they’re playing their positions better. It’s exciting to see how they’ve looked from Week 2 of the season to now. It’s a credit to all of them that they’ve taken the practices and learned their positions and done what they have needed to do to give themselves a shot at success.”

“So (the film) session was to say, ‘Yeah, we lost 25-0, but that’s not who we are anymore. …They’re not that 25-0 team anymore.”

In addition to his seven-member coaching staff, Fazekas said that a core group of players who he has coached since they were 6 has pushed their teammates throughout the season. What started with preseason practices in the summer heat to enduring some unfavorable weather conditions at times, the Bulldogs have developed the kind of mentality that the team’s coaches allowed them to develop into a championship-caliber team.

Many of the team’s core play on both the offensive and defensive side of the football and have served as the catalyst to allow the Bulldogs to push past what could have been a devastating loss so early in the season, Fazekas said.

Players like quarterback Tommy Fazekas, running back/linebacker Logan Durham, running back Joey Bogard, and running back/linebacker Chase Hubbard have pushed their teammates to constantly improve week-to-week. Not only did the steady change go a long way in allowing the Bulldogs to not be defined by the shutout loss, but to develop into the kind of team Fazekas and his coaching staff believed they had when the season started in July.

But players are keenly aware of the community support they have received. From the coaching staff to parent volunteers who helped to raise funds for uniforms and equipment to team moms who provided food throughout the season, Fazekas said that the Bulldogs’ championship effort has become a true team effort that extends beyond the roster of players.

He said the constant support has allowed the players to focus on football as part of a season Fazekas said has been a “crazy success story” and a chance to be part of the program’s first Lightweight Super Bowl appearance since 2015.

“Now, they just have to go out there and play with the confidence and intensity and the Bulldog football that they’ve played with last week that got them to this point,” Fazekas told Patch. “After all the distractions and jitters, they’re ready. They’re excited to get another chance at New Lenox – it’s the one loss that has been sticking with them all year.

“We know New Lenox is a really strong team, but I think they’re up for the challenge and they’re excited to be on that championship playing field. They know they’ve deserved it and that it’s not a fluke that they’re there.”

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