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Preview story: Evenly matched Lake Park, Wheaton North ready to go toe-to-toe in final DuKane Conference bout

By Bill McLean, 10/10/23, 12:00PM CDT


A couple of first-year head coaches in the DuKane Conference will square off in a regular-season finale in Wheaton at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

It’s Lake Park’s Michael Bruckner vs. Wheaton North’s Joseph Klingelhoffer, minus the accompanying poster featuring menacing looks a la boxing combatants.

They have a couple of other things in common: their squads are 1-5-0 in conference play, and they haven’t lost a scintilla of their positivity.

“It’s a hardworking group that competes in every game,” Klingelhoffer said of his Falcons (2-11-0). “We play well and never feel outplayed by our opponents. We are a team that knows we stack up with anybody despite our record, and we’re
confident we can make some noise as an underdog in the postseason.”

“Performances have been steadily improving throughout the season,” Bruckner said of his Lancers (6-13-1 overall).

“Spectators should expect to see a team that’s going to compete with 100 percent focus and intensity for 80 minutes, because this has been our goal all season.”

Senior forward Josh Simon paces Wheaton North’s offense with five goals and two assists. Falcons senior midfielder Carter Evans has contributed a pair of assists.

Lake Park senior forward Francesco Cardone struck for two goals in a two-minute span in the Lancers’ 4-2 defeat of visiting Bartlett on Oct. 5. Other threats to jostle twine are freshman forward Jakub Nowicki and senior midfielder Anthony Juarez.

“Like us,” Klingelhoffer said, “they’re going to believe their record doesn’t tell the whole story of how good they are. From what I’ve seen, they’re a good team that plays a tough schedule and is going to be trying to round into form before the playoffs.”

Speaking of tough, that’s the word that best describes the Falcons’ seniors, Klingelhoffer noted.

Where there’s a team, there’s usually an unsung hero. For Lake Park, it’s sophomore Carlos Ramos, according to Bruckner.

“Carlos, definitely,” the coach said. “He can be counted on to give 100 percent intensity and focus in training and in games. He’s had to learn to play new positions, and he’s taken it all in stride.”

For Wheaton North, the Falcon who deserves heat from a spotlight is junior center back Jackson Galbraith, per Klingelhoffer.

“He’s been consistently good for us all season,” he said. “He is a smart player who elevates the others around him and limits opportunities for opponents.”

Both teams open playoff action in West Chicago Sectional play-in matches Saturday. Fifteenth-seeded Lake Park hosts no. 18 Bartlett at its East Campus in the Geneva Regional match at 4:30 p.m. Wheaton North received the no. 16 seed and hosts no. 17 Willowbrook in the Schaumburg Regional at 6 p.m.