Somehow, despite having lost their Head Coach and several experienced players, the Chicago Lions are still on top of the 7s heap in the Midwest.
That may not last for long, as the Midwest remains very competitive in 7s, but with the Lions expecting to augment their roster soon, the Chicago club is still well-placed.
Aaron Manheimer stepped down as the Lions coach to concentrate on his business, and Jeremy Nash has taken over. He will rely heavily on veterans Eddie Bleumel and Matt Degutes (who is one of those players yet to suit up this summer), but he has a huge number of young players to use. Central Washington has sent Max Narewski, Tanner Barnes and Zach Siemens to the Lions, which operates an apartment for young players to use during the summer. John Huguelet from Illinois, and Pedro Mercado from Elmhurst also add youth to the squad, while Luke Rosner showed up from out of nowhere (OK, University of Missouri) and the club is very high on him.
Then there’s also Peter Tiberio. The once and (hopefully) future 7s Eagle is an hugely important addition to the squad. Add to that the return of Lucas Thiem, the former University of Minnesota star who brings a physicality and intensity that sparks the club.
All of these elements are coming together quickly.
“Yeah, it’s weird,” said Nash. “We had the same group of players for six or seven years. And now we’re kind of rebooting. We have a couple of old hands and then some of these young guys. What’s good is that by the end of the summer we’ll have maybe 17 guys who could be on the 1st team, and that’s a good problem to have. But we also know this is a really competitive Midwest region. YoungBloodz are good, 1823 is looking really strong, Milwaukee … and people have really noticed the Wisconsin team, too.”
But don’t count out Chicago. They might have undergone a change or two, but they can handle it, and they are handling it, for the most part, with youth.