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Lozano-Miceli partnership an Elk Grove success
By Marty Maciaszek | Daily Herald Columnist

Senior wide receiver-defensive back Fernando Lozano has been an integral part of Elk Grove's run to the Class 7A quarterfinals.

 

JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

Elk Grove senior Jeff Miceli has been a huge catch for the football program after making a transition from soccer after his freshman year.

 

JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

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Published: 11/10/2011 11:54 PM

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Fernando Lozano might have a future as a recruiter.

Lozano thought Elk Grove classmate Jeff Miceli might make a good football teammate as they headed toward their sophomore year.

The issue was Lozano, who isn't the most vocal guy around, had to persuade Miceli to end a decade of playing soccer.

"I always knew he was a good athlete and Jeff has always been fast," Lozano said. "I tried to convince Jeff to play football and he said, 'I'll try it. I'll try it.'"

Would the multisport athlete who also plays basketball and volleyball like it?

"Coach (Rob) Pomazak got on me my sophomore year and got me to love the sport," Miceli said of the Grenadiers' current defensive coordinator.

"But I blame it all on him," Miceli said with a smile as he looked toward Lozano. "He got me going."

A big reason the Grenadiers are going to the state quarterfinals for the first time in seven years is the combination of Lozano and Miceli on both sides of the ball. They'll be heading up to Lake Zurich, one of the state's Class 7A powers the last decade, for a 1 p.m. matchup Saturday.

And third-year head coach Brian Doll is thrilled Lozano was able to sell Miceli on his potential of becoming a big part of the program.

"They're unbelievable," Doll said. "What has impressed me most with Jeff this year is his leadership. He's such an incredible leader for us.

"Lozano is more of a funny personality who will give me a high-five and a hug."

They have given the Grens plenty of reasons to celebrate as their leading receivers. Lozano has caught 40 passes for 638 yards and 4 touchdowns and Miceli has caught 23 passes for 421 yards and three scores.

Doll said the best part is there is no great divide if one receives more chances than the other. The Grens' two playoff wins are a perfect example.

In the first-round against Conant, Miceli caught 4 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown from sophomore Adam O'Malley and forced a key first-quarter fumble.

In last week's win over Machesney Park Harlem, it was Lozano's turn in the spotlight. He scored the Grens' first 3 touchdowns on a pair of catches and a 16-yard run.

"At this point we can figure out who the other team is spending more time and effort on and the other one steps up," Doll said. "It's been nice and the great thing about them is they root for each other and cheer for each other.

"You see Miceli on film score in the Conant game and Ferny is the one going crazy."

They're also solid at the less glamorous work of helping running man quarterback Dejan Basara.

"We have to get off the line every single time and try to get a block," Lozano said.

"When Dejan started coming in," Miceli said of Basara's playoff return at quarterback from a broken collarbone, "coach 'Bucc' (assistant Brian Bucciarelli) said you have to start getting off the line. We can't show the other team what we're going to do.

"It's cool to see both quarterbacks in there and the other team doesn't know what we're going to do."

They are also integral parts in the secondary of one of the Mid-Suburban League's best defenses. And their prominent roles gives them a prominent part in senior leadership.

"Fernando and I had to be the coolers of the team," Miceli said. "If anyone is getting too hot we try to calm everyone down."

Lozano isn't afraid to admit it's a role that comes more naturally to Miceli.

"He's the speaker and he gets everybody going," Lozano said. "It's something I was uncomfortable with at first but eventually I had to do it and I wanted to do it."

The potential college business majors also set a solid example in the classroom. Miceli has a 5.0 grade-point average on a 5.0 scale, scored 25 on the ACT and plans to play club volleyball at Indiana.

Lozano has a 4.3 GPA and a 25 ACT and is considering playing football and running track at Illinois Wesleyan or focusing on being a student at Minnesota.

And Elk Grove is glad the proposed transaction between Lozano and Miceli was completed.

"This is the most fun year of football I've ever experienced," Lozano said.

"We can all call each other and hang out like normal guys," Miceli said. "We can rag on each other and that's why we love each other."

mmaciaszek@dailyherald.com