Over the past year, Derek Mortensen has spent a little time reading up on Knox College’s football records.
“I’ve looked at them, just for fun,” said Mortensen, a Crystal Lake South graduate.
Mortensen, a senior running back, has spent even more time piling up numbers on his way to offensive records at Knox, an NCAA Division III school in Galesburg.
Entering the team’s Sept. 7 season-opening Abraham Lincoln Bowl game at Eureka College, Mortensen needs only 542 yards to become the school’s all-time rushing leader.
“That’s one of the numbers I’ve been looking at,” he said. “It’s in the back of my mind. It could happen in the first few games, hopefully.”
He is also 10 touchdowns from the school’s career TD record and 68 points from the all-time scoring record.
Mortensen is most concerned, however, with the number five.
That’s the number of wins Mortensen and his teammates would like to reach in the 10-game season.
“[Five wins] or better is my goal,” he said. “I came here from South, where we won all the time. We haven’t done that yet here. I want to be a part of the turn in this program.”
The Prairie Fire went 2-8 last season, the program’s most wins since 2008. After an 0-5 start, the team finished 2-3 and scored at least 28 points in each of its last five games.
“Last year, we were better, but we still have a long way to go,” he said. “I want to start winning games.”
Mortensen did his part last season, setting single-season school records for rushing yards (1,362) and touchdowns (17).
Mortensen is among seven offensive starters and three All-Midwest Conference players returning on an offense that finished in the top 50 nationally in rushing offense last year.
“We’re only going to get better with what we have coming back,” Mortensen said. “We have a new coach who’s a defensive specialist, so that should help.”
Knox was chosen to finish ninth in the 11-team league in a preseason poll of league coaches.
In the first half of the season, Knox faces four of the teams chosen in the top half of the conference.
“We want to knock one of those teams off,” Mortensen said.
During the offseason, Mortensen trimmed his weight from 225 to 212 in hopes of adding to the team’s win total.
“I can move better and I don’t get tired as fast,” he said. “I feel lighter on my feet.”
Journey to France: Four local athletes were part of the travel roster for D-III Augustana’s trip last month for a football game in France.
Junior offensive lineman Trace Wingo (Crystal Lake South), junior defensive lineman Will Hass (Marian Central), junior running back Eric Chandler (Cary-Grove) and freshman linebacker Josh Symbal (Huntley) took part in the nine-day trip to Paris, Normandy and Lille.
The Vikings defeated the French national team, 20-13, July 27 in Lille.
Augustana opens its regular season Sept. 7 against Mount Saint Joseph. The Vikings are coming off a 5-5 season in which they won four of their last five games after a 1-4 start.
The team was picked to finish fourth in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin in a preseason poll of league coaches released Aug. 7.
Missouri Valley recognition: Cary-Grove grad Ashley Rosch was the only sophomore chosen for the six-member Preseason All-Missouri Valley Conference volleyball team, which was released Wednesday by the league.
Rosch, an outside hitter at Illinois State, is joined by four seniors and one junior on the squad, which was voted on by league coaches.
Rosch is the reigning MVC Freshman of the Year and led ISU in kills last season (336) while earning first-team all-conference honors.
She is one of six returning starters for the Redbirds, who open their season Aug. 30 at the IUPUI tournament in Indianapolis.
The Redbirds were chosen to finish fourth in the conference this season in a poll of league coaches.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.