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Football standout Ronnie Castaldo

castaldoThis is Ronnie Castaldo’s senior year. And the three-year varsity starting linebacker/running back at Lake Park High School in Roselle wants to make it a memorable one.

Advancing to the Class 8A state playoffs — the Lancers last qualified for the postseason in 2009–is a team-wide goal. Castaldo plans on doing everything in his power to help Lake Park get there.

“The last game of the year (in 2011) we beat Neuqua Valley (a state playoff qualifier) in double overtime and carried that into the off-season,” Castaldo said. “There’s no limit for us. I think we’re one of the toughest teams in the (Upstate Eight) conference.

“We’re a little underestimated, but teams are going to see what we’re made of. It would be a big disappointment if we weren’t in the playoffs.”

Castaldo leads a nucleus of talented seniors that includes quarterback Zack Gehant, who was honorable mention all-area (Daily Herald) in 2011; wideout Kevin Teglia, who returned from a concussion for the last four games of the season and caught seven passes for 142 yards and two scores in the season finale; all-Upstate Eight center Vince Fallico; and wideout Scott Filip, a multisport star who achieved all-state honors in four track events (including the 4×100-meter relay) last spring.

Castaldo himself was an all-Upstate Eight pick and an honorable mention Daily Herald all-area selection last fall. He compiled a team-leading 87 tackles with two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles to go along with 200 yards rushing. He played primarily linebacker last season, but started all nine games at running back his sophomore year (2010) and gained 630 yards while scoring six touchdowns.

Castaldo likely will see more touches offensively in 2012 since LaCurt Evans, last year’s leading rusher, has graduated. But the 6-1, 200-pounder says his bread and butter is playing defense.

“Defense is more my thing,” he said. “I just like being able to change a game with a big hit. There’s no better feeling than knocking them down and laying them out. It’s a good feeling.”

Castaldo worked out twice a day–“Pretty much every day,” he said–to prepare for his final prep campaign. He worked with a personal trainer, and also with Kwame Agyeman, the Lancers’ defensive backs coach who was an all-state safety at Lake Park and played college football at Oregon.

“I’d say I’ve worked my hardest this off-season,” he said. “A lot of running and getting my stamina up. Kwame helped me a lot with speed.”

He also participated in several summer camps–the Nike Combine and the Northwestern Showcase, as well as camps at the University of Illinois and Ball State.

Castaldo’s work ethic and can-do attitude have served him well throughout his varsity career, noted his father, Ron Castaldo. Ron and his wife, Nicole, also have two daughters: Nicky, who’s a freshman at Lake Park, and Lauren, who’s in the third grade.

“I support them 110 percent as long as they’re participating and they’re happy with what they’re doing when they come home,” Ron said. “I think that’s part of growing up. I think Ronnie is starting to reap the benefits of his effort. If someone told him he had to be faster, he worked on getting faster. He’s just a hard worker, and he’s the same way in school.”

Castaldo has been academic all-conference since his freshman year.

“What’s very important to me and my family is academics,” said Castaldo, who also plays for the high school’s hockey team. “I want to finish the year strong academically.”

“I’m excited for his team and I’m excited for him” his father said. “He works hard at everything he does. I’m proud of him, not just as an athlete but in academics. He’s maturing into a well-rounded young man right in front of us and I think sports has played a major role in that.”

As far as personal season goals this season, Castaldo would like to accumulate over 100 tackles and obtain all-state honors. Securing a Division I football scholarship also is on his radar. North Dakota, Ball State, Eastern Michigan and Eastern Illinois have shown interest in him so far.

About Mike Sandrolini

Mike Sandrolini has been published in the Elmhurst Independent, Voyager Media, the Daily Herald, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Bear Report. His stories and columns have been recognized for editorial excellence at regional, state and national newspaper contests over the years. He also has co-authored two books: "Bear With Me: A Family History of George Halas and the Chicago Bears" and "All the Good in Sports." His father, Raymond, is a native of Gaggio Montano, a small village around 30 miles southwest of Bologna.