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Lake Forest senior quarterback Andrew Clifford throws a pass during a varsity football game at Lake Forest High School on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Lake Forest’s best players from one of its best football seasons are moving on.
Quarterback Andy Clifford is taking his talents to Football Championship Subdivision (1-AA) Drake in Des Moines, Iowa. Defensive lineman Tom Kutschke will play for Brown, an Ivy League school in Providence, R.I.
Both players will make it official on National Signing Day Wednesday.
“It was really exciting, and I’m pretty relieved,” Clifford said. “It’s a long process. I’m happy with the decision.”
Kutschke added: “They (Brown) win and have a good program. The academics are unbelievable. Ivy League’s hard to pass up.”
Clifford’s emergence was one of the main reasons the Scouts surged into the Class 6A semifinals in 2012. Taking control of a pro-style, multi-faceted offense, the 6-foot-4, 190-pound quarterback threw for 2,583 yards and 20 touchdowns. Kutschke — a quarterback-chasing 6-5, 230-pound lineman — was the North Suburban Conference defensive player of the year. He finished with a team-leading 8.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss, good for second on the team.
Both players are following an emerging tradition of Scouts going on to play in college. Former Lake Forest players Tommy Rees and Connor Cavalaris are at Notre Dame, 2012 graduate Bo Dever is at Michigan and Dever’s teammate Owen Williams plays at Dayton.
Choosing Drake over Dayton and Butler, Clifford said he liked the school’s winning culture. Drake tied for the Pioneer League championship in 2012.
“It’s a good program, and I really, really like the coaching staff,” said Clifford, who added he’s receiving an academic scholarship and plans to study business.
Kutschke chose Brown over Georgetown, Dayton and Holy Cross. He will study business or engineering at a school that finished 7-3 in 2012.
“Providence is a good area with lots to do,” Kutschke said. “The campus is old but historic. It seemed like a fit.”
Worn out by a heavy recruiting process, both Clifford and Kutschke said they wouldn’t change anything. But they did dispense advice for younger athletes.
The bottom line — start early and keep all options open.
“I learned how important college is and what a big decision it is,” Kutschke said. “Don’t be afraid to bug coaches. Go with your gut and be yourself.”
Clifford added: “Stay consistent. If a coach doesn’t respond right away, don’t write them off. Keep being persistent until you get the final answer.” ~.