Report on prep football around this time of year, and you’re sure to run into some very similar responses from the players and coaches you interview.
An obvious, constant theme is that everyone is ready for games to start. The camps and the 7-on-7s may not be as demanding or as serious for those involved as the practice sessions they’ll begin 11 days from now, but they get repetitive.
Kids play football for Friday nights, and by now, they’ve had several weeks of football-related activity with no games to break up the monotony. Coaches might not be as forthcoming about it, but they’re probably about as anxious as the kids at this point.
“We came together as a team this summer,” Minooka lineman Paul Stawarz told me this week, “but right now, I’m just anxious to play.”
Another seemingly ever-present trait of the interviews I conduct is unfailing positively. I’ve never had a coach tell me a current summer has been a bad one for his team, but I’ve been told about numerous “great” ones.
The closest I’ve come to a coach admitting that summer work was subpar came when a coach starting talking about how his team’s most recent summer was vastly superior to summers from years ago. Maybe it wasn’t just coachspeak — that team’s won-loss record ended up being vastly superior to its records from those past years after that coach talked up its summer showing.
With all of that said, Minooka head coach Paul Forsythe was more candid than some coaches have wanted to be, at least on the record, when he expressed that his team’s graduation losses haven’t made getting ready for 2013 an easy task.
“It’s a challenge to find the best 11 guys on both sides of the ball,” Forsythe said.
“We have a lot to prove coming off a disappointing season, which was not where we wanted to be. Everyone, as far as I’m concerned, has something to prove.”
I asked Forsythe if he was happy with his team’s summer so far, and he his response was more positive.
“I am, as far as the work we’ve gotten in and what we accomplished in camps. As far as that goes, yeah,” Forsythe said. “It’s a good place to be in, as far as being ready to hit the ground running on the 14th.”
At least on one side of the ball, Coal City coach Lenny Onsen is in a similar position to Forsythe. Graduation has decimated a Coal City defense that was somewhere between very good and dominant in 2012. And since Onsen calls the defense for the Coalers, it’s an area with which he is intricately involved.
Yet according to Onsen, it’s been business as usual this summer, even for a defense with 10 new starters.
“The kids have been receptive to everything. They have done what we’ve asked,” Onsen said. “We have some new personnel on defense, but the new defensive guys have come in, taken some reps and got themselves ready for what’s ahead.”