Coaches, players have to adjust to quick season start

J. Patrick Eaken

Thanks to an expanded football playoff to 16 teams per region, coaches had to get their teams ready in a hurry.

Lake third-year coach Josh Andrews just got finished with his three-day youth camp and high school camp, and bingo, it was time for his program to begin two-a-days.

“I was driving to practice the other day, and I said, ‘Well, summer is over.’ I thought I had another week in there somewhere and then I realized two-a-days are coming up this weekend. We are ready to go,” Andrews said.

While many programs began two-a-days on Monday morning, August 2, Lake started the first eligible day — Sunday morning, August 1 at midnight.

“I asked the administration, and we have a great administration here at Lake, and we normally do midnight madness, so we did midnight madness again Saturday going into Sunday from midnight until 2:30, and then come back on Monday,” Andrews said.

“It is an exciting time and luckily where our stadium is at there are not too many houses nearby and we can get the music blaring. I put the sound system in the locker room, and it is a really good time to celebrate the start of football. 

“That’s what I told the kids, ‘Hey, at midnight, it’s work.’ That’s what I enjoy doing is getting the kids to learn the process and working, and I think they are excited about it. I really do. 

“That’s kind of how we do things — but first we want the kids to enjoy the summer and have some time to go on vacation with their families.”

Eastwood coach Craig Rutherford notes that it is not just quick organization, but the weather that may play a role.

“We are just dealing with a much shorter preseason, taking a week out after two-a-days,” Eastwood coach Craig Rutherford said. “That just means we have to develop some depth, we have to be organized in our practices, and make sure we get in exactly what we need for that first game. Everybody is in the same boat.

“We’ve been doing our workouts and you can get a lot in without pads. Football is a game that is more fun when you throw the pads on, and you can start hitting. There is a different sound to it, there is a different feel to it, and our guys will be excited once we get that back going.”

Eastwood opens by hosting perennial playoff contender Ottawa-Glandorf at Freedom Field, and the likely hot and humid weather will be another element to deal with.

“It will be (hot) — it is supposed to be,” Rutherford said. “We feel fortunate, too, in that we open with a tough game — Ottawa-Glandorf. It has turned into a good rivalry.

“So, the key thing for the coaching staff will be to figure out when and where those guys will fit into the offense so that we can use the talent that they bring. We think each one of those guys needs to have a role in order for us to be as explosive as we want to be.”

Cardinal Stritch coach Gene Rucker adds that coaches and players have already been through this before, but in a different way during last year’s COVID shortened season.

The Stritch coach said a few lessons were learned last year.

“The best thing about it was that was my first year and then COVID hit, too, so that about took out about 10-15 years of my life, I’d just say. But seriously, I think that it was a good experience,” Rucker said. “Obviously in coaching I’ve learned about myself as a head coach, which is quite a different position as an assistant. But I think I can grow this year and I’m excited to do that.”

Rucker said he saw the excitement brewing the first official day of practice.

“Monday, we got going and the kids were excited — they are ready to go. I think the big thing is having guys coming back and a senior-heavy team. A lot of guys are just ready to get to the game. They’ve been motivated, they’ve been grinding and they are excited,” Rucker said.

Waite coach Aaron Peacock also learned some lessons because of the shortened season due to a global pandemic. He agrees that this year the lessons are similar in that the season was moved up a week to make room for the extra week of playoffs.

“It definitely is crazy. It seems like it got here so fast,” Peacock said. “I think we are prepared but you get the jitters because this (first scrimmage two weeks ago) is the first live action you are going to have for the season. 

“Two weeks later, St. John’s is here. Week one is coming fast. Last year was so jumbled up with COVID and everything else, so when we started we had to hurry up and get ready, so this year we had to slow it down a little bit. 

“We had two weeks to get ready and play a game so that was kind of weird for us, but now we have to understand it is a process. We’ll work through the process and it was nice to have an offseason where we got to lift weights and get strong. 

“The guys, you can definitely tell the difference this year because we did not get that opportunity last year. I truly like the way our guys look — they are strong and they are ready and I think we are going to have a good season this year.”

(The 2021 Press Football Preview featuring 10 area teams can be found inserted into this week’s edition).






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