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Eric Ilich has been a part of building high school football programs as a player at Neuqua Valley and an assistant coach at Bartlett.
Now Ilich gets a rebuilding project for his first job as a head coach. Ilich was named Friday to lead a Hoffman Estates program that last made the playoffs in 1994 and hasn't had a winning season since 2000.
"I couldn't be more excited about the opportunity to work at Hoffman Estates and build the football program," Ilich said. "It will be a challenge but it's one I'm ready for and I'm prepared for. The administration is behind the football program and athletic program 100 percent and I'm looking forward to getting started."
Ilich replaces Bill Helzer, who resigned after going 7-47 in six years. Ilich was the offensive coordinator for the last two years of his seven-year stint at Bartlett and was the quarterbacks coach in 2004 at Naperville Central.
"He relates well with both student-athletes and parents alike, and we are all extremely excited about the enthusiasm he brings to the head football coaching position and to our school," said Hoffman athletic director Steve Lacni of Ilich, who was involved with seven Class 8A playoff teams during his coaching career.
Ilich quarterbacked Neuqua Valley during the school's first two years as a varsity program (1998-99). He will bring a pro-style offense from Bartlett that saw Josh Hasenberg from the 2008 8A semifinalist go to Colgate and has A.J. Bilyeu from last season's team headed to Air Force.
"For the kids it will be about commitment and the willingness to be the best football players they can be," Ilich said. "The part that really gets me excited is I feel there is so much potential at the school and so much support."
Ilich said another key is building a solid relationship with the Hoffman Redhawks feeder program. He said working with Bartlett head coach Tom Meaney and assistant Mark Williams has him ready for what is ahead.
"They've been nothing but supportive and they've challenged me every step of the way," Ilich said, "knowing my ultimate goal was to be a head coach."