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updated: 8/28/2013 5:36 PM

Pistorio era begins at South Elgin

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  • New South Elgin varsity football coach Pat Pistorio shows players how to break away from an opponent's grip during practice.

      New South Elgin varsity football coach Pat Pistorio shows players how to break away from an opponent's grip during practice.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer


Change does not always arrive at a glacial pace.

For instance, in early May Dale Schabert was still South Elgin's head football coach and Jason Schaal was still its defensive coordinator.

Less than four months later the team is prepping for its season opener under the direction of new head coach Patrik Pistorio, named to the position two weeks after Schabert stepped down in early July.

Pistorio played high school football for Schabert at Larkin and, like his predecessor, is offensive-minded. He has also served as the offensive coordinator for the Chicago Slaughter of the Professional Indoor Football League since the team's inception in 2007, in addition to coaching stops at Lake Forest College and Harper College.

Taking over the defense is Pistorio's close friend, Steve Szpejnowski, who coordinated the defense for the Slaughter for the past two seasons. Schaal left the South Elgin program on May 5, when he accepted a position at Grayslake Central.

Pistorio trusts Szpejnowski like a brother.

"We've spent quite a bit of time together," Pistorio said. "We've been to Wyoming, we've been to Texas, we've been all over together in the last couple of years and we've really been able to bond. Our visions and goals really align. He's my go-to guy. He'll invest as much in this is I will."

Even their desks in South Elgin's social studies department are adjacent.

"We're both football addicts," Pistorio said, "It's real easy to start talking football, so we have to stay focused on our classes."

The new coaching staff inherits an all-area quarterback. Senior Robert Cuda (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) last season completed 50 percent of his attempts (137 of 274) for 1,711 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was picked 12 times.

Cuda has reliable playmakers to target in senior wide receiver Tyler Christensen (5-10, 160) and senior tight end Nate Marotta (6-2, 215), the latter a returning all-area pick. Christensen is the area's second-leading returning receiver with 23 receptions for 402 yards and 5 touchdowns. Marotta, who also starts at weakside linebacker, made 19 catches for 233 yards and 2 scores.

The new coach would like to see the Storm gain 60 percent of their yards via the rushing game. That wasn't the case last season when the ground attack faltered. Instead, they gained 64 percent of their 2,767 total yards through the air, often with Cuda facing eight or nine defenders dropping into coverage. The bulk of the carries will go to juniors Kyle Ware (5-9, 190), who rushed 22 times for 109 yards, and Shawn Griffin (5-8, 180).

"We're going to establish a run game," Pistorio said. "There will be a lot of the same concepts and ideas that Dale had in place. It's basically the same; we're just calling it different things. We're no huddle, spread, up-tempo. My theory with no huddle is we're going to get the quarterback up to the line and let him evaluate, assess and determine what the best play is. We'll help him from the sideline."

Defensively, Marotta stood out last year. The linebacker made 56.5 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, broke up 2 passes and forced a fumble. He is joined by returning linebackers Kyle Kumerow and Dalton Garland.

Te'Quan Cager and Christensen (3 interceptions) will both play cornerback. Outside of Christensen and Marotta, few players will see action on both sides of the ball. Pistorio believes in a near full platoon system. He also believes players should enjoy themselves while playing the high school game.

"I want to have fun and I want them to have fun," he said. "The most important thing that I'm looking to try to achieve is for these kids to have an engaging, positive experience that will allow them to be successful at the collegiate level. I really think there are a lot of opportunities out there for high school athletes. I want them to have some college readiness on the football field and, more importantly, in the classroom."

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