When former Vernon Hills coach Tony Monken stepped down and longtime assistant Bill Bellecomo was promoted to take his place, the coaching moves seemed to stop.
"Most of our staff stayed together," Bellecomo said.
But then, Bellecomo unexpectedly got the chance to add a couple of new coaches into the mix, and he couldn't say no.
When NFL players ask if they can serve as volunteer coaches, most high school coaches happily and quickly find a place on their staff.
Former Chicago Bears Phillip Daniels and Desmond Clark, now retired from the NFL, will coach for the Cougars this season. Both have deep ties to Vernon Hills. Daniels is the father of DaVaris Daniels, a star receiver at Notre Dame who was one of the best football and basketball players in Vernon Hills history. Meanwhile, Clark's stepson is Kiwanne Durant, a sophomore wide receiver at Vernon Hills who should see varsity action this season.
"They (Daniels and Clark) came to us and asked if we needed help and it was like, 'Absolutely,' " Bellecomo said. "Both are great guys and excellent coaches. They have big personalities."
It takes a village:
Team bonding isn't just for the team anymore.
At Wauconda, people around town, business owners and neighbors all try to do their part to help the Bulldogs get ready for the season.
During the team's annual lock-in at the high school each summer, friends of the program try to help out as much as they can with providing food, supplies and volunteer hours.
"This is the fifth year we've done our lock-in and it really bleeds into the entire community," Wauconda coach Dave Mills said. "We've got restaurants that provide food, we've got people in the community who man the kitchen. I've got one parent whose kid isn't even in the program anymore who arranges her vacation each summer around the lock-in so she can help out. It's got such a community feel. It's great."
Wauconda's lock-in is three days and two nights and includes session on character development and team bonding, fun games and, of course, football strategy and techniques.
"It's become such a great event," Mills said. "It's a great learning time for our kids and people in the community really seem to look forward to it and plan for it."
Out with a bang:
The goal at Wauconda this season is to get back to the playoffs and become the first team since the 1991 and 1992 teams to earn back-to-back playoff berths.
But something else will be motivating the Bulldogs as well.
This will be the final season for longtime Wauconda athletic director Jim Van Fleet. He'll be retiring this fall after 30-plus years of service and will be replaced by Andy Lambert.
"We're really going to keep Jim in mind this season," Wauconda coach Dave Mills said. "We want to send him out with a nice playoff victory."
Many high school teams struggle to find a kicker.
Carmel has produced some pretty good kickers over the last decade, most recently Steven O'Block, whose strong leg made 40-plus-yard field goals seem like chip shots.
O'Block is now a freshman kicker at McKendree University, which is just outside of St. Louis.
There are not one, not two but three players vying to become the next chip off the old O'Block.
Michael Georgen, Michael Pabst and Matt Kelly have all looked solid during the preseason.
"And they can all kick 40-yard field goals pretty easily," Carmel coach Andy Bitto said. "It's going to be a fight for the kicker job."
Back to the Bulldogs:
Simeon Tate grew up playing for the Junior Bulldogs youth football program.
Now, he'll play for the "senior" Bulldogs, after a slight detour.
Tate played at Carmel last year. But the junior utility player will be playing for his hometown Grant Bulldogs this season.
"He's going to be playing some fullback and he'll be our backup quarterback, too," Grant coach Kurt Rous said. "He's a good thrower. At some point we could put Tate at quarterback and move (starting quarterback) Jake Bychowski to fullback if we wanted to. Jake is a good runner and Tate has a good arm.
"Having Tate gives us some options and because Carmel runs an (option) offense like us, he's picking up our offense well."
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