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Daily Herald's 2013 Season Coverage
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Article updated: 8/29/2013 6:49 PM
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Donatucci ready to write new chapter with Hoffman
 

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Donatucci ready to write new chapter with Hoffman
  • Hoffman Estates coach Mike Donatucci gathers his players as the Hawks embark a new chapter in the school's football history.

    Purchase Photo | Hoffman Estates coach Mike Donatucci gathers his players as the Hawks embark a new chapter in the school's football history. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Coach Mike Donatucci directs traffic at a Hoffman Estates football practice.

    Purchase Photo | Coach Mike Donatucci directs traffic at a Hoffman Estates football practice. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Hoffman Estates coach Mike Donatucci takes a hands-on approach during practice.

    Purchase Photo | Hoffman Estates coach Mike Donatucci takes a hands-on approach during practice. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

When Mike Donatucci was named the new football head coach at Hoffman Estates, cornerback Rainier Del Rosario did what most kids do today: He looked him up on the internet.

"I went to the Daily Herald website and found out all about him," Del Rosario said. "I saw what he had done. I had heard how great he was and wanted to see what he was all about."

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But the internet can't always fully explain what it means to play for "Tuch," as Del Rosario found out in the first few days of practice.

"The start was a bit rocky, because I wasn't used to a coach like this," said Del Rosario, who will move to safety this year. "But once I got used to it, it was much easier."

Donatucci was an assistant coach at Hoffman for 13 years before getting the head coaching job at Fremd in 1993. While at Fremd, where he was head coach for 19 years, he compiled a record of 137-62. He guided his teams to 16 consecutive playoff appearances and won the MSL West title 8 consecutive times.

Counter that with a Hoffman Estates program that has been mired near the bottom of the MSL for years. The Hawks have won just 128 games since the school began playing football in 1975. They have made the playoffs just 6 times and have not had a winning season since the turn of the century.

"I know this is a difficult challenge," said Donatucci, who takes over a program that has just one win in each of the last 4 seasons and 7 wins in the last 10 years.

"But the kids are buying into all that we do. And that's a great place to start."

Donatucci began to change that mindset from the moment he was introduced to the team last May.

"It is great," said Will Cage, who started at defensive back last year. "It is a lot more intense. We are a family here and we are all together. I can see all of us playing a lot harder. It is exciting."

Bademar Camacho, who started at offensive tackle last year and will be moving to right guard, says that the organization Donatucci brings has a calming effect on the team.

"Our practices and everything else is just so much more organized, Camacho said. "Last year everything was so scrambled. This year, we come to practice and know exactly what to do and what is expected of us."

Camacho also likes the family atmosphere, that Donatucci is known for, that has been instilled at Hoffman this year.

"This year the team is so much closer," Camacho said. "We have so much to look forward to each day."

Donatucci brought over the Thursday dinners, which are a staple to most programs. But we he also has restarted the Thursday night bonfires at his home in Hoffman Estates. There, seniors gather around the fire and discuss football and life after the game.

Donatucci will also bring back the tradition of the hill. It was also a staple of Donatucci's tenure at Fremd, but Tuch says that it actually began at Hoffman Estates.

"We have a hill here," Donatucci said. "That's where it all began. And we are going to do that again this year."

Billy Payne, who played for Donatucci at Fremd and is now at senior at Indiana, where he is an economics major, says the Hoffman Estates seniors will grow even more thanks to those bonfires.

"It is a great opportunity to just talk," Payne said. "He treats you like a man and expects you to act as such.

"What he does best is to develop an entire program from the group up and makes men out of boys. He preaches discipline and accountability as a team and as individuals. I think the accountability and discipline part, and how he shapes teenagers into a group of motivated young men who expect greatness, is the best description."

Donatucci knows that the turnaround won't be overnight. It took his three seasons at Fremd to make the playoffs for the first time, so he knows the value in building a program.

"We are young, young," said Donatucci, who has only 17 seniors on his roster. "Those seniors didn't have a sophomore team, so we lost many of them. But our goal in the future is not to lose any players."

Walking the halls of Hoffman, one can feel the change in atmosphere. Some of that comes from the start of a new school year, but most of it is because there is sheriff in town.

Tuch is back on the job.

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