The Upstate Eight Conference football all-conference honors recently were released. And here's the kicker.
St. Charles North senior Kat Stutesman made the River Division team as a kicking specialist, the first female football selection in the UEC and possibly in the state.
When North Stars coach Rob Pomazak told his team who received UEC recognition, no one was more surprised than Stutesman.
"When I first heard about it, I did the whole sit-there-and-go-wow thing," she said. "Especially after coach told us about how you get the award, that he can nominate (his own players) but he can't vote (for them), other coaches have to vote.
"That was kind of amazing. I knew I did a good job, but there's a difference between getting recognized by your school and by the other coaches," she said.
Stutesman converted 36 of 41 extra-point attempts this season, setting new North Stars records for PATs in a season and, combined with the 15 she made a junior, for a career. Aided by junior holder Blake Kastein, and senior long-snapper Austin King, Stutesman made all 7 tries against Plainfield Central and Elgin, went 7-for-8 against Streamwood and 4-for-4 against Geneva.
She joined Batavia punter Tucker Knox as an all-conference kicking specialist.
"Honestly, I never expected it," Stutesman said.
A soccer goalie who looks to enter one of the military academies, hoping first for Air Force or the Naval Academy, Stutesman first considered kicking footballs as a sophomore. St. Charles North's coach at the time, Mark Gould, was her driver's education instructor, and there was mention of her giving it a shot after the North Stars' kicker was injured.
She got clocked herself in the Week 9 27-25 win over South Elgin, roughed up by three Storm players after a kick.
"I had a little whiplash for a day and a half," said Stutesman, who also played some receiver during junior varsity games.
When Pomazak unveiled the team's all-conference selections Stutesman said her teammates applauded and congratulated her while she sat, stunned.
"It's really exciting to have the award," she said, "but I do have to thank the team for it because I'm not the person like (running back) Evan Kurtz, running through and smashing people with the football."
Time at last
This time last year Steve Gallaher was associate athletic director of operations at Wheaton Academy. This year he's a football dad. It's been a good year.
Gallaher essentially saw his position eradicated at Wheaton Academy but is currently a managing director of an Asian-based logistics company. Regular hours and flexibility allow him watch his son, Jake, play safety for the Marmion football team; and daughter Lindsey, a St. Charles North freshman, act and sing onstage.
Jake's got a team-high 7 pass breakups and his 4 interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, are tied with cornerback Seth Sevenich, drawing some college interest and the praise of Cadets coach Dan Thorpe.
"To me it's been a huge blessing from God that I'm still able to work full-time in a field I know very well, but at the same time I'm able to attend and support Jake in all the success he's had this year," Steve Gallaher said.
His son missed his junior football season due to a shoulder injury, but returned for baseball. While with Wheaton Academy Steve Gallaher was fortunate to see about a third of his games.
"I'll be looking forward to this spring because I'll be able to see them all," he said.
His experience is similar to other parents working odd hours or having responsibilities that diminish desired family time. What complicates Gallaher's situation was he was only 10 when his father passed away, and that hurt.
"I vowed if (his children) ever are physically able to participate in school activities they excel at, I wanted to be able to be there," he said. "As an athletic director, you can't."
Not this year at least. Owning a master's degree in educational leadership and a Type 75 Certification (he interned at Geneva under Jim Kafer), Gallaher has already applied for the position to succeed retiring Glenbard South athletic director John Treiber.
Long term, the goal is remain young as an AD. Short-term, it's to watch Jake return another interception for touchdown.
The Wright stuff
St. Charles North junior Cory Wright describes his style as a baseball player as "dirt ball." Kansas State is much more complimentary, extending a scholarship offer which Wright verbally accepted last weekend after an official visit.
"It feels awesome. It's kind of surreal in the fact that it finally happened," said the friendly first baseman and pitcher, who also had an Ohio State offer and was being recruited by Missouri and Maryland with interest by many other schools.
As in other sports such as volleyball and tennis, committing "finally" can be done early. Geneva's Nick Durr committed to Florida State before he played an inning of high school ball. Batavia's Micah Coffey (Minnesota) and Laren Eustace (Indiana) went the familiar, more leisurely route to wait till they were seniors. They'll sign with those colleges on Nov. 13.
Getting back to Wright and "dirt ball" ... What's that about?
"I don't exactly have the crazy physical tools to be a guy who's going to hit 15 home runs, so I have to rely on athleticism and speed and other assets," said Wright, easy to laugh and fun to talk with. "Defense is a huge part of my game. I would just consider myself a middle infielder playing a corner infielder."
The Wright family -- his father, Phil, coaches the Under-17 squad of Cory's summer program, Elite Baseball Training, and is a former USA Baseball U-18 National Team coach -- moved from Arizona when Cory was a youngster. Older brother K.C. Wright helped Iowa's Black Hawk College and Judson University win four conference championships in four seasons.
Kansas State's location, its status as reigning Big 12 Conference champion and the teams, like Texas and Oklahoma, that Cory will play against, influenced his decision.
"I think the lure of the Big 12 Conference, just playing southern baseball is kind of a big deal to me because that's where I came from," Cory said.
A 6-foot-1, 170-pound left-hander, last spring Wright hit .297, was great in the field and as a pitcher went 5-1 with a 2.01 earned-run average. He kicked it up a notch at the plate during the summer, hitting .380 with a .482 on-base percentage while making three all-tournament teams on the high-profile Perfect Game circuit. In one national championship series he hit .533; in another he belted 7 doubles.
Visiting Kansas State last weekend, Wright met another first baseman who also is a grinder type from these parts, Naperville Central graduate Shane Conlon. That made Wright feel good about his prospects as he became Kansas State's first signee out of the Class of 2015.
"It kind of felt like it was me out there," said Cory, who this summer will head out to Manhattan, Ks., to work with a Wildcat strength coach, get a couple classes under his belt and play summer ball.
"My dad says the little guys have to go hard to keep playing this game, and the big guys that go hard are your studs," he said. "That's kind of what I base my game off, and I'm hoping one day that gets me somewhere."
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