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Fired-up Andriola takes over at Grant
 

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Fired-up Andriola takes over at Grant
  • Vito Andriola will leave Dundee-Crown to become the new head football coach at Grant.

    Vito Andriola will leave Dundee-Crown to become the new head football coach at Grant. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Vito Andriola

    Vito Andriola

 

Fired up, with all the enthusiasm of a young football coach, which is the way he's always been, wide-eyed Vito Andriola can't wait to get started at Grant.

Truth be told, however, the well-traveled coach does snooze.

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"At Grayslake and at Glenbrook South, on Friday nights, I slept at school, and they said I can't do that at Grant," Andriola said. "I'm hoping (laughing) we can fix that up."

Two weeks shy of 60, the energetic and physically fit Andriola was officially approved by Grant's school board as its high school's new head football coach Thursday night. He arrives in Fox Lake after a three-year run as head coach at Dundee-Crown, which went to the state playoffs last fall for the first time in 19 years.

Andriola is no stranger to Lake County, having coached Grayslake to the state playoffs in 2003, when the Rams won a school-record eight games.

"Coach Andriola has an extremely accomplished resume," first-year Grant athletic director Dick Knar said.

Andriola and his wife Maureen, who he calls a "great football wife," have lived in Sleepy Hollow for the last 16 years, when they built a home there. He'll have about a 45-minute drive to Fox Lake.

"When the (Grant) job opened up, I looked at it and said, ‘It's really what we do,' " Andriola said. "It's a blue-collar community. It has great wrestling, and wrestling is what I did in college (at Western Illinois). I always thought with the way we play football on defense and offense that wrestlers would be a good fit."

Andriola is going to a school that in recent years has seen its football stadium get artificial grass, while a new field house was built next to it.

"The one thing I liked during the interview is (Grant's) commitment to athletics," Andriola said. "I think it's a good fit. I didn't know Dick Knar. He's a pretty intense guy, and I like that, because I'm fairly intense myself. I think he understands what we're going to try to do and how we're going to go about our business."

Andriola replaces Kurt Rous, who resigned after completing his eighth season as head coach last fall. Rous won 50 games, going to the state playoffs six times, including in 2008 when the Bulldogs reached the Class 6A quarterfinals. Grant got off to an 0-4 start last season, as the team was inundated with injuries, before winning three of its last five games.

Andriola served as head coach at Grayslake from 2001-04, taking over a program that had endured four straight losing seasons. The Rams went 2-7 and 4-5 in his first two seasons, before going 8-3 and advancing to the second round in the Class 7A playoffs in 2003. It was the Rams' first playoff appearance since 1990.

But following a 2-7 campaign in 2004, Grayslake made a coaching change. Andriola landed at Glenbrook South as head coach Mike Noll's defensive coordinator.

When he arrived at Dundee-Crown, as he did at Grayslake, Andriola had to rebuild a program. And as he was at Grayslake, he was successful. After the Chargers went 0-9 in his first year, they won three games in 2012. They then went 6-4 last fall, earning Dundee-Crown its first playoff berth since 1994, which was also the last time the Chargers won six games.

Wherever he's been, Andriola has stressed the importance of building a "program."

"The ‘program' always comes first," he said. "I always thought about this when I was with (hall-of-fame coach) Bob Bradshaw at Woodstock. Football is different from any other sport. It's really different. I believe that the program wins three games, the coaches win three games, and when you have really good players, you have a chance to win state. The things that are always consistent are your coaches and your program. You want everyone to be on the same page as much as possible, and that takes about three years, especially when places haven't been successful."

Andriola started his coaching career under Bradshaw at Woodstock and spent 14 years there as an assistant before taking over at Grayslake. He's won wherever he's been by stressing fundamentals, being physical, running the ball and playing great defense and special teams. That said, his offenses and defenses have been unconventional. He's run Wing-T and Wing-option offenses and multiple-front defenses.

He understands the importance of being able to pass the football, too.

"One thing I learned being with Mike Noll is that you have to be able to throw the football to win at the level that we want to win it," Andriola said. "We didn't throw very well at Dundee-Crown, but not because we didn't try."

What Andriola also understands is that success starts in the classroom.

"I'm an educator, first," he said. "We really develop the kids as people, first."

"We are extremely excited to have Vito join our staff," Knar said. "He has a great passion for not only football but the development of our student-athletes here at Grant Community High School. His vision for the continued success of our program is what impressed us the most. We want to play a significant role in the state of Illinois as a football program, and I believe Vito is the man to do that."

Added principal Jeremy Schmidt: "Coach Andriola is stepping into a program that has seen a good deal of success over its history, and I believe that he will do an excellent job leading our program into its next chapter. He is dedicated, intelligent, and has an excellent vision for our student-athletes. I look forward to the opportunities he will provide for our students, our building and our community."

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