Rock Island will be getting an accomplished leader in Bryan Stortz.
Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer
The stats, Rolly Vazquez says, "speak for themselves."
Lake Zurich's athletic director wasn't referring to the salary that Bryan Stortz will be drawing as Rock Island's new football coach, nor the reported 60 applicants, including seven finalists, Stortz beat out for the job.
The word on the block and on-line is that Stortz will be receiving a significant pay raise to move his pregnant wife Jamie and two young daughters way west. But rest assured, that's not why the hot young coach is leaving Lake Zurich after six seasons, including five memorable ones in the postseason, as head coach.
The challenge fuels him. It motivates him.
His hiring was unanimously approved by the Rock Island-Milan school board Tuesday, making official what the Quad-Cities Dispath first reported last week.
The word, too, is that Stortz wasn't happy that the story leaked before he could first tell everyone back home.
The one thing more impressive than Stortz's "stats" is that, to him, it's never been about him.
Rock Island's Rocks are getting a rock, a football genius who was wise enough to surround himself with some older, more experienced coaches when he got the head job at Lake Zurich and who never felt threatened. Stortz, 34, could be low-key on the sideline, or up in the booth, but he was always in charge.
His teams were disciplined, never cheap, always prepared. Fellow coaches and officials respected him. Players loved him.
Which explains his "stats."
They included a 62-16 record in his six seasons and, more impressively, a 19-5 mark in the playoffs. His Bears were the Class 7A state runner-up in his first season in 2006. Lake Zurich won its first state championship the following year.
A stunning first-round exit from the playoffs followed in 2008. But the Bears reached the state semifinals the year after that, lost to Wheaton Warrenville South in the 2010 state title game and were eliminated by eventual state champ Rockford Boylan in the semifinals this past fall.
Under Stortz, LZ never finished worse than second in the North Suburban Conference Lake Division. The Bears won the NSC Lake outright once and tied for first last season.
"I think he's done more than just coach," Vazquez said. "He's touched a lot of kids' lives. He's been a real benefit here in Lake Zurich."
Vazquez now has to find a replacement, and it could come from in-house.
"Several people (inside the school) have inquired," said Vazquez, who would like to hire a new coach "ASAP" but first has to post the position.
It's not every day that a coach with Stortz's resume, whose arrow is pointing up, bolts a suburban powerhouse and uproots his young family to head 175 miles west, a chip-shot field goal away from Iowa.
But Stortz has ties to the Quad Cities area, having graduated in 2000 from Augustana College in Rock Island, where he was a three-year letter winner for the football team.
He replaces longtime Rocks coach Vic Boblett, who stepped down after 21 years and 171 wins. Rock Island went 5-5 and 2-3 in the Western Big 6 Conference last fall, qualifying for the state playoffs for the 17th time since 1993.
A winning program is getting a winner.
Lake Zurich's loss is large.
"Bryan has been a great friend, number one," Vazquez said. "He's been a great colleague, and he's been a great coach here. He's been a figure in the community."
He figures to be the same in Rock Island. The Rocks have their Rock star.