Warren delighted to join area schools with artificial turf

Updated 9/2/2011 11:01 AM

Add Warren to the growing list of schools in Lake County that have installed artificial turf in their football stadiums.

The project was just recently completed after years of studying, planning and fundraising by the school and boosters.


Carmel and Libertyville started the craze several years ago and since then, Lake Zurich, Grayslake Central, Grayslake North, Grant, Stevenson and Lake Forest have followed suit.

Vernon Hills also has plans to roll out a new artificial surface, as does Mundelein.

The Blue Devils will break in their new digs tonight when they host New Trier in nonconference action. It will be just the fifth time the turf has been used for football. Warren was given clearance to practice on it for the first time on Monday.

"It is a really nice facility," Warren coach Dave Mohapp said. "We've been hoping for this new surface for several years now but then the economy soured and that slowed donations.

"The fundraising continued, though because everyone involved at the school believed it was still such a good option for us. We were able to move forward and get it done."

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Like other schools, Warren pursued the concept of artificial turf with the idea that it would benefit not only the football program but dozens of other programs within the school and in the community.

"We'll have the marching band use it, the soccer teams, baseball, lacrosse, and I know our youth football leagues will use it, too," Mohapp said. "It's going to help a lot of our programs."

Mohapp says he's already seen first-hand how the turf has helped his program.

"Us coaches, we can tell just standing on it how much nicer it is compared to that hard grass," Mohapp said.

"We've had guys (on the staff) who have had back issues and knee issues and it's more comfortable to stand on, so I'm sure it will be easier (on the body) to play on."


Working around bad weather will also be easier for the Blue Devils. In the past, even a marginal amount of rain would wreak havoc on practices at Warren.

"We'd have to move practices inside and it's very difficult to get much done in that situation," Mohapp said. "With this surface, as long as it's not lightning, we can stay out and practice.

"That's going to help improve our program."

The turf definitely helps Warren with consistency. All nine of its games this season will be on similar artificial surfaces.

"It seems to be the thing that everyone is going to," Mohapp said. "It's nice to match up the surface that you practice on to the surface that you play on. Every time you step on that field, you feel all of the benefits that come with it. It's just so great for our program."

Tips from the Tube: We live in a social media culture, so Grant coach Kurt Rous figured that he might as well scout football games with that in mind.

To find out even more about his first two opponents of the season -- Johnsburg and Grayslake Central -- Rous left no stone unturned, and no link unclicked.

"We found a ton of stuff about Johnsburg on YouTube," Rous said with a laugh. "It was stuff from last year, but it was really good to be able to watch. I think it was kids, maybe their parents, posting videos of games. You'd see entire plays (and formations).

"We've found stuff on Grayslake Central the same way. Their offense looked very explosive on YouTube."

ButGrant's offense doesn't look like anything on YouTube. That's because Rous is convinced there aren't many entries on his team there.

"We had one kid put some stuff up last year for recruiting. But he was on defense," Rous said. "Other than that, I don't think our kids are putting much up there."

At Johnsburg, Rous said it wasn't just the kids who were putting videos on the Internet. The head coach also did.

"He had put some of his plays with their actual names on some coaching website," Rous said. "We knew their plays and the names of them going into last week's game."

The Bulldogs rolled 42-0 over Johnsburg.

Key-on injury: Year in and year out, the Grant offense is centered around an option rushing attack.

But this year, the Bulldogs were looking forward to taking to the air a bit more with two tall receivers: 6-foot-3 senior Jerry Gaylor and 6-2 junior Keion Miller.

But that plan just got downsized. By half.

Miller somehow broke his wrist early in Grant's season-opening win over Johnsburg last week. He is already in a cast and will be out approximately six weeks.

"It happened on the first series I think because early in the game, I was looking for him to get in there and he was over having his wrist checked out," Grant coach Kurt Rous said. "It's too bad because we were expecting big things from him."

Showing stamina: If the Stevenson defense wasn't quite in game shape heading into its season opener last week against Lyons, it is now.

The Patriots spent quite a bit of time on the field because of multiple turnovers by the offense. On the game, they had to defend 80 plays in the 24-19 loss.

"They probably spent about two-thirds of the game on the field," Stevenson coach Bill McNamara said. "For playing as much as they did, to hold Lyons to 24 points, we felt like that was pretty good. And a lot of those points were a direct result of the miscues of the offense.

"Our guys on defense played their hearts out."

McNamara said he was particularly impressed with three seniors who didn't let the circumstances deter them.

Linebacker Carl Miller had 17 tackles, while fellow linebacker Dom Bickus flew all over the field and tackle Mikey Kuhn dominated up front.

Back-and-forth backs: For Mike Shield and Connor Schrader, it's half the playing time.

For opposing defenses, it's double the trouble. And the fresh legs.

Shield and Schrader team up to form a big chunk of Lake Zurich's lethal backfield. But, at the same time, they are separate components.

In the Bears' 35-3 victory over Fremd last week, Shield (10 carries, 105 yards) and Schrader (13 carries, 142 yards) combined for nearly 250 rushing yards. But rarely did they combine their time on the field.

Shield would spell Schrader and vice versa, each getting about half of the offensive plays.

"I'd say about 90 percent of the time, they did not play together," Lake Zurich coach Bryan Stortz said. "They would just go in for each other. We wanted that rotation. We knew it was going to be warm and we wanted to give them breaks so that they could run with fresh legs. It ended up being a nice rotation."

Shield and Schrader had mixed feelings about it.

"Whoever was out would be standing there behind the coaches asking when he could go back in," Stortz said with a laugh. "They were a little frustrated. They both wanted to be in all the time. They were like, 'We don't need rest.' I like that competitiveness, but we did feel like they could use the rest."

In addition to playing running back for the Bears, Schrader and Shield also play defense and are on special teams.

New tradition: The festivities won't be over at Grayslake Central tonight when the final buzzer sounds in its game against Grant.

The Rams are starting a new tradition that will serve as an official close to their games.

"We're going to do a flag-lowering ceremony in conjunction with the marching band where we'll have everyone stand as the flag is lowered and folded back up," Grayslake Central coach Nick Goshe said.

"We just wanted to do something that would be a tribute to veterans and all the people in the military and we thought that would be a great way to end each game."