From the beach to the gridiron, go-time is here
Beach bums, they were not.
When players from the Hersey football team hung out at beaches along Lake Michigan this summer, they spent more time building muscles in the sand, instead of building sand castles.
Each Friday, a group of nearly 30 players would head to the beach in the morning, do a workout in the sand, and then have fun hanging out for the rest of the day together.
"It's a big tradition we have where we'll meet up at the beach, not even with the coaches, this is something we do on our own and it's really fun," Hersey senior quarterback Jordan Hansen said. "We'll do a workout in the morning and then hang out in the water for a while and then eat and grill and hangout like a big family."
Unfortunately, family beach days for the Huskies have now ended for the summer.
Monday was the first official day of IHSA football practice in the state of Illinois ahead of the 2019 season, so the Huskies will be working out back at school full time under the watchful eye of their coaches.
Not that their "coach-free" beach practices weren't legit, and just as tough.
Beach days were fun, but it was by design that the Huskies conducted workouts there.
"It's a better workout for you in the sand," Hersey senior two-way lineman Austin Korba said. "It's harder."
The Huskies ran stairs on a long, steep staircase that led down to the beach, they did swimming exercises in the water, used resistance bands in the sand, carried buckets of sand and water from one end of the beach to the other, and did bear crawls in the sand.
"Just extra work to keep things rolling," Hansen said. "But we also had a really fun time there and it keeps the spirits lifted. We did it last year, too, but this year, we kind of picked it up."
Hersey hopes to pick up on its production and success from last year. The Huskies went 8-1 on the regular season and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. They are hoping to move beyond that this season.
"The last two years we've made it to the second round of the playoffs. But as exciting as that was for us, honestly, I don't think anyone here was really satisfied with it because no one wants (the season) to end," Hersey coach Joe Pardun said. "We felt like we could have done better and we talked about it a lot this summer.
"Especially with our seniors, I know they are hungry and anxious to do better and they put the work in this summer."
At Palatine, there is hunger, too. The Pirates went 1-8 last season and are anxious to flip that record around.
A young team last season, Palatine played five sophomores on varsity and a large number of juniors and now have 16 players back with game experience.
"We have a ton of kids back with experience and we had a really good summer," Palatine coach Corey Olson said. "Our kids are resilient, they've put in the work and I think we've got some really good senior leadership to help us this season."
Another big help for the Pirates will be the return of six offensive linemen with significant experience, including starters Nathan Cwiakala, Brian Fernandez and twins Andrew Oles and Ethan Oles.
To keep things light and fun this summer, the Pirates went on a team paint-balling outing at the end of July. They also had weekly competitions as part of their "Right of Passage" tradition in which they were rewarded with slurpies, trips to the pool and barbecues when they hit their goals.
"We do a lot of things as a team," Olson said. "We've had a lot of fun together this summer."
2018 recap: There were 10 teams from the Northwest suburbs that made the playoffs last season: Hersey, Buffalo Grove, Prospect, Rolling Meadows, Barrington, Conant, Hoffman Estates, Fremd, Maine West and Maine South.
Top returners: Five players who were named first-team all-area by the Daily Herald in 2018 return. They include: WR Eric Darlington, Barrington; RB/S Malik Frederick, Conant; LB Vince Fredrickson, Leyden; QB Jordan Hansen, Hersey; DL Nate Pedraza, Rolling Meadows.
New-look league: The Chicago Catholic League and the East Suburban Catholic Conference have joined forces and created a six-division league (Blue, Green, Orange, Purple, Red White), each with four teams. St. Viator is in the Purple Division along with St. Patrick, Carmel and Marian Central.