Novel approach as Fremd turns up the intensity
Readers are leaders.
That's what Fremd football coach Lou Sponsel is hoping for after he had all his players and coaching staff read "The Warrior Elite" by Dick Couch. It is a book about the training and dedication needed to become a Navy SEAL.
Sponsel said it had an immediate effect on everyone.
"We ordered 90 copies of it," Sponsel said. "It was a much different summer that we had in the past. We just pushed them out of their comfort zone and knocked the Fremd out of them.
"They have great academics, great homes to go home to and always have food on the dinner table. We have to knock that out of them because this is an aggressive game. You have to find that switch inside of you."
Sponsel's team won a playoff game last year by upsetting Brother Rice on the road. But the following week, the Vikings played poorly and were knocked off by Huntley. So Sponsel looked to make some changes.
One of those changes was the hiring of former Wheeling and Prospect head coach Brent Pearlman to run the Vikings' defense. Pearlman, who brought over some of his assistants, immediately switched Fremd's defense from a 4-2-5 to a more conventional 4-3, cover 2.
"Despite our success last year, there was still something missing," Sponsel said. "That's why I went out and hired Brent and the full defensive staff he worked with. It has given us an outside perspective."
The players have responded quite well to the changes, Sponsel says.
"There is a lot of excitement in the off-season," Sponsel said. "And there is something to build off of."
The Vikings defense will be led by defensive end and Western Michigan recruit Will McCabe. Will Josten, Jake Fleming and Devin Dinham will join McCabe up front.
Luke Bilek, along with Ryan Kristo and Matt Vannieuwenhoven, will start at linebacker. They will get help from Sean Gorman and Matt Walker.
Nick Rattin, a junior who saw lots of playing time last year, will anchor the defensive backfield at safety. He will be joined by Ben Kurka. Ben Konopka and Luke Dinterman will be at corner.
"The defense is really simple," Sponsel said. "It is letting the kids go play and be athletes."
On offense, Alex Harmon will take over at quarterback this season. He will throw to a group of receivers that include Jaden Jackson, Konopka and Will Ferry at tight end and wide receiver.
At running back, Sponsel will not lean on just one player, but a group of backs. Rattin, Will Sacone and sophomore Tre Thomas will get the opportunity to run behind the trademark Fremd offensive line.
"We have good size, but we are more mobile," Sponsel said. "They can move a little bit better."
McCabe (6-4, 280), Fleming (6-3, 214), Brian Morel (6-0, 225), Chris Rydberg (6-3, 225) and Ryan Hansen (6-5, 201) will look to make their mark as another strong front five for the Vikings.
"We are still going to do what we do," Sponsel said. "We are going to run zone, going to run power, run counter. I just think the speed, what these guys come off the ball with, is better than what we have had in the past."