Off and running: Northwest suburbs football teams excited to get going

 
By Dick Quagliano
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 8/6/2018 10:12 PM
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  • Fremd football players report for the first day of football practice at Palatine High School under an ominous sky. The rain held off for about an hour as coaches pulled their team together warming up and running plays and looking forward to a new season of challenges.

      Fremd football players report for the first day of football practice at Palatine High School under an ominous sky. The rain held off for about an hour as coaches pulled their team together warming up and running plays and looking forward to a new season of challenges. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Fremd football players report for the first day of football practice at Palatine High School under an ominous sky. Quarterback Andrew Saxe warms up before throwing the football around during the early morning practice.

      Fremd football players report for the first day of football practice at Palatine High School under an ominous sky. Quarterback Andrew Saxe warms up before throwing the football around during the early morning practice. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Fremd football players report for the first day of football practice at Palatine High School under an ominous sky. Fremd head coach Lou Sponsel addresses his players in their early morning practice.

      Fremd football players report for the first day of football practice at Palatine High School under an ominous sky. Fremd head coach Lou Sponsel addresses his players in their early morning practice. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Fremd football players report for the first day of football practice at Palatine High School under an ominous sky with new challenges and Andrew Saxe as their quarterback to lead them to a winning season.

      Fremd football players report for the first day of football practice at Palatine High School under an ominous sky with new challenges and Andrew Saxe as their quarterback to lead them to a winning season. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Fremd football players report for the first day of football practice at Palatine High School under an ominous sky with defensive coordinator Brent Pearlman facing new challenges and new players.

      Fremd football players report for the first day of football practice at Palatine High School under an ominous sky with defensive coordinator Brent Pearlman facing new challenges and new players. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Fremd football players report for the first day of football practice at Palatine High School under an ominous sky with defensive coordinator Brent Pearlman facing new challenges and new players.

      Fremd football players report for the first day of football practice at Palatine High School under an ominous sky with defensive coordinator Brent Pearlman facing new challenges and new players. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Fremd football players report for the first day of football practice at Palatine High School under an ominous sky Monday. Quarterback Andrew Saxe warms up throwing the football around during the early morning practice.

      Fremd football players report for the first day of football practice at Palatine High School under an ominous sky Monday. Quarterback Andrew Saxe warms up throwing the football around during the early morning practice. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Fremd's Nick Rattin and Luke Bilek drove to their first official football practice of the season Monday morning. But the two didn't head to Fremd from practice, but to crosstown Palatine High School.

The duo was just two of over 1,700 players at 15 high schools throughout the Northwest suburbs that began practice for the 2018 season. The first games of the season are scheduled for Friday, August 24.

The Fremd seniors said they didn't care where they were, as long as they could practice football.

"We are just out working and trying to win," Rattin said. "It is exciting. We are glad to be out here and start the season."

Bilek said the move to Palatine was a small thing for he and his teammates.

"The two weeks off that we had were great, but it is time to get started," Bilek said. "It is not that big of a deal to us to be at Palatine. We have practiced here most of the summer. Everyone gets here fine. We just want to play football."

Fremd practiced all summer and began the first day at Palatine across town from Fremd because the turf football field at Fremd is under reconstruction. The grass football field at Fremd has been under construction for over a year and still is not ready as well.

Vikings' head coach Lou Sponsel said that the move to Palatine was easy for his team.

"This group has taken pride in not letting anything get the best of them," said Sponsel, whose team is looking to turn things around after a 1-8 record last year.

"Being on the grass is great. After being over here all summer and (Palatine athletic director) Jerry Dobbs has been awesome. This is the best-case scenario for not having a home."

Sponsel said his team was ready for the early Monday morning practice.

"We are happy to start," Sponsel said. "It is 7 a.m. and time to get going."

The practice at a high school instead of a different field in the Palatine area paid huge dividends for Fremd and its players. When the rain, thunder and lightning stopped practice, Dobbs had the Vikings move indoors into one of the gyms there. Fremd resumed outdoor practice when the storm moved on.

Over at Buffalo Grove head coach Jeff Vlk moved up his team's outside workout in the afternoon due to the threat of rain. Vlk, who is in his third year as head coach, had his 65 varsity players going through drills as the Bison look to improve on its 9-2 season from last year.

"We are super excited about the first day of practice," said Vlk, whose Bison qualified for the playoffs last year for the first time since 2003.

"What was really cool was that the kids were texting me and emailing me telling me how they couldn't wait for practice to start. So here we are."

Tom Trieb, who has committed to Northern Illinois, said he and his teammates couldn't wait to get started.

"The team as a whole is so much more excited to be out here," Trieb said. "There is a bigger confidence coming into this year after last year's winning season. We all think we are more than a one-year team."

Connor Adams, who begins his third year as the starting quarterback for the Bison said he is ready to go as well.

"It is exciting," Adams said. "I have more confidence in being out here than I had two years ago. It should be lots of fun this year."

Declining numbers have leveled off for many of the schools in Northwest Cook County.

At Buffalo Grove, Vlk has 123 players in his program, which includes 38 out for freshman football.

"The real culprit to the numbers has been specialization," Vlk said.

"But kids are coming back to play football. We had a player who was out as a freshman and then decided he wanted to concentrate on baseball. He came back out this year. We hope to see more of that."

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