One and done is quite enough for Fremd's defense

Updated 11/7/2019 9:18 PM

It's one and done.

End of discussion.


That's Fremd's philosophy on defense.

The Vikings use one defense, and one alone. Every game. All game long.

"A lot of teams play multiple fronts and have multiple coverages defensively and they're constantly changing things up," Fremd coach Lou Sponsel said. "We never change. We play one defense, and that's it."

The singular focus seems to be working for Fremd.

The Vikings enter their Class 8A second round playoff game against host Warren on Saturday having pitched three shutouts in their last five games and four in their last six.

Last week in its playoff opener against Plainfield North, Fremd recorded a 19-0 shutout win.

"It's great for our kids," Sponsel said of the consistency of the defense. "They've had thousands and thousands of reps in this defense. They know exactly what's going to happen. They know exactly where each other will be on the field. They are able to react really well to each other. We're not trying to out-scheme people, we're just trying to outwork them."

The defense, led by the continued growth of junior linebackers Chris Skaria, Trey Castella and Jason Haas, all of whom had big games against Plainfield North, is the brainchild of Brent Pearlman, Fremd's defensive coordinator. He had great success at Prospect with the same system when he was the head coach there and won three state championships from 1999 to 2010.

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"I wanted to know why Brent had so much success at Prospect and it's basically that his teams played so tough and fast and they really focused on one defense and made it really good," Sponsel said. "When Brent became our defensive coordinator in 2017, I was excited for him to bring the same thing here.

"And it's worked. Our kids play fast and they play consistent. They are doing the same thing over and over and over again. There is zero confusion and zero mental (breakdowns). It pays off."

Familiar faces: Fremd and Warren are about to get up close and personal in their Class 8A playoff battle on Saturday, but players on both teams already know each other pretty well.

"We used to go to summer camp with Warren at Illinois Wesleyan for years," Fremd coach Lou Sponsel said. "This was the first summer that we didn't, but our kids still know a lot of their kids because of all of those other summers. We have a lot of respect for Warren, and when you watch them and see them, you just really appreciate what good athletes they have and how good they are on defense, especially.


"They've got a different kind of defense than us, but it is equally effective. They've got these big, fast athletes who come after you and intimidate you and force you into bad decisions."

Fun traditions: A big movie buff, Fremd coach Lou Sponsel likes to combine his hobby with his job.

"Each week during the season, I like to pick a theme and then I find movie clips that relate to it and then I show the kids those clips before our games," Sponsel said. "We've had clips from Saving Private Ryan, Gladiator, and Cinderella Man.

So what was the movie choice for this week's game against Warren?

"Oh, that's top secret," Sponsel said with a laugh. "We also like to do team dinners and a team fire (bonfire) at my house before games. It's all just a great way to keep the kids (connected). It adds to the emotional part of the game."

Bookend scores: It was a good start and an equally good ending to the first round of the playoffs last week for Rolling Meadows senior Chris Divito.

Rolling Meadows rolled to a 33-12 Class 7A win over Lincoln Park and Divito got the Mustangs rolling with a 16-yard touchdown in the first quarter, their first score of the game. He also capped off the game with a fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown.

"That Pick-6 by Chris sealed it at the end for us," Rolling Meadows coach Matt Mishler said. "He did a really good job running the ball as well. We didn't execute offensively as well as we would have liked, but Chris did a great job. And he and the defense played really well.

Eye on history: It has already been a banner year for Rolling Meadows.

The Mustangs cruised through the regular season with a perfect 9-0 record and won the Mid-Suburban League East title.

It was the third undefeated regular season in the last four years for Rolling Meadows and the fourth overall.

But the Mustangs, who face Prospect in the second round of the playoffs today, aren't satisfied.

They are hungry to get past the first two rounds of the playoffs, which has been a stumbling block the last two years. Last year, Rolling Meadows lost in the second round despite an undefeated regular season.

"We are really hungry right now (to advance into the later rounds), Rolling Meadows coach Matt Mishler said. "We've gotten tripped up early the last couple years.

"We went to the quarterfinals in 2016 and I would say that besides that, it's been a while since any team in the (Mid-Suburban) East has gotten further than the quarters. Our guys want to be that group. They want to be that group that leaves a mark on this program."

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