Alum Possley takes over at St. Charles East
Nolan Possley has put his own stamp into cultivating the next chapters of St. Charles East football.
Possley -- a 2010 Saints' graduate, former two-year varsity player himself and sophomore coach for the previous three seasons -- now has his chance as varsity head coach after replacing Bryce Farquhar earlier this year.
" ... I was in these guys' shoes at that point, so I can relate to them in a lot of ways with that," Possley said on Monday, the first official IHSA-sanctioned day of football practice.
"That's been one of the [more fun aspects]: I do know all of these guys and I've been able to work with all these guys ... I keep saying: Things are going to be different and just embrace that. These guys have totally embraced that. We've done a lot of different things than we have in the past and they've really owned it and embraced it. Our summer was a lot of fun and they just really embraced the workload."
The shortlist of some of those twists includes position group challenges of tug-of-war to close a given week of practice, a program-wide 24-hour lock-in at the school by camping out on the field and increased family involvement.
Those are just a few bullet points in re-tooling a program that has experienced a two-year slump. St. Charles East posted a 2-7 record last season after a winless shortened spring 2020. Prior to that the Saints made four consecutive playoff appearances.
The Saints, to no surprise, are eager to turn the page together.
"They've all been really owning that mentality," Possley said. "A big thing for them has just been put their heads down and get to work. Kind of the 'work in silence' thing has been what they've been saying all summer long. [They're] going to do everything in their power to just make this a fresh start for all of them."
One cornerstone returner is senior left tackle Austin Barrett, a recently-named captain who will be a three-year starter.
" ... Culture is a big thing we're trying to get established," Barrett said in an interview on Aug. 1 following his verbal commitment to Indiana University. " ... We want to be the most connected team possible. We're not going to be able to function if we're not working as a unit. That's where we're at right now. That's why summer camp was so big for us."
"It was nailing in the leaders and establishing a culture that will help us win a [DuKane] Conference championship," Barrett continued. "Help us get to a playoff and help us get to the state finals."
To Barrett, that culture, in one word, is "disciplined."
" ... This year, not only do we have a chip on our shoulder, but we have to win games," Barrett said. "I've been on varsity going into my third year and I've won two varsity games. With the senior leaders we have now, including myself, there's a zero-tolerance policy for screwing around. It's strictly business."
" ... If we function as a unit, we're going to win games," Barrett continued. "With our culture that we have now that we're installing in our team, it's going to help us eventually win those games."
Third-year wide receiver Mason Tousignant has seen increased team bonding as part of the equation in the culture shift.
"I feel like [we were] a bunch of individuals and now, with coach Possley, we have more opportunities to team bond," Tousignant said. "We're playing more as a team, play better together and coach Possley just brings us to another level."
"Guys are competing," Tousignant continued. "We're coming out here during the weekend and putting in work ... I see us doing a lot better. We're the underdogs this year. And, I think teams will underestimate us and we'll punch them in the mouth."
St. Charles North aiming for postseason return
Across town, St. Charles North senior tight end Soren Erickson already knew the team bond was solid among the returners.
Now, it's about building upon it just 18 days away from the season opener against Palatine on Aug. 26.
"It's just kind of reworking what we want to fix for this year and over the summer, I think we've done a really great job of doing so," Erickson said. "I'm really excited of where we're at right now and I think we're only going to go up from here."
After their perhaps disappointing 4-5 campaign last year, the North Stars are vying to get back to contending for a postseason berth for the first time since 2018.
" ... This year compared to last year, we're doing a much better job getting to know each other," junior tight end Jake Furtney said. "Going to the field even, just throwing routes. We're just getting ready for the season."
Drew Surges, a two-way standout at linebacker and running back, appears poised for another heavy workload. Paired with senior John Vendl, the two project to be atop the rotation of backs.
"I think [offensively] we're a lot more comfortable with what we're doing and our plays we're running them a lot more crisp," Surges said. "We're getting the timing and the chemistry [down]. We're trusting each other more and more every day."