Wauconda grabs hometown advantage with Prostka
The new football coach isn't new to the town. Chris Prostka was definitely made in Wauconda.
Or actually made in Island Lake. Maybe a combination of both.
Outside of the four years he attended Illinois State, Prostka has stayed close to home. He grew up in Island Lake, then after college, got a job teaching PE at Wauconda Middle School.
He started coaching football as a volunteer sophomore assistant under Glen Kozlowski, moved up to varsity when Dave Mills took over in 2009 and now he's the head coach.
Prostka reflected on the 40-some years he's spent in the Wauconda-Island Lake metro area.
"There's a lot of things that are the same, but then there's a lot of things that have adapted," he said. "Our downtown is beautiful, they've done a great job there. We've grown, we're still kind of that small-town feel, but not a small town. We've always had a lot of great support for athletics around here."
Prostka played varsity football when Bob Kasper returned for his second stint as head coach, but missed the 1998 playoff trip.
"That was my junior year," he said. "I made the mistake I try to talk kids out of now, which is I specialized in one sport my junior year, which was wrestling at the time. Then I came back and played (offensive line) my senior year."
Wauconda had a couple of great years under Kasper in 1991-92, but an argument could be made that Bulldogs football has never been better. They started 10-0 last year before losing to Prairie Ridge in the second round of the playoffs, after going 5-1 in the pandemic spring season.
"We have a group of kids that are used to that experience," said Prostka, who coached offensive line the past four years. "A number of the seniors, a number of the juniors have expressed to me, 'We just want to keep doing that.' Certainly not an easy thing to do all the time, but obviously I'd like us to get to that point where it's just consistently reloading.
"The last two years, we're 15-2. So our program has kind of gotten used to that winning feeling. A far cry from when I was in college. I remember we joined the North Suburban and we struggled. The kids are hungry to do (win the Northern Lake County title) again."
The Bulldogs also got an eye-opener in playoff Round 2. Facing state power Prairie Ridge, their neighbors from across the Fox River, the game was not very competitive.
"It opened some of our kids eyes to what the next level is," Prostka said. "We were always trying to get over that hump, hosting playoff games like we did last year. We've certainly had that taste of winning, but then we also had the taste of that next level, and there's some teams that will remind us very quickly what that's like."
Mills retired from his teaching job after last season and will be offensive coordinator at Lakes this fall. Wauconda originally named Barrington grad Terrance Terry to the job, but made another change and Prostka was officially hired on May 27.
"It's been a bit of a whirlwind," he said. "I had to get a lot of things together very quickly. Once I got my coaches in place and everything, things have settled here quite a bit."