New coaches find opportunity at Metea Valley, West Chicago, York
The Metea Valley head varsity football coaching job is in good hands.
As in Kleinhans.
Ben Kleinhans, a 1999 Waubonsie Valley graduate who has been with Neuqua Valley's program since 2003, aims to propel the Mustangs on a fast track to success.
"It's all there," Kleinhans said of the in-house talent. "It's not two years down the road, three years down the road. It's right here."
Kleinhans, officially appointed April 6, follows the two-year term of former coach Ted Monken. The young Oswego resident is a quarterback specialist who as a player helped Waubonsie's R.J. Luke set the state career receptions mark upon their graduation in 1998.
Neuqua's sophomore coach from 2006-08, he was on the varsity staff the last three seasons but worked with quarterbacks at all levels. He helped Joey Ippolito, Jeff Samuel and Nate Boudreau earn all-conference honors and, in Boudreau's case, a letter of intent to play at Indiana.
Metea Valley athlete director Tom Schweer noted Kleinhans was going to be headed to the defensive side of the ball this year before he got the Mustangs job.
"He's got a real well-rounded perspective on the game, and I think he'll be a great leader for our program," Schweer said.
As a quarterback specialist, who played the position at Augustana, Kleinhans is committed to ensure his quarterbacks work overtime to run the offense come game night. In fact that's his overall modus operandi for all players.
"It's going to be a program that's built on hard work, that will have a mentality every day that you're going to outwork everybody else," he said. "We need everyone to buy in and commit to that. Then on top of that, to learn to trust each other and the coaches and teammates, get that all-for-one mentality, play for each other and just go out and play exciting football."
Both he and Schweer called the hire a "perfect fit."
"It's just a great opportunity for me to be able to stay in the district I've been in pretty much my whole life," Kleinhans said. "I played at Waubonsie Valley, coached at Neuqua Valley nine years, and now to have the opportunity to be head coach at Metea Valley, it's just the perfect opportunity for me, a perfect fit.
"It's a school I've had my eye on since the doors opened. I wanted to be there as head coach."
Bill Bicker, Wheaton North Class of 1994, admitted he was a "5-foot-nothing" quarterback who didn't see the field all that much.
Imagine his surprise when legendary Falcons coach Jim Rexilius approached Bicker on the sidelines during a game for some situational advice.
Bicker said Rexilius told him: "You're going to be a head coach, and you're going to be a teacher one day."
The late "Coach Rex" survived to see Bicker achieve the second prediction. Bicker started at the elementary level in West Chicago in 2001, moving into administration in Addison, Yorkville and Kaneland, where he's the principal of Blackberry Creek Elementary School in Elburn.
Rexilius would have been a proud man Tuesday when the 35-year-old Bicker was cleared by Community High School District 94 as West Chicago's head varsity football coach.
"For him to say that — 'you can do this, your mind is great' — that's something that kind of set the course," Bicker said Wednesday.
Bicker didn't learn X's and O's from Rexilius, he said. He honed those skills in stints with the sophomore squads of Wheaton North and West Chicago, and the varsity programs at West Chicago and, most recently, York in 2010.
What he learned from his old coach was how to run a program; specifically, dealing with every individual player as, well, an individual.
"When you played for Coach Rex, you felt like he knew who you were," Bicker said. "There's the understanding about how every person's important to the team. A lot of people will say that. He believed it."
Bicker said he is "ecstatic" to land the position, but he also appreciates the challenges that await in the DuPage Valley Conference.
"I really like the fact that he really wants to be in West Chicago," said athletic director Doug Mullaney. "He's grown up in this area, he knows so much about our community. He's coached in West Chicago before and also has that administrative aspect, to be able to talk with the community and be that head of the program.
"I'm very excited about that. He's well-rounded, and I'm very encouraged by his authentic need to take care of the boys, of the program."
West Chicago has gone 1-8 the last two seasons and 0-9 the two before that. Bicker, who succeeds the three-year term of Paul Reinke, realizes it'll take time to develop the skills and stamina to execute the diverse, aggressive schemes he seeks on both sides of the ball.
"One of the things that we're going to clearly emphasize is we value the process as much if not more than the outcome," he said. "We talk about day by day getting better and better. That's something I take away from Bill Lech at York. What we'd say is winning is a byproduct of valuing continual improvement."
He's ready to give it a go.
"This is a dream of mine, to be a head coach," Bicker said. "And the fact that it's in West Chicago, a place I've always had a relationship with, it's exciting and it's a place where I've always felt comfortable at. You look for those places in life where you feel comfortable, like this is a place where you belong."
New king of Dukes
Bicker mentioned Bill Lech, who resigned as York's coach after last season because he wanted to spend more time with his family.
For York, that is a loss. Lech's .689 winning percentage is York's best for more than one season, topping those of Hall of Famers Gary Grouwinkel, Clarence East and Terry Grider.
But the new coach is a familiar name who for 13 years has led one of the most dangerous, well-respected programs in the state.
Steve Nye built a record of 97-59 with 10 playoff appearances in 13 seasons at Brother Rice. From 2003-05 his Crusaders went 33-8. Last season Nye's club went 8-5, losing to Mt. Carmel in the Chicago Catholic League championship.
"I'm excited to work with Steve knowing the success he's had with Brother Rice," said York athletic director John Rutter. "Getting the chance to sit down with him in person and meet with him, he's a man of great character, enthusiastic, all those great qualities you look for in a coach. I'm excited and I think he's excited to get going here."
With an 18-9 victory over the Milwaukee School of Engineering in the first game of a Saturday doubleheader, Benedictine University baseball coach John Ostrowski won the 900th game of his 40-year career.
A 2003 inductee into the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Ostrowski became just the 10th coach to reach the landmark in NCAA Division III, the eighth to win 900 all with the same program.
Up to 902 victories entering Wednesday's game at Illinois Wesleyan, Ostrowski has won 20 games or more in 29 seasons at Benedictine, and stands to earn another 20-win season since the Eagles are 14-12. His teams have won 16 conference titles and have appeared in a regional final seven times.
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