Neuqua Valley chooses Ellinghaus as coach
Though Bryan Wells has been let go as Neuqua Valley varsity football coach, there will be continuity at the top with Thursday's announcement that longtime Wildcats assistant Bill Ellinghaus has been appointed to the job.
Ellinghaus, a driver's education teacher, joined the school and football program in 1999, Neuqua's second year as a varsity team. Most recently he was Wells' assistant head coach, a running backs coach and, since 2004, Wells' offensive coordinator.
"It's a tremendous opportunity. I'm very, very excited about it," said Ellinghaus, 39, who returns two starting backs, Joey Rhattigan and Danny Dudek, who in 2011 combined for 2,052 yards rushing and 25 touchdowns.
"The kids, I think, are very excited about the placement of somebody in that position," Ellinghaus said of what he'd called "a lifelong dream" to be a head coach.
"I think the kids are just ready, they're ready to move on and they're ready to get this going and build for the 2012-2013 season. The kids, they're chomping at the bit."
Ellinghaus played at Oak Forest and Moraine Valley and started coaching in 1995 with Lincoln-Way Central's freshmen. He joined Indian Prairie District 204 in 1996 at Crone Middle School before joining the Neuqua staff in 1999. He will remain as varsity offensive coordinator and is looking to complete his staff from "a lot of outstanding coaches here in the building," Ellinghaus said.
"I'm real pleased for him," said Wells, the only head coach the program had known until he was relieved of the spot on March 16. "He's a quality coach with experience. Obviously, he knows the program well. He's been my assistant head coach for quite some time."
In a busy off-season for Neuqua Valley football types past and present, Ellinghaus is the third with Neuqua ties to be named a first-year coach. Former Wildcats quarterback Eric Ilich, who had been assisting at Bartlett, was hired to lead Hoffman Estates. Earlier this month former Neuqua assistant Ben Kleinhans took the spot at Metea Valley.
In the email Barb Barrows submitted Thursday, she wrote: "Over the years, Coach Ellinghaus has demonstrated strength in building positive relationships with the student athletes, the coaching staff, parents and administration with the greatest degree of professionalism and personal integrity. Coach Ellinghaus' experience and strong knowledge of the game has been acquired through multiple years as a player and coach. His enthusiasm for the game is infectious."
The Neuqua community and football program have learned all this about their new coach. Other than perhaps "some philosophical changes," Ellinghaus said, his promotion means Neuqua will retain a comfortable level of familiarity.
"I believe it is rather comforting," he said. "When I had a meeting with the coaches, the coaches were very pleased and excited, excited about moving forward."
Ellinghaus met with more than 60 Neuqua players before school Thursday.
"Because of this process there's been about a four-week gap now where the kids were like, 'What's next?' Now they know what's next and they can look forward again to the future," he said.
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