Duchon not forgotten by Hitters

Four decades after Bill Duchon retired as Glenbard West's football coach he continues to shape the program.

"We always talk about defending Duchon Field, we always talk about how important it is to get back to Duchon Field," Glenbard West football coach Chad Hetlet said after the legendary coach passed away Saturday at the age of 88.

"The tradition that they built with hard-nosed football, our kids can relate to that," he said. "We wanted to try to emulate that when we took over in 2007. We wanted to create that mystique that Bill Duchon first created."

On the field it wasn't so much mystique as it was doing things how they needed to be done.

"I always thought he was an outstanding technician, a great line coach," said Jim Covert, who served two years as an assistant under Duchon before succeeding him in 1977.

"He really got the most out of all of his players and he didn't let the little things go," Covert said. "We'd run it again, and we'd run it again. And we'd run it again, until we got things right. That made an impression on me."

Off the field Duchon impressed people for much more than his .682 winning percentage between 1961-76.

"First of all the community felt he resurrected a program which hadn't done anything for around 10, 12 years. They felt pride in his achievements and the players all respected him. Everyone that I've talked to held him in awe and in full respect," said Joe Carlton, who dedicated his history of Glenbard football, "As the Backs Go Tearing By," to Duchon and Covert.

Duchon had suffered from dementia for several years, Carlton said. Duchon's wife, Peggy, preceded him in death in 2003.

A visitation will be held 4-8 p.m. Sunday at Leonard Memorial Funeral Home, with a Mass at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Petronille Church, both in Glen Ellyn. Interment will be at Forest Hill Cemetery in Glen Ellyn.

Those who knew the coach and, later, Glenbard West athletic director, paint a picture of a man fiercely devoted to developing boys on and off the football field, loyal, hard-nosed and stern yet charitable and fair.

"He was genuine about kids and the game of football and the things it can provide for young men." Hetlet said.

Born to Czechoslovakian immigrants, Duchon was an identical twin who married an identical twin. He wasn't big even by 1940s-era football standards, a lineman-linebacker who played at Fenwick for Tony Lawless, a member of the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame's inaugural class in 1977. Duchon was inducted four years later.

Enjoying occasionally heated rivalries with peers such as Downers Grove North's Dick Carstens and Wheaton Central's Howard Barnes (Carstens "lost games he should have won and won a few he should have lost," he told Carlton), Duchon went 94-43-3 at Glenbard West, the Hilltoppers' most sustained excellence since the 1920s.

In addition to a 9-0 mark in 1968, with his 6-1 defense Duchon went 51-8 his last five seasons, the last three helping establish the Illinois High School Association state series in football. Duchon's final game was a 22-21 overtime loss to St. Laurence in the Class 5A championship.

As noted in a 2001 USA Today article claiming it among the 10 best places to watch a high school football game, in 1980 the picturesque Glenbard West stadium was dedicated in his honor.

Part and parcel with Duchon's success (a burgeoning youth program didn't hurt) and inevitably more important was his stress on character development, modeled ever since by coaches like Covert and Hetlet.

"He wanted them to be humble in victory and he wanted them to be able to accept defeat - not like it, but move on, learn from it," Covert said.

Duchon told Carlton a key to re-establishing football prominence at what upon his 1959 arrival was still "Glenbard" was emphasizing the game's physical aspect. Duchon established the "Hitter's Club" in 1964, dedicating it to Glenbard West and Illinois lineman-linebacker Bruce Capel, killed in Vietnam.

A scholar-athlete, Capel was the type to decleat opponents or even teammates in practice, then offer a hand to help them up. The Hitter's Club T-shirt and, later, gold helmet, wasn't limited to Hilltoppers superstars but to anyone who, as Covert recalled with his own "100 Club" based on the Hitters, "gives up everything of himself each and every time he faces a challenge."

In "As the Backs Go Tearing By" Duchon told Carlton players routinely cried during the private ceremonies where Duchon awarded a Hitter's T-shirt. It meant much more than merely a crudely drawn Neanderthal wielding a club. It signified earning the trust of a man who not only symbolized but produced excellence through dedication, discipline and integrity.

"He was just a great Glen Ellyn citizen that helped build great young men," Carlton said.

Forty years later Duchon's premise lives on.

"Everybody's accounted for, and I think our kids respect that. I think the big picture is kind of living your life as a Hitter," Hetlet said.

"If you don't have a Bill Duchon you can't pull from that. It's how we go out and play football, that's kind of how we honor his legacy, is how we go out and play football. I think that's one of the ultimate ways to honor him."

From downtown

IC Catholic Prep's boys basketball team bowed out in sectionals but one Knight's season continues.

Senior guard Matt Sutton is the sole DuPage County representative in the IHSA's Class 2A Three-Point Showdown. Preliminary rounds start at 5 p.m. Thursday at Peoria's Carver Arena.

Having already helped the Knights win a state football title and a basketball regional title, Sutton's riding a hot streak. Let it ride.

In with a bang

Expectations of a first-year team or athletic program usually are to build for the future. That's not entirely the model of the North Central College men's lacrosse team, which on Feb. 22 won its first game in program history 25-1 over Concordia-Chicago.

North Central hosted Milwaukee School of Engineering on Wednesday and plays Monmouth at noon Sunday at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium in Naperville.

"We have a really solid squad for a first-year program," said Cardinals coach Jay Farrell. "Our expectations this year are to be an established program. We've got guys on our squad that I think could compete for a starting role on any college program in the area."

Turning 30 on March 17, Farrell brings youthful vigor but also deep experience in lacrosse, as a player and as a club and collegiate coach.

"Lacrosse has been a part of my life for as long as I remember," said Farrell, unmarried without children. For now he considers his "family" to be assistants Nick Marks, Tim Hurst and Blake Keenan, and his dog, Sonny.

North Central is Farrell's third startup project. A three-year starter at Springfield College in Massachusetts, the New York native was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for two sterling seasons at Adrian College in Michigan. Farrell then helped build Benedictine University's men's lacrosse program starting in the summer of 2011. He's also a coach with New Wave Lacrosse.

As with Benedictine, which first played games in 2013, there was a ramping up process at North Central after Farrell was hired on June 29, 2015. That involved "100 percent recruiting," Farrell said, extensive cross-country jaunts to California, Florida, the Eastern Seaboard, the upper Midwest.

Yet with all that travel all but four players on the Cardinals' 21-man roster are Illinoisans. Local players include John Fitzgerald (West Chicago), Chase Gozdziak (Downers Grove South), Ethan Hurst (Metea Valley), Ramsey Pokryfke (York) and Brock Haake and Noah Parrill (Neuqua Valley).

Co-captain and sophomore attack Tanner James out of Warren High School, transferred from Beloit College. James' parents, both North Central College graduates, had to be pleased not only with that but also when James scored the first goal in program history.

Far from alone, 11 other players scored in the program debut in River Forest. It came following a month of practice, a little bit of film study and "a lot of excitement and energy," Farrell said.

"We knew we wanted to come out and make a statement, like North Central College lacrosse is here, they should keep an eye on us."

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