'Like Christmas morning' - Hersey, Grayslake Central excited to kick off season
Will Nolan had a great visit with his grandparents Larry and Mary Ann Hunt this past weekend.
But the Hersey senior said he couldn't wait to get back home to prepare for his first football practice of the season.
"I am ready to go, and I am excited to be out here with the boys," said the 6-foot-6, 285-pound Nolan, who committed to play at Iowa next season. "I got my grandparents on the livestream so they can watch the Hudl tactical. They want to see me and the guys."
Nolan was just one of nearly 70 Hersey football players who woke up with the streetlights still on Monday for their first official football practice.
Hersey was joined by high schools not just in Cook and Lake County, but all over the state, with their first official football practice Monday. The first games will be Aug. 25, and the season will culminate with the eight classes of state championship games Thanksgiving weekend at Hancock Stadium at Illinois State University.
"It is extremely exciting to be back," Hersey second-year head coach Tom Nelson said. "We like football. It is like Christmas morning for all of us."
The weather was not like your typical Christmas Day. But it was not quite like summer either as Hersey took the field at 6:45 a.m. Monday. It was overcast, with cooler than normal temperatures and light winds.
That was a far cry from the last time the Huskies, who were 10-1 last season, took the field. Hersey was eliminated in the second round of the state playoffs last season by Batavia 19-13 in overtime in a game played in gale-force winds.
That loss has fueled defensive lineman Gus Dammann and his Hersey teammates in the offseason.
"It is always running on the back of my mind," Dammann said. "It keeps me motivated every day I wake up. I also know that this is my senior season and my last chance to make that impact and get a chance to win that state championship."
Carson Grove, who committed to play at Northwestern last week, said that he is prepared for a great season.
"I am pumped and ready to go," Grove said. "I am ready to focus on the season and have some fun with it. I am ready for my senior year."
Also pumped up is Grayslake Central coach Brent Pearlman, who will be returning to the sidelines this season as a head coach, after six previous years as an assistant at Elk Grove and Fremd.
"Everywhere you go there is a different feeling, a different culture," Pearlman said. "It is still football. It is always football. I enjoyed being an assistant coach and I enjoyed being a head coach. It is just two different roles. I love being out here. I don't think I am stopping anytime soon."
Grayslake Central quarterback Cole Gillette led the Rams to the second round of playoffs last year and a 7-4 mark as junior was excited to get things started under Pearlman. Gillette, like all his teammates, was wearing a practice jersey with the No. 1 on it along with O.T.O.G. (0ne team, one goal) on the back.
"It is a whole different system and whole different program and a whole different look at the game," Gillette said. "But it is a good thing. It is great for all of us. I am excited to get another coach under my belt and get another perspective on the game."
Pearlman will be just one of five new head coaches in Cook and Lake this season. Anthony Donantucci will take over Conant, Daniel O'Donnell at Elk Grove, JeMarcus Moody at Wheeling and Matt Milazzo at Round Lake.
The officiating shortage, which began to publicly rear its ugly head last season, continues to get no better this season. Many schools have moved varsity games to Thursday nights, with Leyden playing three of its games on Thursdays. Week 4 will have all the MSL-CSL games on Thursday night that week along with the Northern Lake County and a trio from the North Suburban.
Many schools have opted to abolish their sophomore teams and field freshman, varsity and JV level teams. With limited lower levels, many of those schools have opted for no preliminary games on Friday nights. That means earlier kickoffs, with some schools beginning their contests as early as 6 p.m.
Look for game times each week in the game previews which will appear each Friday in the Daily Herald.