Surges makes plays on both sides to lead St. Charles North to championship season
How notable was St. Charles North two-way gridiron standout Drew Surges this year?
So much so that multiple coaches from another Daily Herald coverage bureau nominated the 6-foot-1, 195-pound free safety-running back for that area's player of the year honor even though he wasn't eligible.
"He was the best player on the field in every game," St. Charles North coach Rob Pomazak said. "He's the top two-way player in the state of Illinois."
Surges is also the Captain of the 2022 Daily Herald Fox Valley All-Area Football Team.
"Drew is a good one," Pomazak continued. "He is as good as I have coached. He's a legitimate two-way player. He played every down on defense and then turned around and was the man on offense. There was nothing he didn't do. We had a lot of great football players on this team, but you have to attribute a lot of the success we had down to Drew and being the dude on a day-to-day basis. Knowing he was being the guy that will be keyed on and kind of being unstoppable is what I witnessed on Friday nights."
Surges helped lead St. Charles North to an unbeaten DuKane Conference title at 7-0 and an appearance in the Class 7A state quarterfinals. It marked North's first appearance in the playoffs since 2018 and the program's third trip to the quarters. The North Stars finished the season 10-2, which included wins over 7A finalist Batavia and 7A semifinalist Lake Zurich. "We beat both of them because of Drew," Pomazak said.
"Drew has a drive where nobody will tell him no," St. Charles North senior outside linebacker-defensive back Alex Valenzuela said. "He has the mindset it takes to play at numerous high levels. He's the guy everybody on our team got around with no hesitation. We saw what he did on the field and we felt we had to respond. We felt he shouldn't do it all. We got behind him. That's what separated him from the rest. He surprised me every week, I'm not going to lie. He makes play after play on possession after possession. Just feed him the rock. He's a film guy who can call a play before it even happens. There probably wasn't a play on offense or defense that he wasn't involved in."
Surges, an Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Class 7A all-state first-team selection and the DuKane Conference offensive player of the year, finished the season rushing for 888 yards (5.0 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns to go with four 100-plus-yard games. He also caught 46 passes for 638 yards (15.2 yards per catch) and 6 scores. He finished with 1,526 all-purpose yards - the next closest North Star registered 496.
Of particular note was his late-season production. In North's three playoff games, Surges ran for 295 yards and 3 touchdowns, and tore it up big-time on the receiving end with 13 grabs for 299 yards and 3 TDs. He had a 90-yard touchdown catch in the team's second-round win against Hoffman Estates.
"Everybody in the building knows you are going to get the ball and you have to perform, and that's where Drew came into it," Pomazak said. "We knew he would be the guy to win or the lose the game and we were comfortable with it. We had conversations about that privately and publicly in front of the team. That's a lot of pressure for a 17-year-old to have and he did a tremendous job handling it."
Surges noted his rate of success on offense was a favorite part of the season, but he was more impressed when it came to his durability.
"Being able to take hit after hit and get back up and keep doing my thing running the ball after contact," he explained. "It's kind of what I expected this year, get the ball a lot and take a lot of hits and get back up."
At the same time, Surges said nothing positive happens without his teammates. "Some might say I played a really big role, but I think we all did our 1/11th on defense and offense," he said. "Our linemen opened the gaps. You put any other running back out there and they would do the things I did. I did some things, but you cannot forget about the 10 other guys on the field."
Not to be lost in the shuffle is the massive impact Surges had on defense from his free safety position and in North's new 3-3 stack formation.
"He led the team in tackles. He was the unaccounted for guy in the box," Pomazak noted. "We changed defenses this year and moved him to free safety (Surges played outside backer as a junior) in the 3-3 stack, which took his game to a whole new level. We built a defense around Drew. Our defensive coordinator Keith Snyder (former DeKalb High School head coach) did a tremendous job seeing Drew's talent and fitting that in. To constantly make play after play schematically takes a tremendous athlete like Drew to execute those plays, if not better than you drew up. He was tremendous at that position. He's such a smart football player. Many times, he's reading the play faster than the backers and was down at the line of scrimmage making a tackle for loss. We would do a lot scheme-wise to free him up."
Surges said he thrived in that free safety position this season. "I was the unblocked man," he said. "The guys up front took on double teams and the linebackers filled in and the game plan from coach put me in a great spot to make those plays. It helped my ability to spread across the field. It was nice to be in the middle and run all over the field."
Surges also didn't mind pulling double-duty. "When we would go tempo on offense, it could get a little tiring," he said. "I got a break on special teams, but I was pretty conditioned throughout the season. It wasn't too bad."
Pomazak also saw Surges move forward in the leadership department.
"It's probably where he grew the most," the coach said. "He's a free spirit out there that has fun no matter what, but one of his offseason goals was to become more of a vocal leader and become kind of the barometer and set the standard. He was named a team captain and set the bar high. He was able to have those tough conversations with players and teammates and work toward a common goal. The kids responded to him and when the lights came on he certainly got the job done."
Surges, who has a college offer from Division I Army and sports a 4.41 grade-point average at North, admitted the leadership part of the equation was tough, but it's something he embraced.
"Even though it's tough it was a top thing for me this year," he explained. "I came in a little quiet last year and then this year I kind of took the team under my wing and stepped up to be the leader and captain. It was tough, but I did it. It was fun."
Valenzuela has no doubt Surges will also succeed at the next level.
"I am rooting for him, big time," he said. "Him playing at the highest level is something college coaches are going to need to pay attention to."