Alton’s Eric Dickerson, East Alton-Wood River’s Garry Herron and Marquette Catholic’s Darrell Angleton all have their first seasons as head football coaches under their belts.
As the trio of Greater Alton coaches get going in Year 2, they are hoping to utilize what they learned at the helm of their programs during their inaugural season. Week 3 gets under way tonight.
After going 1-8 in 2015, Herron enjoyed a quick start with the Oilers, pummeling Dupo 47-0 in Week 1 at Memorial Stadium. EA-WR lost 45-6 to Taylorville in Week 2 to run its record to 1-1.
“There have been a lot of long nights, a lot of film watching and wondering what we could have done better in Year 1,” Herron said. “As coaches at the end of the season, we really talked it down to we had a lot of inexperience and a young team that really didn’t know a lot about football.
“This year the kids have done everything we’ve asked them to do as far as weightlifting through the summer, 7-on-7s through the summer, speed and agility work. The kids have worked extremely hard, getting a lot stronger, a lot faster and it’s just built their confidence up. As coaches, we’re hoping that translates to the field.”
Angleton’s Explorers had a couple of tough matchups to start the season, a 30-0 loss at rival Civic Memorial and a 35-14 loss to Mater Dei in their home opener during Week 2.
Marquette has made the playoffs 9 out of the last 10 years, including last season under Angleton. The Explorers finished up 6-4 after losing to powerhouse Rochester in the first round of the Class 4A postseason.
With a plethora of returning starters and upperclassmen, Marquette has its eyes set on another postseason berth.
“What’s exciting is I have some numbers this year and for smaller schools that’s always a challenge,” Angleton said. “Last year I had five seniors and the year before we had six, and this year I’ve got 12 seniors and all of them start but one. Then I’ve got 17 juniors and that helps.”
Unfortunately for Dickerson, the Redbirds aren’t blessed with many upperclassmen. They lost a ton of two-year starters from 2015. After struggling through a 1-8 season in Dickerson’s first season, Alton hopes it can find a little more success in ‘16.
Week 1 saw the Birds fall 38-13 at Rock Island, behind five turnovers, but saw running back Darrell Smith rush for 190 yards and two TDs. Alton is now 0-2 after losing to Quincy 35-21 in its home opener on Sept. 2.
“We lost 20 seniors and most of them had been two-year starters for us,” Dickerson said. “This year we have seven seniors, so we’re going to be young and inexperienced. A lot of juniors this year got time as sophomores, but we’re going to have the same thing going on with our freshmen who are now sophomores; they’re going to be stepping in and playing big roles. I hope they’re up for the challenge; they seem to be.”
The biggest thing for the trio of coaches was polishing their politics off the field and figuring out all the micromanaging that goes with being a head coach. Plenty of years as assistants couldn’t truly prepare them for that part of the job.
“I tell everybody that the greatest job in the world is being an assistant football coach,” Herron said. “It’s the truth, because the amount of stress and the late nights and stuff on your mind when you still have to do your day job and raise a family and all that, it’s tough. I was an assistant coach for 13 years and loved it, but you don’t understand all that goes behind it: the parents, the behind the scene stuff, offseason stuff, schedules for workouts because these kids depend on you totally. It’s like the way they depend on their parents.
“Then the fundraising; every school has to do it because budgets are down, but you’re asking these kids who you push all the time to now go out and sell things to get your program money. It’s one thing I hate because they shouldn’t have to work that hard on that end.”
Angleton was really behind on the off-the-field stuff after previous Marquette coach Matt Bucher stepped down without much time entering the ‘15 campaign. Angleton has now got to institute some things he wanted to do for the program.
“It’s climbing the administrative curve,” Angleton said. “Coaching on the field is actually the fun part. I didn’t inherit the program until June 1 last year, so the nice thing about this year is it’s going to have a little more of my stamp on it, what I want to do, what I’ve envisioned. Although I see it as more of an evolution than a revolution.
“Some of these kids I’ve coached for a long time and that’s nice to have that advantage. Sometimes a new coach is brand new to them, so I think I have some of their confidence.”
Dickerson was working shorthanded last season. That’s not the case this season and that should help with preparation for AHS.
“We have a full coaching staff this year and last year we were a few coaches short, so that’s been nice,” Dickerson said. “We have an offensive staff and a defensive staff and they’re able to concentrate on the areas where we were deficient last year.”
There’s a lot of season left to see what Herron, Angleton and Dickerson can accomplish in 2016 with their programs and I’m sure they will keep evolving as coaches.
The Explorers welcome Nokomis at 7 p.m. tonight to open Prairie State Conference play, while EA-WR heads to Bunker Hill at 7 p.m. to kick off the PSC.
The Redbirds draw East St. Louis to start Southwestern Conference action at 7 p.m. tonight on the road.
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