COAL CITY — On one side of the ball, Coal City returns every starter but one. On the other, the Coalers have lost every starter but one.
Coach Lenny Onsen says the Coalers have kept their summer routine largely the same as in past years for both their experienced offense and their revamped defense.
“It’s a lot of the same things,” Onsen said Tuesday as the Coalers readied for the final session of their annual camp. “You find something that works, you try to do it again, year after year. There are some tweaks made, some little new wrinkes you might throw in here or there, but for the most part, we’re doing a lot of the same things we were doing 10 years ago.”
There was one major alteration in the Coalers’ summer schedule in 2013. Due to new IHSA rules which will heavily regulate preseason practice, they extended camp to eight days. It has usually spanned six or seven in the past. Otherwise, the Coalers got out of Coal City for 7-on-7 passing competitions at places like Joliet West and the University of St. Francis.
“I like that better that what we do here — being able to go up to other places and throw the ball around against other teams,” quarterback Brennen Shetina said of the 7-on-7s. “The (St. Francis) Jamboree was a good one for us. We didn’t start off very well, but as the day went on, we came around and held our own up there.
“I think having Jack Dibble back in the backfield is going to make a huge difference for us. You can already see it.”
Offensively the Coalers might be expected to hold their own, given that Matt Burchfield was the only graduation loss. Defensively, where the only returning starter is linebacker Kasey Kaiser, one might expect more teaching to be required at this time of year.
That has not really been the case, says Kaiser. He says that while he personally has become more of a leader for the defense — like Nate Natyshok did last year, he expects to help line up defenders before the snap when needed — players have taken care of their responsibilities.
“When we went to Millikin (University), the defense really came together. And at all the camps, we have played together well,” Kaiser said. “All of our people have come out pumped up and ready to go.”
Onsen says that Shetina and Keiser have performed and led at a level befitting their positions and experience this summer.
“Offensively, Brennen Shetina has had a really nice summer, and Kasey Kaiser, our one returning starter, has really stepped up and been a leader,” Onsen said. “Getting Jack Dibble back from his ACL injury and ready to go has been big for us. Matt Long looks ready to go for his junior year. ... It’s been so far, so good with injuries.”
The Coalers will begin practice on Aug. 14, and their season opener is Aug. 30 at home against Wilmington.