ST. CHARLES – Rob Pomazak said keeping his emotions in check will be one of his major challenges as he transitions from an assistant coach to the man in command.
Good luck sticking to that tonight, coach.
Pomazak will coach his first game at St. Charles North as the North Stars’ new era begins with Elk Grove, the school at which Pomazak was a teacher and assistant football coach for a decade-plus.
“Obviously 13 years of my life were spent there,” Pomazak said. “I coached a lot of these kids’ brothers and their brothers so the roots run pretty deep with a lot of those guys. We were a family. I care tremendously about each and every one of them, still, on that team, so it’s obviously bittersweet to go against the kids who you’ve worked so hard to get to the point where they’re at. But it’s also really a sense of pride to see so many of them doing well.”
Pomazak, who was Elk Grove’s defensive coordinator the past two seasons, won’t be alone in the mixed emotions department. Two of his varsity assistants – defensive assistants Rick Magsamen and Dan Meyo – followed Pomazak from Elk Grove to St. Charles North, as did North volunteer sophomore assistant Eddie Stahl, a former player of Pomazak’s at Elk Grove.
All those interwoven connections conceivably could distract from the mission at hand, but the Elk Grove transplants’ acumen about their old program has proven helpful in North’s game-planning.
“We have schemes and PowerPoints on PowerPoints on what Elk Grove does and what tendencies they have on first down, second down, third down,” North two-way lineman Camden Cotter said. “It’s going to really help us as a defense and an offense to just know exactly where they’re going and what time they’re going to do it.”
Of course, that could swing both ways. While Elk Grove’s coaches don’t know North’s personnel the way Pomazak and Co. know the Grenadiers, second-year Elk Grove coach Larry Calhoun’s staff is armed with a deep understanding of the preferred formations and play-calling preferences of North’s new staff, especially on defense.
“When you talk about Week 1 being kind of a blind draw, I think it kind of takes away that blind draw,” Pomazak said. “I mean both of us know each other’s schemes pretty well and now it really comes down to the gameplan that we’re going to put in place and the execution that we’re going to put in place. It’s a different dynamic.”
The North-Elk Grove matchup was already scheduled when Pomazak was hired to replace the retired Mark Gould.
Pomazak said he and Calhoun talked regularly toward the end of last school year when they were in the same building but their dialogue has trailed off since. Calhoun ran Elk Grove’s offense while Pomazak molded a high-performing defense.
Meyo, who coached the defensive line at Elk Grove, just as he now does at North, said the ex-Grenadier coaches intend to keep tonight about the here-and-now as opposed to bragging rights over their old employer. Squeezing in some friendly banter with their former players and colleagues won’t be a high priority, Meyo said.
“That’s usually kind of hard,” Meyo said. “We keep a pretty tight schedule, that way we keep our kids moving and focused so they’re not sitting around. We’ll shake hands and talk after the game and that kind of thing. Beforehand, it’ll probably be a little bit tough.”
Adding to the intrigue, the teams appear poised to play a competitive game, with each program optimistic it can bounce back from a lukewarm 2012 season.
Speaking at his team’s walk-through practice Thursday at North, Pomazak said it felt “like Christmas Eve right now.” He anticipates a respectful reunion at his old stomping grounds.
“I made a point of letting [the Elk Grove players] know that I would never be in the position I’m in if it weren’t for them,” Pomazak said. “While it was bittersweet for them, they understood this was a goal of mine, and we always talk about achieving goals and helping each other to achieve those goals. So while there might have been some tears because of the separation, they were inevitably happy for me, which I thought was really important.”