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High school football: Seasoned offensive minds confident in their calls

Published: Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT
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(Sandy Bressner - sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Batavia offensive coordinator Mike Gaspari calls a play during their first day of practice Aug. 11 at the school in Batavia.
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(Sandy Bressner - sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Geneva head coach Rob Wicinski has his players run sprints during the first official day of practice Aug. 11 at Good Templar Park in Geneva.
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(Monica Maschak–- mmaschak@shawmedia.com)
Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly gives direction during practice on Aug. 13 in Maple Park. Fedderly presides over a Knights offense that is perennially one of the highest scoring in the area.

Before developing a reputation as one of the Chronicle area’s more highly functioning offensive football minds, Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly served as the Knights’ defensive coordinator.

“I’ve called plays on defense and offense, and you know, I enjoyed both,” Fedderly said. “But I put a lot of stuff in there that I hated when I was defensive coordinator. Picking all the stuff that was hard to defend.”

Although the box scores don’t always reflect it, Fedderly and his counterparts encounter challenges just like everyone else. Topping the list: how to balance being an unpredictable play-caller with going with what works.

Taking what the defense gives you always serves as the starting point.

“You know, it all depends on what they want to do. We just feed off of them,” Geneva coach Rob Wicinski said. “We tell our guys all the time, ‘Be patient, be patient. Let us figure it out. We’re going to be fine.’ Because we can do a lot of different things. So just be patient and it’ll finally hit.”

Traditionally a run-first offensive coach since coming to Geneva in 1999, Wicinski adhered to one of football’s more passive principles last season – evaluating your personnel.

With best friends Daniel Santacaterina and Pace Temple plus the graduated Kyle Brown forming formidable quarterback-wide receiver combos, the Vikings relied on the pass more than usual. Even better than the personnel itself was the added guessing that put upon opposing defensive coaches’ shoulders.

“I don’t really pass to move the chains; I pass to make it hurt. I run to move the chains,” Wicinski said. “So when I do pass, I like to look long first. We were a big-strike offense last year. We scored points in bunches, and fast.”

Only Batavia outscored Geneva in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division last season, a feat that still would have held even if the Bulldogs hadn’t played four more games en route to winning the Class 6A state title.

The seamless relationship between coach Dennis Piron and offensive coordinator Mike Gaspari – Piron’s longtime predecessor – helped fuel Batavia’s run to the crown and 593 points. Piron says “Mike’s never been a micromanager” since Piron took over in 2011, and vice-versa.

While the playbook is well in place by any given Friday night, there can be plenty of collaboration along the way. Having a fluid group only helps strengthen schemes both on the field and in players’ minds.

“We’re always open-minded, even though you may battle for what you believe in,” Piron said. “But in the end, I think what you get out of that is the best thing for your kids. And obviously, with the experience factor that we have in our staff, gives you a huge advantage when you have so many coaches who’ve been coaching together for such a long time, and so many people who clearly understand what it is that the goals are they’re setting out for their kids.”

Fedderly credits former Knights assistant Rich Kearney for showing him several defensive ins-and-outs from the time Fedderly joined the program in 1993. Fedderly was a quarterback and strong safety during his playing days, but still needed to learn as much as he could to eventually become head coach.

Ultimately, gaining a broader view of football bolstered his ability to grasp one side.

“Being able to know the different weaknesses and stuff of defenses and where to attack people, that’s where it starts,” Fedderly said.

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