WHEATON – St. Francis coach Bob McMillen has football in his blood.
A former standout at IC Catholic Prep and later the Arena Football League as both a player and coach, McMillen has been involved in football for 43 years. His son, Bobby, is in the mix to start at linebacker at Iowa State.
It's become a family thing.
Coaching the game is simply his passion, and it now extends into St. Francis for his second season.
"[To] be able to be in the halls every day and seeing, mentor and being a part of their lives, is something special," McMillen said. "I don't know what I'd do without being a coach."
McMillen and St. Francis are looking to vastly improve upon last year's 1-8 showing. St. Francis defeated Argo to open the season, but the Spartans had a tough time both scoring and fending off opponents the rest of the way, which included a forfeit for safety reasons.
McMillen chalked the season up as a learning experience.
"The biggest thing I tried to do last year was bring good football coaches in here, and be able to develop these boys right away," McMillen said. "Not only develop them, but mentor them and be successful."
Turning the page, St. Francis has a spread offense with newly-instituted read option looks while determining its next quarterback between junior Mike Baffa and sophomore Tommy Rittenhouse. Both exhibited similar playing styles in a live scrimmage.
They showcased athleticism, ability to escape pressure and arm strength that appear to be pluses, while decision-making downfield will come along as the season goes.
Despite the competition, the pair have become close friends, especially this year amid the battle.
"Just cool, calm [and] collected," Baffa said of the relationship.
McMillen believes both will play at some point during the season.
"They both got tremendous QB intelligence," McMillen said. "They feel [pass rush] pressure when they're supposed to. I wish they wouldn't force so many balls and try to make plays down field...that was really the one thing that we preach to these guys is to protect the football."
Whoever is at quarterback, they'll have plenty of playmaking ability to throw it to between Joseph Lang and Henry Plamondon, who both showcased punishing speed and were tough to bring down on initial contact.
Defensively, the Spartans transition away from a 4-3 look last year to a 3-3-5 base defense to put as much athleticism on the field as it can.
St. Francis is moving to the Metro Suburban conference this year away from the Chicago Catholic League, where it struggled to match teams numbers-wise. It joins the Blue Division where two-time defending Class 3A state champion, IC Catholic, Aurora Central Catholic, Riverside-Brookfield, Wheaton Academy and others await.
"I don't think we're tooting our horns at all just because we played those big schools [necessarily means] we're going to be successful," McMillen said. "We've got to prepare week in, week out for some good football teams."
ST. FRANCIS SPARTANS
Coach: Bob McMillen
2017 record: 1-8
Michael Baffa jr. QB
Joseph Lang sr. WR/DB
Henry Plamondon sr. RB
Enzo Rendina jr. LB
Daniel Skold sr. OL
Aug. 24: Argo 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 31: at Burlington Central 7 p.m.
Sept. 7: at Fenton 7:15 p.m.
Sept. 14: Wheaton Academy 7:15 p.m.
Sept. 21: Bishop McNamara 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 28: Aurora Christian 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 5: Riverside-Brookfield 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 12: at IC Catholic Prep 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 19: at Aurora Central Catholic 7 p.m.