Clark: Under new coach John Konecki, Crete-Monee football gets back in groove
By Mike Clark firstname.lastname@example.org August 14, 2013 7:12PM
Crete-Monee head coach John Konecki works with his players during the team's first practice of the year. | Patrick Gleason/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 17, 2013 7:51AM
John Konecki was up before the sun Wednesday and not because of his 10-week-old son.
Konecki set his alarm for 5 a.m. but he was up at 4, in the shower and out the door in time to get to Crete-Monee High School before anyone else.
That’s what happens when you get handed the keys to a Cadillac and it’s your first chance to go out on a test drive. Konecki came to Crete at the same time as Jerry Verde, who led the Warriors to a 56-14 record over six seasons and the Class 6A title last fall.
When Verde left after that 14-0 season to take over the program at his alma mater, Marian Catholic, Konecki added another head coaching line to his resume.
He’s also the coach of the Chicago Force women’s team, which is the reigning national champion. And he led Team USA to the women’s world title this summer. All told, Konecki figures he has coached around 130 games, give or take, since 2008.
If you’re thinking that sounds like a guy who lives for football, you’re on the right track.
“I’m really, really passionate about the game,” Konecki said after the Warriors wrapped their first day of preseason practice. “I love coaching. I look at it like my spring endeavors — along with doing the weight room and whatnot, being a husband and a dad (of three kids) — from a football standpoint, I look at the spring as I’m just sharpening the saw.
“It’s an opportunity for me if I see something in a clinic I want to run, I get to go out on the field and tool with it, mess with it.”
There will not be much messing around at Crete-Monee practices, if Wednesday is any indication. Konecki and his staff ran through a variety of drills with a minimum of downtime.
But it wasn’t all business. Konecki clearly believes you can’t spell “fundamental” without “fun.”
“Coach Konecki ... once you put in enough work, you can have a little leisure time,” senior linebacker Nyles Morgan said, adding with emphasis: “A little bit.
“Then back to work the next day.”
Senior offensive lineman Josh McCaskel knows Konecki’s style as well as anyone, having worked with the new head coach as a position coach since his freshman year.
“He’s a very serious coach,” McCaskel said. “But if you do what he expects you to do, he can be one of the coolest coaches ever.”
“If it wasn’t fun ... obviously, there’s points in time, there’s a grind every season,” Konecki said. “But you want to have fun. You’ve got to laugh. The kids, they have to have fun out here.”
How much fun will the Warriors have once the season starts? It will be interesting to see.
Crete has the toughest schedule in school history: nonconference opponents Benet (7A semifinals), Simeon (Prep Bowl champ), T.F. South and Evanston all qualified for the IHSA playoffs (as did Southland foes Rich East and Bloom).
And somehow the Warriors must make up for the production lost when receivers Laquon Treadwell (SouthtownStar and Sun-Times Player of the Year, now at Ole Miss) and Lance Lenoir (Western Illinois) and quarterback Marcus Terrell graduated.
But there are big-timers back on defense: Morgan is a four-star prospect with 33 scholarship offers according to Rivals.com, and three-star end Chris Slayton had 15 offers.
“By the end of the day, we want to continue to win football games and keep the program at the level of competitiveness and the level of excellence we created,” Konecki said.
And if that requires waking up at 4 a.m., Crete’s new coach has no problem with it