Hilliard Bradley High School football coach Ted Wierzbicki has coached at Fairbanks and St. Charles.
However, this is the first time he is in charge of building a team from the ground up.
"I think it's like it is history," said Wierzbicki, whose program opens Friday at home against Columbus West. "Our football team is going be the blueprint of the program. I feel so lucky and honored to be the first head football coach at Hilliard Bradley. To go out and get that first win and first of everything that all come together to become the tradition of the program is great, and it will be established in 2009."
Few things are set for the Jaguars. They will run an offense with multiple spread formations and run a 4-4 base defense, but that's about it. A school opening without a senior class and only two players with any varsity experience -- juniors Marquis Copeland and Nick Sparks, both from Hilliard Darby -- can leave wide-open battles for positions.
"There are no solid starters right now," Wierzbicki said. "As coaches, you spend a lot of time evaluating because they are all brand new. We have a lot of kids playing their first year of varsity football, so they have to play on both sides of the ball to develop depth. We're trying to get as many kids out there as possible to develop those skills."
Junior Derek Tieman and sophomore Conor Driscoll are battling at quarterback, and the running backs include junior Jeffie Johnson and sophomores Terell Stanford, Blake Scipio and Blair Wolcott. The wide receivers include Copeland and juniors Zach Benedetti, Abdul Hamoud and Jordan Mulford as well as sophomores Conner Haenszel, Dalton Warner and Trey Welch. Juniors Ken Reichle and Corey Straight are vying for tight end.
The only player to solidify himself as a starter is Sparks at center. Competing to join him on the line are juniors Tyrone Ford, Taylor Mummert and Jacob Neutzling and sophomores Paris Crocket, Gino Golston, Tony Harvard, Ricky McGrath and Jesse McGraw.
"The line play, other than Nick Sparks at center, includes a lot of guys who we are trying to figure out a rotation for and one that best allows them to play on both sides of the ball," Wierzbicki said.
Juniors Alex Tepe and Christian VanHoose will play exclusively on the defensive line, but the rest of the defense will be comprised of two-way players.
The linebacking corps includes juniors Alex Barton, Cameron Cammelleri, Cameron Elavsky, Mulford and Reichle as well as sophomores Haenszel, Chad Reep, Warner and Wolcott. The secondary includes juniors Stephen Bell, Markus Bryant, Copeland and Straight and sophomores Austin Johnson and Stanford.
"We were excited with the way we played in the first scrimmage (Aug. 15 against Columbus Academy)," said Mike Sciarroni, the team's defensive coordinator. "We run a spread offense and it was the first time our kids had faced anything other than that. Academy ran a wing-T and we loved the way our kids handled it. They looked like they had been there before."
Reichle and sophomore Evan Donnelly are competing to be the place-kicker and Donnelly is expected to be the punter.
"I love their attitude," Wierzbicki said of his players. "They have a great attitude and we like their toughness. As a coach, I want my football team to develop a blue-collar work ethic, and I think these kids have that."
Wierzbicki is assisted by Sciarroni, who also coaches the inside linebackers, as well as offensive coordinator Mario Jackson. Other assistants include Tony Beavers (WR), Jim Desenberg (OLB), Pete Diehl (OL), Joe Duffy (DL), Bill Ewen (DL), David Grant (QB/DB), Brian Lowery (RB) and Jeff Tackett (OL).
"With double sessions, we're looking for maturation because the kids go though a lot of adversity," Sciarroni said. "We evaluate performance daily to see how mentally and physically tough they are. We want to move our chess pieces around in order for them to be successful and for the program to be successful."