Things are happening at Lincoln-Way Central, and coach Hud Venerable feels good about the process.
It’s time for the Knights (1-2, 0-1) to begin climbing the SouthWest Suburban Red ladder.
Central was searching for a head coach in December. Venerable, the athletic director since 2009, was sifting through resumes when principal Dr. Steve Provis approached him about returning to the field. Though he had not coached since ending a 38-3 three-year run in 2007 at Normal Community, he decided to give it a go.
“My time away from coaching was kind of like a sabbatical,” Venerable said. “The energy, drive and passion are still there. Building a program requires the same basic fundamentals of 30 years ago.”
Venerable warned that “any time you transition to a new staff and system, it takes longer to get acclimated. Things don’t happen overnight. But the process is under way. I’m pleased with that, with how we have implemented our philosophies at all levels.”
While Venerable likes the Knights’ direction, members of his first varsity team at Central believe they are on the threshold of success. They rallied to beat Sandburg 26-21 in their opener, fell 17-12 to Lincoln-Way East and were tied 14-14 with 10 minutes left Friday at Bradley before losing 27-14. Those three opponents are a combined 8-1.
Central was 4-5 in 2012 and 7-20 over the past three seasons.
“We have a new [option-based] offense; people don’t know what’s coming,” senior outside linebacker and captain Brad Nolan said. “Our ‘D’ has been sticking it to ’em except for mental mistakes.
“Against East, we made mental errors. We were in a position where we could have beaten them. Once we get mental errors fixed, we’ll be pretty good.”
“I’m confident we’ll be fine,” said senior wide receiver and captain Erik Hark, who already has four touchdown receptions and also plays on the kickoff and kickoff return units. “But we need to be better on offense and special teams.
“Guys have been staying 15 to 30 minutes after practice to work extra on things we need corrected. We made a couple of miscues on special teams against East or maybe we beat them.”
Central switched to the SouthWest Suburban Red this season after previously competing in the Blue. No more East, Sandburg, Bolingbrook or Homewood-Flossmoor on the conference schedule, but the Red is strong in its own right.
On cue, the Knights visit high-powered Andrew on Friday night. Central has four home games in its last five.
“It will be a challenge against Andrew, but it’s fun playing good competition,” Nolan said.
“We’ll have to score some points to keep up with them,” Hark said. “But I really think we can compete with them and compete in the Red.”
Venerable and his staff have them believing.
“It just feels better now,” Nolan said.