LAKE FOREST — With the Lake Forest football team’s Friday night, under-the-lights matchup with Grant just moments away, coach Chuck Spagnoli huddled his players on the sideline.
“He tells us to start fast and just do our jobs,” Lake Forest running back Hub Cirame said. “Don’t try to do stuff that’s not your responsibility, and if we all do our jobs, we’ll be great.”
Spagnoli’s lessons seem to resonate with the Scouts. After breaking the pregame huddle, they went on to crush Grant 39-19, bringing the team’s record to 2-0 for the season.
But Spagnoli, now in his 11th season coaching Lake Forest, doesn’t get carried away by a single victory.
“Certainly we’re happy with the win, but I think consistency has to be a priority for us at this time,” he said as he walked off the artificial turf at Lake Forest’s Varsity Field. “We weren’t really consistent in any phase tonight. We just have to be better. We had a few penalties, which was disturbing, and that has to be fixed, but I’m proud of our kids, I’m happy for our kids, but we certainly have a long way to go.”
His pregame speeches fire up the Scouts, but his in-game adjustments mark Spagnoli as a primetime coach.
“I try to come into the game ready,” he said. “But obviously as the game unfolds, things change, so I try to keep my head about me and make sure that whatever adjustments I make are good for the team. Really, it’s about thinking the entire time.”
After an explosive three-touchdown performance in which he gained nearly 13 yards per carry, Cirame acknowledged Spagnoli’s tenacity.
“Coach Spagnoli always has the entire team’s interest and it’s his top priority,” the star running back said. “He’s fired up and knows that we still have a long way to go to reach our goals.”
Last season, Spagnoli’s Scouts took a meaningful step forward. The team finished 9-4 (3-3 in the NSC Lake) and reached the Class 6A semifinals, where it lost to Cary-Grove. The coach is now focused on working with this year’s team to build upon 2012’s accomplishments.
“I try to use common sense from an X’s and O’s standpoint and try to teach the kids to do the right things,” Spagnoli explained. “And that could be anything from how to play football to how to act like a man and how to take responsibility and be accountable.”
Athletic trainer Jeff Dooley, who has been with the program since 1993, said he notices and appreciates these efforts.
“He cares about the kids, he works with the kids,” Dooley said of Spagnoli. “He has good expectations of them, he praises them when they need praise, and he tells them to do better when they need to do better. He’s a great coach.”
Spagnoli’s path to Lake Forest began with coaching stints at Carthage College, the University of Evansville, DeLaSalle Institute and Niles West.
“I’m not 100 percent sure of how I got here,” he said. “But I’m happy to be here, I’m happy to be with these kids and I’m happy to be with this program.”