New era starts this summer at Hinsdale Central

SHARE New era starts this summer at Hinsdale Central

It seems appropriate that Rich Tarka’s first 7-on-7 tournament as Hinsdale Central football coach was held only a few blocks away from where he grew up.

Tarka (pictured right, in front) was in his comfort zone while bringing the Devils to the Richards 7-on-7 session Saturday to a park at 107th Street and Kilpatrick Avenue in Oak Lawn. It was the same neighborhood where Tarka would develop into an athlete, eventually playing for legendary Richards coach Gary Korhonen before graduating in 1980.

Tarka even coached the freshman football team at his alma mater long before he would become a head coach at Crete-Monee and Rich South.

“I learned a ton from coach Korhonen and his staff,” Tarka said. “He did things the right way. As a young coach, I was fortunate to learn from him.”

Tarka was an assistant coach last year at Hinsdale Central, working with wide receivers and quarterbacks.

In March, Tarka was named the head coach to succeed Mike DiMatteo, who resigned and eventually took a position as an assistant coach with conference rival Glenbard West.

After one week of summer camp, Tarka brought his new team to Oak Lawn. Hinsdale Central was the only West Suburban Conference team in the one-day-only 7-on-7 session, which included defending Class 8A state runner-up Mount Carmel, Marist, Julian, Leo and Brother Rice among others.

Hinsdale Central will compete in the Downers South 7-on-7 tournament July 9, but will be one of four teams not participating in the first West Suburban Conference 7-on-7 league June 28 and June 30 at Addison Trail.

Tarka hasn’t made many changes from DiMatteo’s systems. The Devils will still run a spread offense, but use a multiple defense with various looks in 5-2 or 4-4 formations. Assistant coach Jamie Pass has returned to help run the offense, but former assistant coach Tom Dorrance has come back to the program run the defense.

Tarka has changed his focus from last year to the other side of the ball and helped Dorrance on defense during the 7 on 7.

“I thought we needed to pick it up on defense and set the tone to get the intensity going,” Tarka said. “I know we wanted to get the defense going along with the offense.”

Pass is a familiar face to Tarka. Pass was an assistant coach under Tarka for one year at Crete-Monee and another year at Rich South.

The Devils rotated quarterbacks at Richards between senior left-hander Dan Callahan (right) and juniors Brian Owens and Joe Monat.

“Keeping things the same is a lot easier,” Callahan said. “As a quarterback, I’ll be in my fourth year with this offense. With everything being the same, it is a lot easier to know concepts and getting ready for defenses.”

Junior linebacker Andrew Pyle has been part of a group of players that perform conditioning runs each Tuesday and Thursday at 6 a.m. since school let out.

“It’s a new era,” Pyle said. “I can’t wait to be under the lights and get some W’s. We have a lot to prove from last year. We want to bring the tradition back.”

Hinsdale Central (4-5 last season, 2-4 West Suburban Silver) ended a run of nine consecutive playoff appearances last season. The Devils gave up more points (220) than scored (202) and suffered back-to-back season-ending losses to York and Proviso West.

As the new head coach, Tarka also makes the move as a math teacher from Rich South to Hinsdale Central. Before the job was filled, assistant coach Nick Gebhart ran the off-season weight-training program until the coaching search was over.

“Coach Gebhart jumped in in December and got the kids in at 6 a.m. for weights and agility,” Tarka said. “When I got the job in March, it was up and running.”

Tom Delzenero

John Claussen

Brian Owens

Joe Herr

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