New coach looks to change cul­ture within In­di­ans’ pro­gram

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - sgro­gan@ce­cil­whig.com By SEAN GRO­GAN Fol­low Sean Gro­gan on Twit­ter: @Sean_Ce­cilWhig

NORTH EAST — Chris Sch­le­ich took the job as North East foot­ball coach with the ob­jec­tive of chang­ing the pro­gram’s cul­ture.

One week be­fore the In­di­ans’s first game, all four of the team’s cap­tains said things are dif­fer­ent at North East.

“The in­ten­sity is def­i­nitely on a dif­fer­ent level than it was last year. We’re tak­ing things much more se­ri­ously,” said se­nior guard and line­backer Gabe Goad, who earned an All-County nod last sa­son. “Last year, the prac­tices were so much more re­laxed and I feel like the care wasn’t there, not only from the play­ers but our coaches. Def­i­nitely on both sides, it’s been stepped up.”

Se­nior quar­ter­back Thomas McCusker echoed that thought, adding that cul­ture change is ev­i­dent.

“It’s real in­tense, it’s a big change from the past three years that I’ve been here. It’s the most ex­cited we’ve been in a long time,” he said. “We just really feel like the cul­ture here is com­pletely dif­fer­ent than it has been in the past. We’re all just really pumped to get out on the field and start play­ing.”

Guard and nose tackle An­thony Tas­sone said the play­ers wel­comed the added in­ten­sity.

“The coaches have helped us to im­prove in ev­ery way, shape and form,” he said. “At first, it was a shock. Now, it shows us that the coaches care. When the coaches push us, it means that they care. And by be­ing pushed, we’re go­ing to be pre­pared for what the other teams throw at us.”

Sch­le­ich takes over at North East af­ter spend­ing last sea­son at Red Lion Chris­tian (Del.), a pro­gram he helped res­ur­rect.

The In­di­ans are com­ing off of a win­less cam­paign in 2015.

“I’ve been here four years and it def­i­nitely hasn’t been the best, but I’ve got to stay pos­i­tive and carry that on to the rest of the team,” se­nior Braden Buegel said. “It’s been very tough, but you’ve got to look to the fu­ture. You’re not go­ing to go any­where with a neg­a­tive at­ti­tude. I want the best for my school.”

Sch­le­ich knew his task would not be easy, but is pleas­antly sur­prised at where the team is in the re­build­ing process.

“I ac­tu­ally think we’re ahead of where I ex­pected to be at,” he said. “Every­body knows the North East foot­ball curse. It’s been 15 years since our last win­ning sea­son. We have a hun­gry foot­ball team. We have a group of kids that are young – 74 of 86 are ju­niors, sopho­mores or fresh­men – so I thought we would still be on cer­tain things and they have ex­ceeded my ex­pec­ta­tions. I think we’re ahead of where I ex­pected to be.”

Sch­le­ich ex­pected 50-60 kids to come out. The turnout, he says, is a sign that the com­mu­nity is be­gin­ning to view the North East foot­ball pro­gram dif­fer­ently.

“The cul­ture is chang­ing within the pro­gram, within the school, within the com­mu­nity,” Sch­le­ich said. “We have the youth pro­gram sup­port­ing us and we’re in sup­port of them. Fam­i­lies are com­mit­ted. We have a hun­gry com­mu­nity that wants foot­ball to be bet­ter.”

Sch­le­ich and McCusker each men­tioned quar­ter­back Tan­ner Moretz as an un­der­class­men set to con­trib­ute.

North East’s sched­ule opens with an un­for­giv­ing stretch, in­clud­ing host­ing Havre de Grace on Fri­day. The War­riors reached the 1A State Fi­nals a sea­son ago.

“I think we’re go­ing to have a win­ning record and I think we’re go­ing to break that 15year curse this year,” Sch­le­ich said. “I think we have enough tal­ent to do it, but we are young. And with youth comes grow­ing pains and learn­ing, but the kids are learn­ing what needs to carry over into the games. If we im­prove upon that, it can lead to a lot of sussess. I want these kids to know that they are be­lieved in.”

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY SEAN GRO­GAN

North East quar­ter­back Tan­ner Moretz throws a pass in prac­tice.

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