New coach looks to change culture within Indians’ program
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.”
North East quarterback Tanner Moretz throws a pass in practice.