Football program keeps contact only in high school hoping to help with safety, numbers

LANARK, Ill (KWQC)- It's game week at Eastland Pearl City.

"I don't think it takes much to get teenage boys in the mindset for week one," said head coach Randy Asche. "Guys that are out here football guys. This is what they're living for."

While the high school players prepare for week one, the junior high kids are not on the field at all.

"They're learning the technique, the position. They're learning what their reads are and what their landmarks are," said Coach Asche. "All of those little things are going to help us. They're learning our plays and our formations."

Coach Asche came up with the idea to keep the junior high kids in the weight room during the week. The Eastland kids lift two days at Eastland High School. The Pearl City kids lift two days at Pearl City High School. Then, on Saturday, they come together for a practice and 7-on-7 scrimmage wearing just helmets.

"Some of the base reasons, safety, a fun environment, I don't want to make things so critical for them. Plus. they're learning our system" Asche added.

That means virtually no contact for kids in the EPC football program until they get to high school.

"I think the big fear in all of this is that we're taking the physicality out of the game," Ashe said. "Anyone knows me, that ain't me."

Coaches believe preparing the kids in a different way at this young age will make them better athletes once they get to the high school level.

"I just really believe that if you get kids that are strong and flexible, and they have some confidence in the weight room, once they hit their freshman year the football stuff will be easy," said Coach Chris Dertz who coaches the Jr. High Kids.

When the lights come on for week one, the Cats will be ready at the high school level, and they're building the younger kids for future seasons.

"I'm married to it now," said Coach Asche. "Just in the first few weeks working with them and seeing how much fun they've had. Does that mean we'll have greater numbers? I don't know. The story has yet to unfold here."

"If we want this game that we love so much to survive, these are some of the things we have to do to evolve a little bit and get more accessible to kids," Dertz added.