Cornjerkers get early start

Cornjerkers get early start

HOOPESTON — Saturday is the first day high school football teams can practice in full pads.

First-year Hoopeston Area/Schlarman/Armstrong-Potomac coach Trey Stille isn't wasting any time in making sure the Cornjerkers get to do just that. Stille will lead HASAAP through the paces of its first full pads practice starting at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday.

The 26-year-old Stille played high school football at East Alton-Wood River, and his former high school coach, Gary Carter, used to have similar practices. So Stille — the Cornjerkers' fourth coach in the last four seasons — is hoping to start a tradition for the co-op program which has athletes from three area high schools.

"The players' initial reaction was confusion as they didn't understand it fully," Stille said. "But after explaining it to them, their eyes lit up and their heads started to nod. They are excited to put on a show for everyone. I want this to be something people can look forward to and gets them excited for the upcoming season."

The practice will take place at Hoopeston Area's field, with the public welcome to attend.

The Cornjerkers have struggled on the field for most of the last two-plus decades, with their last winning season happening in 1993, the last time they made the playoffs. The program didn't have enough players to field a varsity team in 2012, but with the addition of Scharlman and Armstrong-Potomac to the co-op, Stille said the Cornjerkers opened practice this week with 44 players.

"I think we can reach 50, which is unheard of for this program in a long time," Stille said.

With 17 starters back from last season — which saw the Cornjerkers knock off Milford/Cissna Park 40-34 in Week 9 for the program's first Vermilion Valley Conference win since 2011 — Stille is optimistic better days are ahead.

"Ignoring the outside noise is crucial," he said. "People in the area make fun of this football program, and these kids hear about it all the time. The biggest challenge in trying to turn the program around is changing the mind-set and making sure the kids know what kind of hard work and effort is expected of them. I hope to provide some stability in the coming years, and I think that will put a stop to the lack of success on the field."

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