STREATOR – If one thing comes across after talking to Matt Cloe, it is this:
The Streator Bulldogs’ new head football coach is a believer in putting in the work first and letting the results follow.
“There’s really no secret to it,” said Cloe, a longtime coach but first-time head coach. “It’s about relationships, treating people well. It’s about getting stronger, and you only get stronger by pushing weights. There’s no magic pill to it. And then, as far as football, it’s outworking your opponents, and we’re going to do that.
“I tell my coaches, ‘I challenge you to outwork me, because I guarantee you won’t.’ And I challenge our kids to outwork their coaches, because I can guarantee them, they won’t.”
Cloe is replacing former Bulldogs head coach Kyle Tutt, who posted a 7-25 record over four seasons. Tutt, a former all-state quarterback who resigned after the Bulldogs’ 2-7 2023 season, was the sixth consecutive Streator head coach to finish with a sub-.500 record dating back to Jim Young, whose teams went 46-39 from 1974-82.
The Bulldogs’ last playoff appearance came in 2017 under Brian Hassett. Of the five postseason appearances in school history, only the 2008 team under Kelly Kane managed a playoff win.
“After being in the school the past month, month and a half, getting to know these kids and what they’re about, getting to know administrators and people I’ve met in the community, this town’s hungry. They’re hungry to win, and I think that’s something we can bring to the table. I really do.”— Matt Cloe, new Streator football head coach
It’s a track record Cloe, with a long history of and belief in developing and maintaining strength and conditioning programs, believes can be changed … with hard work, of course.
“After being in the school the past month, month and a half, getting to know these kids and what they’re about, getting to know administrators and people I’ve met in the community, this town’s hungry,” Cloe said. “They’re hungry to win, and I think that’s something we can bring to the table. I really do.”
So does Streator athletic director Nick McGurk.
“I consider ourselves extremely lucky to have a quality candidate like Matt Cloe put in,” McGurk said. “I think things happen for a reason, and Coach Cloe and I are, I believe, cut from the same cloth.
“Coach Cloe’s expertise of the weight room, his enthusiasm and his understanding that in order to be an elite program in football in the state of Illinois, you have to get stronger, and all in all, for Streator to get to be an elite football program, we need to work harder at football.”
Cloe, originally from downstate Pana, comes to Streator from Shelbyville and works for Ameren in the Champaign area. The 53-year-old plans to transfer and move closer to Streator after accepting the coaching position in January with his wife’s blessing.
“She’s a big proponent of me making a difference in people’s lives, which I think she feels like I was good at in the past,” Cloe said. “And you know, she pretty much made me an ultimatum that if I didn’t do it, she might divorce me.
“So if it turns out well, you can thank her.”
Cloe played college football at Greenville under future NFL assistant coach Max Bowman and since has coached and run weight-room activities at Shelbyville High School during its return to success. He also assisted with summer camps, including at the University of Oregon, and was the offensive coordinator for eight-man Kincaid South Fork, among other coaching responsibilities.
As he’s learned the offensive game, Cloe has developed a philosophy of playing to his teams’ strengths rather than having a set system in place.
“We can basically run any offense from extreme finesse to extreme power, full-house backfields to empty backfields. We adjust to our talent,” he said. “It depends what we have personnel-wise as to what we’re going to run. And it also depends who we’re playing.”
Having not been a head coach before doesn’t seem to bother Cloe, especially entering a situation that just feels right.
“It’s not that I haven’t been approached about head coaching jobs. There have been other opportunities that i just didn’t feel were right,” Cloe said. “But the stars kind of aligned when I went [to interview at Streator] and met with Nick and with [fellow Shelbyville native Scott] Cameron, the superintendent.
“I know what Coach Cameron is like, and he’s a great leader of people. And meeting Nick and the passion that Nick had, you could just feel it.
“There’s no secret to winning football. Wherever I’ve been, even playing for Max Bowman down in the national finals, there was no secret to it. We got strong, we worked our tails off, and we beat people just because of our work ethic.
“And I think Streator’s capable of that, absolutely capable of it.”