Chris Schremp could hardly enjoy one of the best phone calls of his life.
The Prairie Ridge football coach received great news from Jeff Alderman, the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame chairman, on Dec. 13.
Schremp tried to remain composed and not become physically ill on the phone, but not because of excitement when he learned he was going into the IHSFCA Hall of Fame in March. Schremp was in the middle of a second gall bladder attack in three days.
“I told him, ‘I’m sick, having issues, but this is great news. Thank you,’ " said Schremp, who laughs about the moment now. “I’m trying to keep it together and to sound excited. I really was. I had no idea it was even coming. It was totally out of left field for me.”
Schremp had his gall bladder removed several hours later and spent most of a week answering congratulatory calls and texts from his hospital room.
Schremp, who is 166-61 in 20 seasons as the Wolves coach and has led his team to three Class 6A state championships since 2011, will be inducted into the IHSFCA Hall of Fame on March 26 in Champaign.
Schremp was an assistant on former Wolves coach Dave Whitson’s staff when the school opened in the fall of 1997. He took over five years later and has turned the Wolves into a perennial state power.
Prairie Ridge has earned a reputation for its productive triple-option offense and won state titles in 2011, 2016 and 2017. The Wolves were state runners-up in 2019 and have been to three other playoff semifinal games.
Prairie Ridge offensive coordinator Joe Terhaar, who has been on Schremp’s staff for all of his 20 seasons, nominated him for the honor.
“That was probably the easiest thing I’ve ever written in my life,” Terhaar said. “When I found out you needed 20 years to be eligible (for the Hall), I thought, ‘There it is.’ I knew he would be a shoo-in.
“I talked about him as a person. You can talk all you want about accomplishments, but there is something Chris Schremp has done above a lot of other people to have won like he has. He has done it all the right way. I can’t stress that enough. The guy has never wavered once on what he believes is right and how we are going to act as a program. He holds us to that standard constantly.”
Schremp took over at age 29 and shortly after adopted the triple-option because it was an offense he felt the Wolves could run effectively even if they did not have big offensive linemen.
Prairie Ridge and Cary-Grove, which just won its third state championship in November, are two of the best teams in the state at option football.
This season, which started with the Wolves losing quarterback Tyler Vasey to an elbow injury, may have been one of Schremp’s best coaching jobs.
The Wolves finished 9-3 and almost advanced to the semifinals. Defensive back Mason Loucks stepped in at quarterback, Vasey returned midway through the season and played at running back. The offense racked up huge yards and points and the Wolves finished second in the Fox Valley Conference to Cary-Grove.
“It’s a well-deserved honor for a coach who’s been doing great things for kids for a long time,” Prairie Ridge athletic director Mark Gilbert said. “I’m really happy for him. I’m glad he was recognized for that.
“Some years he’s got a lot of talent, some years he doesn’t have as much talent and he still wins. It’s a sign of great coaching. The fact he has a staff who has stayed with him as long as they have is a tribute to him and the way he runs the program. It is definitely well-deserved and I’m very happy for him.”
Terhaar and defensive coordinator Andy Petersen have both been with Schremp since the start. Terhaar was a lower-level assistant before becoming offensive coordinator in 2009. Petersen has been his defensive coordinator the whole time.
Schremp appreciates all the staff and family members who helped him reach this position.
“In football, I wouldn’t be there without Andy and Joe,” Schremp said. “I probably wouldn’t have done this job for 20 years if it wasn’t my wife [Sheri] and kids [Kylie and Maggie] being supportive of it. And my mom [Sheila] and dad [Ralph], I was head coach when I was 29 years old. And if I didn’t have mom and dad helping Sheri with the girls, I wouldn’t be doing this for this long.
“It’s the whole dynamic, if I didn’t have those people around me, I wouldn’t have gotten this. That’s fact. I always felt like my daughters were taken care of, and working with Joe and Andy are like my brothers. Those people are the reason why I’m getting this award.”
The Hall of Fame news came at an interesting time for Schremp, who woke up on Dec. 11, made some scrambled eggs and suddenly felt excruciating pain in his stomach.
He vomited and was sweating, so Sheri drove him to the emergency room at Barrington’s Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital.
Schremp felt so awful that he had Sheri wait in the emergency room area for his name to be called while he paced in a nearby hallway and threw up in a bag.
Schremp was kept overnight and felt better on Sunday, so gall bladder surgery was scheduled and he was sent home with a list of foods to avoid.
On Monday, however, after eating baked chicken and slices of cucumber, Schremp had another attack.
“I called the doctor to let them know it was starting all over again,” he said. “When I got the call [for the Hall], I didn’t recognize the number, so I thought it was the doctor. It was Jeff Alderman and he said, ‘Congratulations, you made the Hall of Fame.’ "
Schremp wound up spending most of the next week in the hospital. After his gall bladder was removed, medical personnel also found stones in his bile duct pressing on his pancreas. The stones were removed, and although Schremp’s pancreas was irritated, he returned home a week before Christmas.
“He’s so humble. He’s never going to ask anybody or ever say any of those things about wanting recognition,” Terhaar said. “He’s a wonderful coach. He could write a book, if not several books, on running an organization. He’s a master at that.
“Andy and I are the emotional ones. Chris is just a steady presence. There is no one that can grind through tough times, practice schedules, it’s just amazing. He’s just a rock.”
Schremp always felt blessed in his early years at Prairie Ridge because he had three IHSFCA Hall of Fame coaches on his staff – Bob Bradshaw, Bill Mack and Grant Blaney.
Bradshaw coached at Woodstock and Johnsburg, Mack coached at Crystal Lake Central and Blaney coached at Buffalo Grove. Bradshaw and Mack had grandsons on some of Schremp’s teams.
Now, he will join those mentors in the Hall of Fame.
“I can’t believe it’s been 20 years,” Schremp said. “Winning three state championships, I knew I’d have a shot at [the Hall]. Having three Hall of Fame coaches on my staff, I always hoped I’d get to that point. And still when I say I’ve achieved that, it doesn’t seem real.
“I just keep plugging away and doing my job. It’s quite an honor to get that, especially that I’m still coaching.”