The past is the past: Fieldcrest Knights’ new coach building confidence

MINONK — Having confidence in not only yourself, but also in your teammates, is vital.

Coming off a season in which a youthful Fieldcrest squad that returned just one overall starter was outscored 411-92 and went 0-9, first-year head coach Nick Meyer said getting back that confidence is job No. 1 in his eyes.

“The biggest thing for me coming in is just to give kids confidence, and I want them to have fun,” Meyer said at Monday’s summer camp at New Millennia Park in Minonk. “I keep reminding them they are talented athletes that are now bigger, stronger, faster this year.

“Last year the team was small in numbers, had a lot of young guys playing with limited experience. This team also has a small senior class, but they are all super committed and driven. ... They are setting the tone.”

Meyer is a 2011 FHS graduate and served as a student assistant at Illinois State University from 2011 to 2015, where he worked with the defense. He was a Fieldcrest assistant in 2017 under Derek Schneeman and returned to ISU as a full-time assistant from 2018 to 2021 before being hired this January.

“I can already see the belief they all have in not only themselves individually, but their teammates as well,” Meyer said. “We talk a lot about accountability. That is something that has to be there for any successful team, and I’m seeing that so far through the guys’ work in the weight room and here during summer camp.

“Last year was last year. We aren’t dwelling on it, but we also aren’t totally forgetting about how that felt.”

Senior linebacker/tight end Trenton Topolski said he feels that despite the record, last year was a stepping stone for this year’s players.

“I feel we will be more overall prepared this season,” he said. ”Last year we were all pretty inexperienced, but I also think our offseason weight program has made us all stronger, faster and really more confident. We are going to have to be a tougher team and a team that busts our butts every minute to get better.

“I think there is a little chip on our shoulders from last year, but we can’t change what happened. All we can do is work to get back to playing solid Fieldcrest football. If we do that, everything else will take care of itself.”

Senior offensive and defensive tackle/defensive end Aiden Harsted agreed with Topolski as far as the experience factor, but adds he feels a different approach in weight training will be another factor that will hopefully pay dividends on the field.

“I think along with many of us coming back with experience now, there has also been a super amount of intensity to everything,” he said. “Whether it’s been in the weight room or out here on the practice field, there is a fire that maybe wasn’t always the case last season.

“We worked out at Knights Fitness last year too, but this year there is less focus on main lifts, or seeing how much you can lift, but more on conditioning, on being overall stronger. I can already tell it has helped so many of us during summer camp, and we’ve had so many more guys commit to being there each and every session. That has also, I feel, helped us bond as teammates more as well.

“We have a way to go, but I can’t wait to see how this team can do. I’m excited.”

Senior center Carter Stimpert said there is just a different feeling as the team inches toward opening practices and has seen the team get better with every passing workout.

“This is a strong group of guys that are willing to work to get better,” he said. “Coach Meyer has a ton of enthusiasm and holds you responsible. It’s not that that wasn’t the case last year, but there has just been a different feeling this summer. Maybe it’s we all have a little more experience. Maybe it’s that we all are a little more confident. I’m not sure, but I know we are all doing our best to do the best we can to be the best football team we can be.

“I can’t believe how much we have improved over the summer. The key is to just keep improving and be at our best when the season starts.”