Illinois High School Football News

Princeton shuttles into the new season with tradition

Princeton coach Ryan Pearson huddles up his troops at the end of the first practice of the season Monday morning.

Ryan Pearson is all about keeping football traditions alive.

He lined his Princeton Tiger football team up for the traditional 12-minute partner shuttle to end Monday’s first practice of the 2022 season Monday morning. Each partner must complete six shuttles, running to the 10-yard line and back, 20-yard line and back, 30-yard line and back, and finally to the 40-yard line and back in the 12-minute window.

Pearson joked that the Tigers can blame his coach at Stark County, Gary Johnson, for the drill, with a nod to the Heavens, adding, “Rest in peace, coach. Lot of the stuff we still do, I’ll be honest, comes from him.”

“Believe it or not, I started this back in 1993 and I’ve done this every year since,” he added. “This a coach Johnson thing. I’ve brought it with me no matter where I went. It’s really turned in to a team bonding thing. It’s hard, but at the same time you see those relationships being built and I really think it does bring our team closer together.”

Pearson is enjoying his side of the drill these days as the instructor than the runner.

“I think I could go hard for one now that I’m in my 40s, but that’s about it,” he said with a laugh.

Pearson partners the linemen with a skill position player, including the pairing of Payne Miller and quarterback Teegan Davis on Monday, to help create team bonding between the different groups of the team that have to work together on the field.

“I’m a firm believer a coach-led team has a chance to be good, but a player-led team has a chance to be special,” Pearson said. “That’s something I reiterate with our kids and I think they did a good job staying positive and picking each other up, but also holding each other accountable.

“That’s what we want. We have a good core group of leaders. We’re blessed.”

The shuttle develops a sense of accomplishment and rewards for meeting a challenge.

“Everything on our helmets are earned, from stripes to the numbers they get, to the Fear the Strips logo. Everything is earned,” Pearson said. “We don’t believe in giving our kids anything and that’s one of the tests that we run. It’s kind of a tradition we do Day 1. I thought our kids did a really good job at it today.”

The good news is they are done with the shuttle for this year as each group passed the test.

“We did not have one group fail,” he said. “We’ve had years in the past where we’ve had some groups fail. Today, we did not have one group fail, so we are done. We don’t have to do that ever again (this year). And I think they’re alright with that.”

PHS senior running back/linebacker Augie Christiansen, who completed seven shuttle legs, said, “I thought the shuttle was a good way to get us in shape and prepared for Week 1.”

Princeton senior Augie Christiansen completes his leg of the Tigers' 12-minute shuttle Monday morning as his partner Danny Cihocki takes off.

Good first practice

Pearson was pleased how the first day of practice went coming off a two-week break since team camp.

“We were pleasantly surprised,” he said. “Any time you leave camp and a have a two-week layoff like that, you always worry about the retention. I actually thought our kids did a fantastic job for Day 1. We rehashed a lot of the things we did in camp and I really didn’t have to do a whole lot of correcting.

“I know it was on air and everybody’s just in helmets only today, but still I was very pleasantly surprised of where our team looks today.”

Season opener

There is a movement a float to move the Tigers’ season opener at Rockridge back to Friday, Aug. 26 as originally scheduled. It had been moved to Thursday, Aug. 25 due to officials shortages across the Three Rivers Conference.

Pearson said a move to Friday is a “strong possibility” and should be determined this week.

Tiger tails: Pearson asked his players if they’d rather have a day like Monday where it was cooler in the mid-70s with some rain or a day in the mid-90s like it has been. They all chose Monday’s weather even though they got a little wet. ... The Tigers will be back at it for 7 a.m. starts the rest of the week.

Good turn out at Hall

Randy Tieman was greeted with about 58 kids on his first day of practice Monday in his return as the Hall head coach after two years away, “a good number,” he said.

Hall does have a shortage of helmets, however.

“I’m still trying to find helmets. Got some the other day, but looking for probably three extra larges that I haven’t found yet,” Tieman said. “They said they would ship on Oct. 3. I don’t believe that’s going to happen. Oct. 3 What’s that three weeks left.”

Tieman said Stark County thought they could help him out, but they don’t have as many left over that they thought.

‘It’s awful fun’

Bureau Valley coach Mat Pistole said the Storm’s first practice went well with 37 in camp with three more expected to report.

“It’s awful fun getting going. Love our kids,” he said.

The Storm have picked up a road trip to downstate Villa Grove on Friday, Aug. 26 as a Week 1 replacement for Riverdale, which canceled its varsity season.