ST. CHARLES – Nolan Possley barely finished his sentence before being mobbed by Devean Shearer and Mason Tousignant as their momentum carried a few yards away from the postgame team scrum.
Possley, the St. Charles East alum hired as the program’s new head coach this summer, is tasked with rebuilding the Saints to playoff contender status.
His Saints are off and running after their 28-14 season-opening victory over Lincoln-Way Central on Friday.
“I told the guys before the game I felt good because I love this group. The seniors are unbelievable [and] the juniors just mesh so well,” Possley said. “I told them I actually had a pretty good [Thursday night sleep] because I felt prepared. I felt they were ready.”
“These guys put so much work in this summer and this August camp has just been a grind. The way they prepared, I said it to them at the end there, this is where we’re trying to bring the expectation to.”
The Saints (1-0) forced a Lincoln-Way Central punt to open the game, but the punt return was muffed and the Knights recovered. Two plays later, a host of Saints knifed in for a sack of quarterback Michael Kuehl, and linebacker Charlie McArdle scooped up the loose ball and scored from 47 yards out with 9:22 left in the first quarter.
Kuehl, however, responded with a 22-yard touchdown completion to Anthony Noto with 46 seconds left in the quarter to tie the score.
What ensued after perhaps was a product days in the making.
On the ensuing kickoff, Saints senior receiver Blake Schuette returned it for an electrifying 100-yard kick return to spark the sideline into rejuvenation.
“They worked on that specific return over and over and over again this week,” Possley said. “So it was another cool thing for our sideline to say, ‘It worked.’ ”
Schuette, for his part, simply broke free and seemingly trusted his instincts.
“I saw a hole,” Schuette said. “Ran through it, got open and took it to the house.”
“Football is a game of momentum,” Knights coach Jeremy Cordell said. “We didn’t respond the way that we needed to and we’ll go back and be better next week.”
The Saints had two field goal opportunities to close the rest of the half, but one was botched on the hold and then Samuel Frausto’s 27-yard try to close the half hit the upright to keep the score at 14-7.
On the first play of the second half, Saints senior quarterback Lane Robinson, making his varsity debut, found a streaking Tousignant down the right sideline for an 80-yard score to break the game open.
Kuehl (13 of 19, 161 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception) worked a seven-play ensuing drive but was intercepted by Jack Griffin. Robinson then cashed in on a 1-yard score to make it 28-7 Saints with 4:48 left in the third quarter.
The Knights did snag one more score on a nifty, 29-yard toe-tapping grab from wideout Ethan Vrabec with 1:16 left.
Noto finished with 40 yards and Collin Mowry added 27 yards rushing.
“We have a great group of kids,” Cordell continued. “We’re young and we’re hungry and we have guys that are going to work. We’re going to be a lot better and we’re going to keep the process.”
Robinson finished 7-of-12 passing with 118 yards, 24 yards rushing and an interception. Saints running back Trent Matejko had 137 rushing yards.
”Trent Matejko is a dog,” Robinson said. “Trent is going to be a very vital key for our offense.“
“This win is based off of what we have going,” Robinson continued. “We have a new coaching staff, we have a new team. This is a new St. Charles East.”