CLINTON—Darin Wecker is in scramble mode.
The new Clinton High School head football coach was hired late in the game after previous coach Jacob Standiford tendered his resignation in June.
Wecker, who has had stints at Belvidere, Guilford and Hononegah, is optimistic about the opportunity to turn the Cougars into a winner, even if he’s getting a tardy start.
“There are obviously some challenges to getting everything together, particularly when the freshmen didn’t even get a chance to play last year because of COVID,” Wecker said. “But the coaching staff that was here has been extremely supportive, and the kids have been very receptive to what we’re trying to build.”
The Cougars are coming off a 1-4 spring season, and are seeking their first winning season since 2017, when Jeff Spiwak led the squad to an 11-1 season.
“I like the fact that they’ve had a lot of success in recent times,” Wecker said. “And living in Rockton, I’ve always heard positive things about the Clinton community. It’s that sense of community and the pride that they have here is really what drew me to the job. I know it’s going to be an environment where the kids are going to buy in and do whatever it takes to be successful, and the parents and booster club are very supportive.”
Wecker said he’s been impressed with the athletes in the limited interaction he’s had with them, which included a padded workout Monday night.
“I see a lot of guys that you can tell have spent a lot of time in the weight room,” Wecker said. “We might not have a ton of imposing guys, but they are athletic and you can tell they’ve been working hard. That’s been encouraging, and they are asking a lot of questions about what it is they need to do to have success.”
Sheer numbers in the program are a key to success in any football program, and it’s no different with Clinton, according to Wecker.
“Numbers are extremely important,” Wecker said. “In order to have a sustainable program, you have to have fresh bodies. You’d love to have two-deeps at every position, offense and defense. That’s not necessarily the goal for year one, but we’re going to roll with what we’ve got for now and make sure the kids are making connections with their friends and trying to get them to come out for football.”
Wecker spent three years as the head coach of Belvidere, a program that has struggled for the better part of two decades. Wecker, a Hononegah graduate who played for Upper Iowa University, was 3-24 with the Bucs.
“What I really learned there was the importance of having a positive mindset,” Wecker said. “Not only for myself, but for the other coaches and the kids. That’s what separates the elite teams from the teams that struggle. We’re going to try and establish that and support the kids and making sure they are holding each other accountable and building each other up.”
Wecker said his goals for the 2021 season are mostly culture-related.
“We want to make sure, especially coming off of last year, that we get these kids to love the game,” Wecker said. “I know that sounds like a cliche, but we want to get back to having fun. We all missed it last fall. And I want to make sure these kids all know their job on the field, and how to do that well. Once we get that mindset going, we can play fast and aggressive and get rolling.”
The Cougars, who will compete in the Eastern Suburban Conference for the first time, will open their season at New Glarus/Monticello on Friday, Aug. 20.