DeLaSalle’s C.J. Hallman and St. Thomas Academy’s Jason Sedlak are learning to run an entire high school football program rather than a position group or just the offense or defense. In Coon Rapids, veteran coach Greg Malling is applying trusted philosophies in a new environment.
Talk about summer school. All three are placing an emphasis on allotted practice time in June and July to ensure they and their players are ready for the start of the season Aug. 15.
“You catch yourself taking a deep breath more often and saying, ‘This is new,’ ” said Malling, who left Wisconsin powerhouse Hartland Arrowhead for a rebuilding job at Coon Rapids. “You’re trying to be patient but not too patient. The level of intensity is nowhere near where it needs to be, but we’ll get there.”
The challenge is different for Hallman and Sedlak, former assistants tasked with maintaining program strength.
Hallman, 32, played on DeLaSalle’s Class 3A state championship team in 1999 and was an assistant when the Islanders reached state championship games in 2008 and 2014. The program had 13 consecutive winning seasons before going 3-7 last season.
With last season’s dip in mind, Hallman made restoration his one-word mission statement for fostering a winning culture at the Minneapolis private school near downtown.
Having a season like last year, “You can start to forget that you’re part of something bigger,” said Hallman, who coached the offensive line last fall. “When you remember that, there are fewer excuses and you show up more.
“I talk a lot about how football is a game of time and if you respect that time and put the work in, it will always give something back to you. We’ve really used the offseason so far to grow in that way.”
Sedlak, 41, served as defensive coordinator for the Cadets, who lost in the Class 5A title game in the Prep Bowl last fall. The former interim activities director at the all-male military academy in Mendota Heights was named just the fourth coach in 47 years.
“The goal of summer is teaching kids how to practice so when we start fall practice, we can just go,” Sedlak said. “I don’t want to get too complex. I want to kind of out-simple people.”
Malling, 42, brings a new level of sophistication to the Cardinals offense, installing a spread formation as the base look. Five receivers zigzagged down the practice field last week as quarterbacks learned to make correct reads and deliver the ball on time.
Under Malling, Arrowhead reached the past four Division 1 Wisconsin state championship games, winning big-school titles in 2012 and 2013.
The Cardinals won just six games overall in the past five seasons and went 0-9 twice. They have not won a playoff game since 2010.
“A big theme for us is finishing — finishing everything,” Malling said. “I hate when people don’t finish. We tell the kids in workouts, ‘You can win two games just finishing every play.’ ”
Through most of June and July, teams and individual players cannot participate in more than 11 days of practice and cannot have more than four practices with contact. All three coaches have impressed players with their ability to make limited time count.
“There was kind of a culture set that what we’re doing is OK, and if we work hard, we’ll be a success in life,” said Jack Scheck, a Coon Rapids senior middle linebacker. “That’s true. But there’s something good about success in games. Now someone who’s had success is here, so we’re excited.”
Sedlak, borrowing an idea from South St. Paul coach Chad Sexauer, had about 100 players stay overnight at a school lock-in for team-building activities. Senior tight end Charlie Flanagan, one of four captains, said he has noticed “intensity, especially in the weight room. We’ve gotten more guys in there, and that’s going to help us.”
The scene is similar at DeLaSalle.
“This summer the weight room atmosphere has been completely different,” senior receiver/defensive back Nick Moeller said. “It’s been more aggressive in terms of the way we’re doing things. We had to get everybody in there if we’re going to be better than last year.
“We’re really excited for the season to come,” Moeller said. “We’re all going to be more experienced, plus stronger and faster. We’ll be ready.”