Video: Recap - Maine South vs. Lincoln-Way East, 2016
See coach David Inserra's team in action last season.
The Maine South (Park Ridge, Ill.)
Hawks won a Class 8A title and went 11-3 last year in the highest level of football in the state of Illinois. It was their 4th state championship in the last nine years, a tremendous feat! Head coach David Inserra gave MaxPreps an inside look at their championship program.1. What does your program do differently from others in your league, conference or state that helped you win a state championship?
We have won four championships in the last nine years and we have played for eight championships in 17 years. I believe we outwork everyone in our state in the offseason. We work out after school so there is no time clock tying us down. We can go for 90 minutes or 2.5 hours. You will often find us competing in workouts at 6 p.m. on a Friday afternoon (school is out at 3:15) while everyone else has long been home. We work out together (unless you are in season with another sport - I trust those coaches to work our guys hard) and get the most out of our athletes as a team.2. What do you consider to be the most important aspect of your state championship?
The most important aspect is we stayed together as a team when we were 4-3 (literally two plays away from being 6-1). While sticking together we came back and beat two teams in the playoffs (round 2 and the championship) that beat us in weeks 2 and 3 of the regular season. We could literally measure our improvement. After going 4-3 we started to play more players both ways - our studs made plays.3. What is one piece of advice you would give to a coach wanting to win a state championship?
It takes some luck, some breaks and staying injury free at a time of the year where that is not easy to do. Preparation is key, practicing smart is key and creating your opportunities is essential. You cannot control your seed, the other team, the weather or the refs, so focus on what you can control - your players, your staff and your team. We practice long during the season so when longer days evolve during the playoffs it is not a shock to our players. We are geared toward November football (our championships are the weekend after Thanksgiving Thursday).
4. What kind of offense did you run? How did it give your program an advantage?
We run a spread, shotgun offense that will take advantage of what you give us. We can run for 300 yards one game and throw for 300 yards the next game. My offensive coordinator Charlie Bliss is a master of in game adjustments. We have averaged close to 40 points a game for 16 years. Our system is unique and Charlie is the architect.5. What kind of defense did you run? How does this give your program an advantage?
We run a 3-4 based on 5-2 principles. Most teams we play spread it so we will rush anywhere from 3 to 7 and mix in man and zone coverages. We play several guys both ways even though we have 70 players on our squad. We want the best athletes on the field, not sitting on the bench. Usually we run well to the ball and move up front the majority of our plays.6. Which of the special teams was most valuable this year, and why?
We had to be smart and creative in practice because our kicker Sean McNulty was an absolute player for us. He did all of our kicking (every phase) and never took a practice kick during the game because he started every snap at tackle on offense and took 75 percent of the snaps on defense at linebacker. He kicked 14 field goals, made 67 of 68 PATs (one was blocked), had an end zone rate of 82 percent on kickoffs and punted exceptionally well.
In the championship game, Sean played outstanding on offense, had the biggest hit of the game on defense, deflected a pass 25 yards down field in coverage, had a tackle for loss and on specials did the following: two field goals, four of five end zone kickoffs, four punts inside the 15 (three inside the 10 and one a 66-yarder) and 3-for-3 on PATs. He was legendary. Sean will attend the USMA at West Point to play football.7. Do you incorporate some type of character development within your program?
We do not use a program per se, but we are all about character. It is developed in the offseason with our intense workouts. It continues into the community with community service opportunities and outreach to our youth program. We talk about character issues every day of the year.8. Do you incorporate some type of leadership development within your program?
I try to develop leaders throughout the offseason, summer and into the season. We do not select captains. Our team will vote for the best captains, at the very end of the year, for that same season - not the next season. By not selecting captains I can see who rises to the top in workouts, in offseason game days (once a week competitions), in the weight room and in the school.
A core group of guys will take charge. They will become my "go-to guys" and I will seek advice, counsel and team management issues with them but those guys can shift a bit during the year. We have line leaders for warm-ups once the season starts but it's fun to watch guys step up and take charge when one of the leaders gets injured or has to miss a practice. These guys often become essential parts to our team leadership as well.9. What is the No. 1 obstacle you face in building a championship-caliber program in your community?
We have tremendous community and school support. We have a town of 37,000 but they refer to it as Mayberry, USA. It has a very small-town feel with many people moving back as adults. We are always one of the smallest schools in the largest class in Illinois. Our biggest obstacle is that our community and school offer so much to kids that they have options.
We will work with any athlete that wants to play multiple sports. We want them with us so we will make sacrifices to allow them to play for us. They are kids and they should have fun. Our players have a great experience and we preach it is all about the program: past players (we had 140 former players attend our very last practice to send our boys off to state), future players (current players are assigned to some 32 youth in-town and travel teams) and the current group.10. Who do you consider to be your main mentor in this profession and what about that coach do you try to emulate in your program?
My main mentor in coaching is Phil Hopkins. I played for coach Hopkins in the 80's, assisted him straight out of college in the 90's, and was fortunate enough to take over for him in 2000 after he won his last game in the Illinois state championship. I have stuck to many of coach's principles on the field and in the offseason. He was ahead of his time.
My dad was the best dad ever and my best friend. He taught me the essential skills to deal with people and players, treat others how you wanted to be treated, and develop character through family values. He helped coach some of my youth teams but he was not a coach by trade. My dad understood people. He grew up in Monongahela, Pa., and he captained the 1953 Indiana Hoosiers football team.
I had the privilege to watch and study Chuck Noll, Danny Murtaugh, Chuck Tanner and Bobby Knight as a young man. More recently I have also learned from Bill Mallory, Jim Leyland, Bill Cowher, Mike Tomlin and Clint Hurdle. I study coaches but these men are at the top of their profession and first class people. Every day is a chance to learn and I take advantage of it.
Chris Fore is a veteran Head Football Coach and Athletic Director from Southern California. He consults coaches and programs nationwide through his business Eight Laces Consulting.