Dave Ernst has a lot to get used to at Lincoln-Way West. Never mind that Ernst has been coaching high school football since 1989, because this new job is something that can get overwhelming pretty quickly.
“The biggest change is managing my time with all the other things that come up, like scheduling buses — for the first game (Friday night at Sycamore),” Ernst said. “I have to try to do a better job with my time so football doesn’t suffer.”
So the anxiety is not a surprise since Ernst is in his first season as the Warriors’ head coach. He takes over from Mark Vander Kooi, who became the athletic director at Lincoln-Way East this school year.
Ernst has worked his way up through the football ranks. He was an offensive coordinator at Providence from 1989 to 2000, cutting his teeth under the legendary Matt Senffner, who is tied for second among Illinois football coaches with 300 victories.
“He is one of my good friends and he told me to be positive, because negative energy wears you out,” said Ernst, who also was an offensive coordinator at Lincoln-Way Central and West. “(Senffner said) head coaches who are negative don’t last long.”
Ernst said he has also relied on advice from another good friend, Rob Glielmi, who coached at Lincoln-Way Central for 16 years and won the Class 6A state championship in 1997.
“I’ve relied a lot on those two guys, as far as different things go, and Mark VanderKooi has also helped — since all four Lincoln-Ways have their idiosyncrasies,” Ernst said.
Even though the West program is young compared with others in the area, Ernst already is looking up at what his predecessor accomplished. VanderKooi led the Warriors to the SouthWest Suburban Red title in 2011 and Class 5A playoff appearances in two of the program’s three years of existence.
The Warriors have some work to do under Ernst, and surely nothing will come easily. But Ernst thinks West may have an edge with offensive lineman Colin McGovern, a Notre Dame recruit, anchoring a group that is probably the Warriors’ strength.
“The rest of the offensive line is physical and strong and we feel like that is one of our strengths,” Ernst said.
Another strength is Warriors’ receiver Adam Slattery, tight end Alex Poswick and tailback Nick Dangles. A transfer from Bloom who could make an impact is LaVonte Blackful, a speedy receiver/quarterback who should get more reps at receiver. Another offensive player to watch is quarterback Justin Keuch.
Returning defensive players include defensive tackle Keegan McShane, linebacker Jack Bohne and the backfield combo of identical twins Andrew and Alex Gray at the safety position.
The Gray brothers are joined in the backfield by three-year starter Andy Hensel at cornerback.