From Fifth to First

BY MARK COUCH

Eight years. That’s how far back you have to go until the last time the Green Knights football team went 8-0. That 2007 team ended the regular season 10-0, winning the Midwest Conference Championship, and advancing to the NCAA Division III playoffs.

This year’s Green Knights team has an opportunity to end the season undefeated, too. The Green Knights are now 9-0 under first-year head coach, Dan McCarty, after Saturday’s victory over Macalester College, and they’re in first place in the MWC.

Coach McCarty was named Head Coach on Nov. 20, 2014, after serving as St. Norbert’s Defensive Coordinator last season. He is St. Norbert’s third head coach in as many years and has brought a new coaching style to the team. Last season, he inherited a 6-4 Green Knights team that finished fifth place in the MWC. So how exactly did the Green Knights go from an afterthought in the Midwest Conference last season to conference leaders this year? One possible answer seems to be the team’s new weekly practice schedule.

This season, McCarty has tried to require less of a time commitment from his players. He said that last season the coaching staff “asked our kids to do too much, especially in the offseason.”

Coach McCarty understands what it means to be a student-athlete and what a grind it can be. McCarty was a tight end at Eastern Michigan University, Northern Michigan University and UW-Eau Claire, where he earned All-America honors. From his time as a student-athlete, McCarty has come to understand that the “more-football-is-better” mentality isn’t always true.

“There has to be a balance between football and academics here at SNC,” said McCarty. That balance is not only helping his players’ GPAs, but it might also be a key factor in why the Green Knights are undefeated this season.

Coach McCarty preaches player freshness going into every Saturday.

“Our weekly practice schedule has a much stronger emphasis on the mental side of the game than the physical”, said McCarty.

He praised offensive coordinator Al Johnson and defensive coordinator Ryan Osborn for their parts in the mental preparation before games, specifically “creating schemes and game plans and putting us in positions to be successful.”

This extra emphasis on the mental side of the game means fewer hits in practice every day, which of course leads to fewer injuries and a well-rested team for game day. Coach McCarty decided to move the usual Friday “walk thru” practice to Thursdays in order to give his players a couple days of rest and recovery before games.

Senior cornerback and team captain, Frank Laterza ’16, spoke about the new practice schedule: “We haven’t really had in-season injuries to the magnitude that we did last season, and that goes back to the new schedule that keeps us fresh. This year, we are a lot fresher going into each game.”

At first, the new schedule might have seemed unfamiliar and odd for some of the team, but the team’s performance this season suggests that it is effective.

The Green Knights are dominating their opponents each Saturday they play. They’ve outscored their opponents 293-76 while averaging 37 points a game to their opponents’ 10. They’ve created 20 turnovers and only turned the ball over six times for a turnover differential of +14, good for third in the nation. The Green Knights are ranked seventh in the country in scoring defense.

“It’s fun to watch our defensive unit doing its job on every play. Coach Osborn has a great scheme that our guys believe in and have great confidence in”, said McCarty.

With both the offense and defense firing on all cylinders, it’s no surprise St. Norbert is sitting in first place in the MWC.

The future looks bright for the SNC football program under McCarty.

“I’m really excited about the future. I know we will continue to find the best possible talent we can that fits what we are looking for,” said McCarty.

Laterza commended Coach McCarty, saying, “You know he’s going to give you everything he has. He’s a good coach, but he’s an even better mentor. He does a fantastic job of creating relationships with his players.”

If Coach McCarty can continue to establish player-coach relationships and he and his coaching staff can stay ahead of the game with their mental preparation, there’s no telling how many championships the Green Knights can bring to De Pere.

HCgame3 HCgame2 HCgame1

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