The Crete-Monee football program reached the top of the mountain this year by winning the Class 6A state title.
Thursday, coach Jerry Verde left to take the head coaching job at Marian Catholic High School, his alma mater. He did not leave the cupboard bare as there is plenty of talent returning and plenty in the lower levels.
It's funny that the week of the state championship game, the Warriors practiced on Marian's FieldTurf so as to get acclimated to playing on an artificial surface like the one at Illinois' Memorial Stadium.
Usually, it is a pay cut for a coach to leave a public school for a private school, but the Marian people stepped up with as good of if not better financial package than Verde had at Crete. Returning to where he played his high school ball is enticing. Give the Marian boosters credit for stepping up and putting their money where their mouths are. They didn't talk; they delivered.
Verde's departure may be a wake-up call to the people who live in District 201. Marian's football facilities are better than Crete's. I am not saying spend millions to build a new facility because in these tough times, that is asking too much. What Verde will have at Marian is the support of the Marian community, and somehow I do not think he had full support from the communities that feed into the high school.
Though Distirct 201 is a unified district, the word "unified" is anything but true when it comes to everyone agreeing on something. There are people or groups who can step up and maybe improve the facilities.
The first step for the administration is to name a new coach. With the Christmas break, it probably will not happen until January. Crete needs a smooth transition, and offensive coordinator John Konecki, if he is interested, would be the right man.
Konecki knows the kids, loves the school, the program and ran the offensive show for Verde. He also has head coaching experience, having coached women's professional football. If you ever had the opportunity to sit with John, you'd know he was always looking for ways to make the Crete offense more potent — if that was possible.
He knew he had an All-American wide receiver in Laquon Treadwell as well as an all-state wide receiver in Lance Lenoir, and an all-state quarterback in Marcus Terrell. Konecki made sure his all-state quarterback hit those two top receivers, and he and assistant coach Greg Schneider worked with the offensive line to make sure Terrell got the protection he needed. The Warriors offensive line allowed just four sacks all season.
This is a crucial hire for the program and the community. Verde took the team to the next level and it is important that the guy they hire can keep it there.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.