Two schools familiar with championship success in the past decade have undergone changes to their coaching staffs the past two seasons as they look ahead to continue those consistent winning ways in 2016.
Troy Barr won five games with Aquin in his first year as Bulldogs head coach, but they just missed the playoff cutline last year. They'll have to get back to the IHSA bracket with a smaller lineup after snapping a seven-year streak of making the postseason, last winning state in 2005.
"We had a hard time stopping the run last year, and I'm afraid of stopping the run this year," says Coach Barr. We need bigger kids so we need the kids to play bigger. With that speed, we can get to the ball, but we'll have to stop the run."
Down the road in Stephenson County, Dakota welcomes Joe Free to the head coaching ranks after Rick Schmitz stepped down this past offseason. The Indians made the postseason in each of Schmitz's two years with the program, and for a school that won three state titles last decade, Free knows what's at stake as he tackles the responsibility of guiding Dakota back to the top.
"It's overwhelming, but I'm embracing it," Free says. "Dakota has such a great tradition, three state championships in their past. Coming from Byron, I understand how special those opportunities are to get those, for them to have three, it's overwhelming for me to be the caretaker of the program. I'm just really excited."