COACH’S CORNER: Peotone’s Tolly Tsiamas
PEOTONE — The one-year leap Peotone and its football program made last season was nothing short of spectacular.
The Blue Devils finished with the best record in school history at 9-2, saw school records broken and snapped losing streaks all at the same time.
But that was last year. Now, a new challenge lies ahead in 2018.
The Daily Journal caught up with head coach Tolly Tsiamas to talk about summer camp and replacing a historic senior class, among other subjects.
Question: Let’s start with summer camp. How did it go and what were some things you guys worked on?
Tsiamas: Summer has been really good for us. Everybody knows that we lost a big senior class so some of camp has been figuring out new pieces to the puzzle, and it’s come along really nicely. There’s an excitement level with these kids that I’ve never seen before, including last year. These kids love to practice and it’s been nothing but great energy from top to bottom.
Question: Some big losses for you guys include a massive offensive line and the school’s all-time leading rusher in Chandler Gartner. How can you guys replace that production this year?
Tsiamas: We actually tried something different last year and had the sophomores practice with the varsity kids. To say it benefited us would be a huge understatement. The sophomore team went 7-2 last year and a lot of it was because they saw how varsity guys practice. Now they’re making the transition to varsity and it’s been really easy for them. They’re at the point where they’ve heard all the talk about us losing Gartner, Dillon Buege, Riley Koehn and others, but they’re not chopped liver either and they want to continue carrying a tradition last year’s class started.
Question: It’s not only two outstanding running backs you guys have to replace, it’s the quarterback as well. Although you’re not a team who throws the ball much, how’s that competition been for that job?
Tsiamas: Max Gesswein will be the guy under center for us now. He was the sophomore quarterback last year. He understands the ins and outs of the offense since it’s his second year in the system. Obviously it’s different being on the varsity level, but he commands his huddle and there’s things he can do that are different than what Trevor (Schwiesow) did last year. It’s been a seamless transition and he knows what we expect out of him.
Question: Staying with the running backs, Ryan Brewer is back for you guys and he’ll handle a bulk of the carries. What are you expecting from him this season?
Tsiamas: I’ve known Ryan since he was in seventh grade and he’s always been a running back. He’s a very athletic kid, but we’ve had Gartner and Buege in front of him for carries. We brought Ryan up as a sophomore because he was too good not to have on the field that we asked him to play receiver, tight end, and then fullback ... all while he was a linebacker and he did everything so well. He’s probably the most unselfish kid I’ve met in my life. He offered to say at fullback and I shot that down quickly. I think he’s due for a big year as long as we have to guys to block up front.
Question: Who have been a couple guys that you’ve seen really step up their game this summer?
Tsiamas: Branden Bias was a defensive only starter for us and he’ll play that other wing back position this year. Ashton Joslin was a guy we expected to just play on the defensive line for us and he’s making it really tough to keep him off of the offensive line now. Nate Battiato started as a junior for us and has had a great summer. When we do pass the ball, Hunter Brunke is a name to watch out for. He’s also going to be our free safety. Colton Sloan started at corner in the playoffs for us, he’s back as well. Logan Heflin is an absolute monster and I can’t wait to see what he does this year.
Question: The mentality is much different this year. Peotone came off a 4-5 season going into last season, and now you’re coming off the best record in school history. How do you sustain that momentum this year?
Tsiamas: When the junior class were freshmen, they were 0-7. Last year, they finished 7-2 so they have a winning attitude. One thing that is huge is that, as a staff, we’re all together for a third straight year. The team right now resembles the one that went 4-5 two years ago, but we’ve matured as a staff to where we can handle that situation and I believe our players can as well. We’re ready for August 24 to come so we can do our talking on the field.