Prep Zone: Huntley's Hart cherishes chance to coach all-stars
When you have coached as long and experienced the success Huntley football coach John Hart has, you will be in demand.
Hart was asked to coach in the Semper Fidelis All-American Football Game last year when he was the head coach at nationally ranked Warren Central (Ind.). Hart was asked back to Carson, Calif., for the game again this year and coached with the East squad, which defeated the West, 17-14, Friday night at the Home Depot Center.
“For me, this is pretty cool,” Hart said. “At the time last year we were ranked seventh in the nation and I got selected. They asked me if I’d come back, and I said, ‘Yes.’ ”
Hart owns a 244-74 record in 28 seasons as a head coach. His teams also won two state championships in Indiana. In his first year at Huntley, Hart took the Red Raiders from 2-7 to 6-4 and to the Class 7A playoffs.
The Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl was one of three national All-Star high school football games over the weekend. The Under Armour All-American Game also was played Friday; the U.S. Army All-American Bowl was played Saturday.
“This one is probably the third-biggest All-Star game,” said Hart, who was in California for most of a week for practices and the game. “It’s a great honor to get to do this twice. I may never get to do it again in my life.”
Hart enjoys working with athletes he will see playing on Saturdays next season and meeting outstanding coaches.
“It’s more about relationships [with coaches] than anything,” he said. “Every kid here, 53 on each team, is playing at a major school in a major conference.”
Blanton chooses Madison: Richmond-Burton senior Ryne Blanton, a shortstop-pitcher, has committed to play baseball next year at Madison Area Technical College in Wisconsin. The Wolfpack was fifth in the NJCAA Division II World Series last year.
Blanton will be a third-year varsity player this spring for the Rockets. Last season, he was 9-3 with a 1.62 ERA, 79 strikeouts and 12 walks in 69 1/3 innings. He also hit .327 with one home run and 29 RBIs as the Rockets advanced to the Class 2A Augustana Supersectional, where they lost to Rock Island Alleman.
“I wasn’t getting a lot of [NCAA] D-I looks, so I decided I can go here and after two years, I hope I can go somewhere big,” Blanton said.
Blanton used to see himself as a position player and hitter at the next level, but that changed in the past year. After his outstanding season as a pitcher with R-B, he continued throwing well for Pro Player Consultants and the Racine Hitters, his two summer teams.
“I slumped a little bit with hitting, and I had a good summer pitching,” Blanton said. “I’m going to keep on working on pitching more.”
• Joe Stevenson is a senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.