HARVARD – Harvard senior running back Christian Kramer knew what his first priority was after practice – phone some friends.
The Hornets’ numbers of junior and senior players was small to begin with – in the low 20s – and some players were missing for the first day of high school practices Monday morning.
“We have a few people gone,” said Kramer, who led the area with 1,290 yards rushing last season. “But we’re going to go home and contact them and make sure they’re here for next practice.”
First-year Harvard coach Sean Saylor said the junior and senior classes combined numbered about the same as last year’s senior class.
“We’re a little thin,” Saylor said. “We have one kid injured and another kid who needed his physical. I think a few kids had trouble getting up this morning.”
Harvard is coming off its best season in school history. The Hornets set a school record at 11-1 and lost to Rockford Lutheran, 28-24, in the Class 4A playoff quarterfinals. Along with the large senior class that graduated, Tim Haak, who was head coach for 29 seasons, retired.
Saylor was head coach in 2008 and 2009 at Bartonville Limestone, where the Rockets were 2-16. He was East Peoria’s defensive coordinator for the last three seasons.
“It’s fun. Being the head coach there’s more details you have to put together,” Saylor said. “The drills and language we’re talking, we have to be on the same page. It’s trying to make all that mesh so we use the same terminology.”
Kramer, quarterback Peyton Schneider and defensive lineman Zach Martin are among the starters returning, but Kramer and Schneider, both third-year starters, should give the Hornets a potent backfield running and throwing.
Schneider looks forward to throwing and running more, as Harvard will utilize a one-back set from pistol formations in the spread option.
“Last year, we were probably 75 percent run,” said Schneider, who completed 80 of 137 passes for 1,102 yards. “It’s fun being able to use my arm and legs, and having Chris behind me, being able to run a little bit. I haven’t ever ran [a lot] in high school.”
Kramer is small, but fast and could benefit from teams being spread out on defense.
“I enjoy it, it gives me more running space,” Kramer said. “We’ve been working on it all summer. It’s exciting because the whole season is starting and everybody’s getting used to football again.”
Saylor is not sure what the offense will look like just yet. He wants the Hornets to tailor it to suit their personnel.
“What do we need to be prepared for Week 1?” Saylor said. “And how does that progression allow us to get to that point and allow us to get to the playoffs? If you want a scheme to evolve to something else, you better put the ground work in to evolve to that. Our run game has the ability to evolve to more wrinkles. The same thing with the passing game.”