Since 1985, Mike Noll has taken to the football field, fans roaring under Friday night lights, pushing players to work hard and play to the best of their abilities, with a constant goal in mind: commit to excellence. On Nov. 29, after 34 years of intense practices, reviewing countless hours of game film, hail Mary’s and upsets, victories and losses, Noll was able to take a group of young men from Richmond-Burton High School and capture his first state championship.
From the players who were lucky enough to play in the Championship game, to those who played a part in Noll’s development leading up to it, Coach Noll left behind a wake of men who were proud of their achievements, together, both on and off the field.
The Northwest Herald reached out to some of these past and recent players, handing them the Q-portion of this Q&A, with now Class 4A state champion coach Mike Noll.
Jace Sayler, tight end and defensive end, 1995-’97,
McHenry West Campus
Sayler: Does your wife still make you rice pudding before every game? Or do you have a different food now that you have to eat before the game as a superstition?
Noll: I don’t have any particular eating habits prior to or after games. I usually try and keep it very bland depending on how the game week has gone.
Sayler: Who, in football, did you idolize growing up?
Noll: When I grew up in northwest Iowa, we were Packer fans because my dad grew up in Milwaukee. During training camp, the Packers were very accessible. I talked to Ray Nitschke and Bart Starr and got their autographs. Both were great football players.
Dan Phillips, linebacker
and fullback, 1996-’97,
McHenry West Campus
Phillips: If you could interview someone from world history, who would it be?
Noll: If I could interview someone from world history it would be Gandhi, great leader. U.S. history, it would be Abraham Lincoln.
Phillips: Do you think the game of football still will exist in current form in 10 years?
Noll: The game of football will exist and grow in the next 10 years. We will keep making progress to improve equipment and technique, thus making the game safer.
Phillips: Is the Richmond-Burton state championship team the best you’ve ever coached?
Noll: The Richmond-Burton championship team is the best TEAM I have coached. They worked together extremely well and were very coachable.
Sean Quayle, 1997-’98,
wingback and safety,
McHenry East Campus
Quayle: What was your motivation to come out of retirement and lead a group of young men to a state championship?
Noll: Motivation is a difficult thing to explain. When I was retiring from teaching, I looked forward to going into a new environment and trying to prove myself. I interviewed for four to five positions and Richmond-Burton ended up being the best fit. When it comes to career, it is good to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation where you have to win over players, administration, teachers and parents. That is how you grow professionally, comfortable being uncomfortable.
Scot Josephs, 1996-’99, tight end, McHenry East Campus
Josephs: Which offensive play do you think has resulted in the most touchdowns over your career?
Noll: Our FB belly and traps have provided a lot of touchdowns. Our offense is very balanced, so some years we feature the wingback, some years the tailback, some years the fullback, and some years the quarterback. We make subtle changes in the offense each year to feature what we do best.
Josephs: Which school do you consider the biggest rival you’ve had in your career, and what made that rivalry so special?
Noll: Over the years we had many rivalries. When I started out at McHenry, the biggest rival was Woodstock High School. The games were intense, emotional, and fun to coach in. Our best games in the Fox Valley always occurred with Cary-Grove. They have a very good program and were always prepared for us.
Nick Heinz, 1997-’99,
quarterback and safety, McHenry West Campus
Heinz: What off of the field accomplishments are you most proud of?
Noll: Away from football I have maintained close relationships with the coaches and people I’ve worked with at both Glenbrook South and McHenry. The McHenry coaches and I go on a yearly trip to a new football venue each year for 16 years now. Good stuff. The most important thing away from football is family. We have six grandkids now, and it is a lot of fun.
Heinz: If there was one game that you could play over again, which one would it be, and why?
Noll: In 2006 at Glenbrook South, we lost a game late in the fourth quarter to Maine South. Looking back, that was a game that we really needed to win. It could have changed the trajectory of our program at GBS.
Dennis Hutchinson, tight end
and defensive lineman, 2000-’03, McHenry East Campus;
currently coaches Outside linebackers and wide receivers for Richmond-Burton High School with Coach Noll
Hutchinson: How would you compare yourself now, to when you first started coaching at McHenry?
Noll: When I retired two years ago, I gave a speech to the coaching staff at Glenbrook South about coaching experience and longevity. When I started in 1988 as a head coach, there is no way I was ready. In 1988, I knew about 35% as much about running a program as I do now, and about 25% as much about football as I do now.
Each year you study, you read books, you watch videos, you go to clinics, you network with other coaches, you go to college practices and, hopefully, you continue to get better. When you stop wanting to get better, you should stop coaching. I am excited to study hard this offseason and figure out what we can do better in our football program. As you become more experienced in coaching and teaching, you realize that if you get the relationships right in your classroom or program, you have a much better chance at success. We are much better at that now than we were 30 years ago or 15 years ago.
Scooter Macintosh, wingback and cornerback, 2000–’03, McHenry East Campus
Macintosh: Why the wing-T offense?
Noll: The wing-T offense is a fun offense to coach, and it gives a program inherent advantage. It is a flexible offense, and you can feature your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. Over the years we throw the ball a lot more than most wing-T teams. You see the modern-day wing-T in Clemson’s offense and Auburn’s offense. It is a detailed-oriented offense and a good system of football.
Macintosh: What allows you to be successful year in, and year out?
Noll: In order to be successful year in and year out, programs have to be built on the right values. We have always insisted that we will work hard in our program, be disciplined, have a positive attitude and put the TEAM first. None of that is easy. We live in a very narcissistic culture, but if you can get kids to buy in and care a lot, you will win for the most part. We are very process-driven: show up, work hard, do your job, win the day, and good things will happen.
Nick Ross, defensive end and offensive lineman, 2018-’19, Richmond-Burton High School
Ross: How long did it take you to develop a coaching staff that functions in order to get us prepared each week?
Noll: Our coaching staff has evolved since we started in April 2018. I think we have been blessed to have a good blend of experience and youth on the staff. Our staff is connected in many ways.
I have known Coach Wood for many years and appreciate his program at Grayslake North. Coach Johnson played for me in 1988 and was the OC at Grayslake North. I coached against Coach Benda when he was the quarterback at Woodstock and I was coaching at McHenry, and played summer baseball in Iowa with his dad. Coach ‘Hutch’ played for my last team at McHenry and is a fine track coach there. Josh Kuthe’s brother, Justin, played on our last quarterfinal team at McHenry. Coach Stanton was on Richmond-Burton’s state runner-up team. Bob Satkiewicz was one of the first people I met at Richmond-Burton. We were able to put together a staff with experience and hit the ground running, which is fortunate for our program. Our second year together was much easier; we are on the same page.
Matthew Hood, 2018-’19, center, Richmond-Burton High School
Hood: What does football mean to you from a coach’s perspective?
Noll: I believe the game of football is an excellent way to teach young people some very important values. Playing football is uncommonly hard, it is a grind that only players and coaches understand. As a coach, when you see young people grow and mature and learn from their experience in your program, it is gratifying. I have always loved the game, but I enjoy practice and preparation the most.