Experience in football can mean everything or nothing; it depends on whom you ask. Hickman coach Gregg Nesbitt’s opinion is somewhere in the middle.
Few coaches in the state can top his experience. Today’s 7 p.m. kickoff against the Pattonville Pirates in Maryland Heights will mark the beginning of Nesbitt’s 24th season as a coach. His starting quarterback, junior Blake Tekotte, has one pass attempt in his Hickman career. Still, Nesbitt has confidence in him.
“He’s extremely intelligent; a 4.0-type kid,” Nesbitt said. “He’s easy to coach, and he’s also an outstanding athlete. He’s just not battle tested. He’s going to be a good player; the question is when.”
Pattonville will start an equally raw quarterback in senior Marquise Smith. Smith quit the team last season after failing to earn a starting job.
He is one of several unknowns facing Hickman. Doug Newton is entering his first season as coach. Don Greco resigned in April after 14 years. Newton’s promotion, coupled with the cancellation of Pattonville’s annual scrimmage, has made Pattonville’s offensive and defensive schemes a mystery.
“(Newton) is a first-time head coach,” Nesbitt said. “He’s only been at Pattonville for two years, so I’m certain he’ll put his own system in.”
Although his coaching strategies remain hidden, Newton is inheriting one of the state’s top programs. Before last season, Pattonville won eight district championships in a row. The Pirates also hold the state record for most district titles and lost in the state championship game in 2000.
Despite the arduous road trip ahead, Nesbitt thinks his team is up to the challenge.
“Every team reaches a point where it’s immaterial whether you’re ready or not and you need a ball game,” he said. “You’re tired of practicing, you’re stale and you need to compete to see where you are. That’s exactly where this club is at.”
Senior Kyle Nuelle is the only Kewpies starter who might not be ready to compete today. Nesbitt said Nuelle is a game-time decision with a high left ankle sprain. Nesbitt said he believes Nuelle has All-District potential at linebacker.
During Nesbitt’s coaching reign, Hickman has been known primarily for its explosive offense. In 2002, the Kewpies averaged a 10-year low of 18.2 points.
Nesbitt expects his best defensive playmaker from last season, Cedric Alvis, to provide a similar spark on offense. Alvis led Hickman with four interceptions as a sophomore last season while splitting time between cornerback and wide receiver.
“He’s a very exciting offensive player, as well as defensive,” Nesbitt said. “He has great lateral movement and a nose for the football.”
So far, Nesbitt has been impressed with his junior-dominated team’s level of competitiveness.
“We’ll see how it plays out,” he said. “They’ve been really enjoyable to coach. Coaches are always worried about inexperience, but I’m anxious to watch them play. I’m probably more anxious than they are just to let them get out there and see what’s going to happen.”