The rebuild of the Shelbyville High School football program was daunting enough for first-year head coach Brian Glesing. Then along came a pandemic.
“I’ve never seen anything like it or been a part of anything like it,” said the veteran coach who was hired to bring the Golden Bears back to winning ways after just one win in the three previous seasons. “You never knew what was going to happen week to week.”
Glesing and the Golden Bears finished an unusual 1-6 when 10 games are the typical minimum for a high school football season. Shelbyville had a trio of Hoosier Heritage Conference games cancelled due to COVID-19 and contract tracing protocols.
“I don’t know how we would have done in those games we didn’t play but our kids responded well to a choppy season,” said Glesing, who is about to start his 20th season as a head coach.
Glesing’s rebuilding phase enters year two Friday night when Shelbyville travels to Madison to face the host Cubs and the Salem Lions in a football jamboree. The Golden Bears’ regular-season opener is Aug. 19 at McKeand Stadium against Greensburg.
“I hope our school year gets off to a good start and our athletics don’t have to deal with (COVID-19) anymore,” said Glesing. “That’s the way it was (last year), our kids fought through that adversity. We finished our season with a great, competitive sectional game against Richmond but came up on the losing end. I thought our kids played hard and it was a culmination of a good first year.”
Glesing was hired with the reputation of a coach that resurrects struggling football programs. In just his second game last season, he helped Shelbyville end a 26-game losing streak with a 22-16 win over Richmond.
That would be Shelbyville’s only win of the beleaguered season but there certainly was a new “buzz” around the program as the offseason arrived.
“The biggest thing to take from last year to this year in year two is our kids know what to do now,” he said. “They know what to expect. They know how practice is run. They know how the weight room is run. There are no surprises. They know what to do. And the upperclassmen that went through last year can teach our freshmen.”
The offseason game plan was simple: get stronger.
“It’s about getting great work habits and establishing our attitude, character and effort,” said Glesing. “We have a core of kids that are doing that right now. They understand it takes hard work, it takes commitment in the offseason and in season, in the weight room, in the speed and agility program, and doing all those things to get where we need to be competitive on Friday nights.”
Glesing spent all of 2021 evaluating talent. That included a senior and a sophomore quarterback sharing playing time. Eli Chappelow, now a junior, instantly became the starting quarterback at the end of last season and he has embraced the role.
“Eli has done a great job in our offseason program,” said Glesing. “He has done a great job leading our team. He is only a junior but he is going to command our team. I am looking forward to seeing how he develops now that he is playing full-time varsity whereas last year he was only getting two quarters.”
Chappelow (photo) says he is ready for the responsibility.
“I am more prepared than last year where I was getting about half the reps,” said Chappelow. “I am a captain this year and I will embrace that role this year in the classroom and on the field.”
Glesing is still intent on building the program from within, eschewing the more common practice of scrimmaging or doing 7-on-7 work in the summer months with other football programs.
“I am old school when it comes to it,” he said. “I think too many schools do too much. They have to find that happy medium. When I played football, I didn’t want to put pads on in June and July. If you start putting pads on them in June and July and start practicing, they will be ready for it to be over when it comes October. We want our kids fresh when we start in August.”
Glesing admitted, though, that summer 7-on-7 work is in the program’s future as it keeps growing.
“We are still focusing on ourselves to get our program what we need to do before we can start doing those things,” he explained. “Hopefully, next summer we can do some 7-on-7s against other schools.”
Shelbyville typically would be spending the final week before the football season kicks off preparing for a scrimmage against Rushville. The Lions were not going to be able to participate in a scrimmage with the Golden Bears this season but had an opening in week two on their regular season schedule.
The Golden Bears jumped at the opportunity to add an old rival back to its schedule this season.
“It’s a closer drive for us (than Richmond) and it should be a bigger crowd,” said Glesing. “We are excited about that. I think both teams are excited about that game.”