ROXANA – The tradition of Roxana High School football that was established by Charlie Raich will enter a new era tonight when the Shells travel to Piasa Southwestern to open the season.

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Wade DeVries was named to the position during the off-season after Pat Keith took the job as the Piasa Bird coach; ironically, DeVries opens his account with the Shells at 7 p.m. tonight when he and the Shells meet up with the Piasa Birds and Keith.

DeVries is learning about the traditions established by Raich and his successors over the years after coming to Roxana from a stint at Oakwood, located in the Danville area in east-central Illinois not far from the Champaign-Urbana area.

“I’m learning about the traditions,” DeVries said. “I’m from the area, but not really from the South Central (Conference area, which the Shells call their conference home today), so I’m learning the tradition quickly; I’m anxious to be back in the area – the community has been great, the sports have been great, it’s really a lot of fun.

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“The South Central’s going to be good; there are some teams that I know return a lot of guys, I know there’s a lot of good coaches – we know we’re going to have our work cut out for us every week; I haven’t looked much past Southwestern, we’ve been really focused on them for about a week or so and just getting better. I think if we continue to get better every single day, I think we’ll be all right on Friday.”

The irony of DeVries opening against Southwestern and the Shells’ previous coach isn’t lost on DeVries. “It’s like ripping a Band-Aid off,” DeVries said. “You’ve got to do it at some point – you may as well do it in Week 1. Everybody’s excited for Week 1 and playing the old coach kind of adds a little bit to it, a little bit extra excitement for the community, the kids and I think they’re excited for it.”

DeVries’ football philosophy is basic – the top priority is eliminating mistakes. “A lot of it is game-plan specific,” DeVries said, “but I think the No. 1 thing is eliminating mistakes; I think that’s the most important thing. You have to eliminate mistakes, and if you get beat by a good football team, you tip your cap and shake their hand, but I believe in not beating ourselves.

“We can’t give up big plays on defense, we can’t turn the ball over or have silly penalties on offense; we’ve got to make a big play on special teams. Mistakes are going to happen, but I think there are mistakes and mistakes that can cost you. You’ve got to eliminate the big mistakes. Those things are going to happen and some of those are out of your control. I talk about trying to control what we can control and things like turning the football over, silly penalties, false starts – you’ve got to eliminate those."

DeVries continued: “A lot of it is eliminating the explosive plays; we’ve got to make them put a drive together and teams are capable of doing that,” DeVries said. “If they drive and drive and drive and are able to score - they practice football too and you’ve got to tip your cap. I think we need to make them put a drive together, make them grind it out – play good fundamental football – tackle, get to the football, get 11 guys to the ball and if you can do those things, you can play some pretty good defense.”

The Shells are coming off a 1-8 mark from last season; DeVries knows that there’s quite a bit of work to do to get the program back up. “It never ends; you’ve just got to keep working, keep getting better.” DeVries said, “Making sure that when we leave at 6 o’clock, we’re better than we were at 3 o’clock, and if we do that day in and day out, we can be hard to beat. That’s all you can ask for from your team, make yourself hard to beat and trust the process.”

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