Fall 2021 Football Coach of the Year: Unity’s Scott Hamilton | Sports

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Now a double recipient of the award, Hamilton’s 28th season at the helm of the Rockets was another achievement for the

Tolono-based program. It all started when Hamilton claimed his 250th career coaching victory in Week 1 against Prairie Central.

From there, the Rockets finished atop a formidable Illini Prairie Conference, ending their regular-season streak 9-0 with an overtime triumph at Monticello. Unity won the region’s only No.1 seed in the IHSA Football Playoffs, and then the real fun began. The Rockets won their first four playoff games – all at home at Hicks Fields as Unity outscored their four opponents 123-48 – to win the sixth trip of the program to the state title game under Hamilton. Unity didn’t get the end result they wanted, falling to Byron in the 3A State Championship match, but the

The Rockets have always left Huskie Stadium in northern Illinois with a state runners-up trophy. We asked Hamilton’s longtime defensive coordinator,

Dave Fink, to explain Hamilton’s enduring influence on Unity football and what made this season special for the Rockets coaching staff:

“When IHSA decided to have a shortened spring football season, Scott met us all and planned what football 2021 would look like. We owed our seniors to make the most of this season, but we wanted to also use it as a springboard to fall. We shortened the training sessions, simplified the playbook and our seniors were able to enjoy an unbeaten season. Our subclasses have benefited greatly, and the success we have had this fall is a direct result.

“As assistant football coaches at Unity, we have what is close to a ‘dream job’. We have a community that supports us, a school board and administrative team that provide us with everything we need, players who want to be coached and a Hall of Fame head coach to lead the way. With Scott, every assistant coach is given great responsibility and held to high expectations. Lasting success does not happen without all of these factors.

“I was fortunate to have coached 11 semi-finals and six state championship games. Each of these teams had something memorable about them. This year’s team is no exception. Whether against Monticello, Paxton-Buckley-Loda, Williamsville or Mt. Carmel, they never lost confidence, even when they were down in the game.

“This year has been special with 19 games in nine months. The fall season began with Scott winning his 250th game. We had to fight against some fantastic programs. We had the opportunity to experience four straight playoff games at home and make a trip back to the NIU campus. The semi-final victory over Mt. Carmel brought Scott’s total to 262 wins. My biggest hope is that he won’t be happy until he hits 300. There is something special about this place. We are the Unit.

Colin Likas is the Preparations Coordinator at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at [email protected], or on Twitter at @clikasNG.

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