Hillsboro looked internally to fill its head coaching positions for the boys and girls soccer teams and the football team.
Sam Nansel, a 2004 graduate of Hillsboro, will replace Chris Schacht as the Hawks’ soccer coach, and Bill Sucharski (Hillsboro, 1996) is the new head coach on the gridiron, following the resignation of Lee Freeman. The Hillsboro R-3 Board of Education approved both hires at its meeting on June 25.
Schacht, who coached soccer at Hillsboro for more than two decades, started his first day Wednesday as the school’s activities director.
“(Nansel) was the obvious choice,” Schacht said. “He knows the program as a player and a coach. It makes me proud to hire somebody who came up through the program.”
Schacht said he was impressed with Sucharski’s organizational skills.
“He has ideas of how he wants to change things,” Schacht said. “He seemed like the logical choice. He had a meeting with a bunch of coaches and talked about the return protocol for sports. When the meeting ended, he and some other coaches were talking and he looked like he was running the meeting already. He’s got that leadership quality, too.”
Sucharski, 41, lives in Hillsboro with his wife and three children. His father, James Sucharski, was the superintendent at Hillsboro (1988-1995), Bayless, Bismarck R-5 and the Missouri School for the Blind. James died on the first day of 2018.
Brian Sucharski, Bill’s brother, teaches science and coaches the school’s golf team.
Renee Sucharski, Brian and Bill’s mother, is on the district’s Board of Education after teaching science for 34 years at eight different schools.
Bill met his wife, Sara, when he played football while attending Quincy (Ill.) University. His cousin, Alex Rouggly, is the head football coach at Jefferson.
“I grew up with my parents always being there for me,” Bill Sucharski said. “I can remember on snow days going to school with my dad and shooting hoops in the gym all day.”
Bill Sucharski was the head football coach at Herculaneum (2004-2006) for three seasons and has been a part of the Hillsboro football staff for 15 years, the last few as the offensive play caller.
Freeman left Hillsboro with a record of 43-26 (.623) and the Hawks won the Class 4 District 1 championship in 2017. Bill Sucharski has been a part of coaching several dynamic players, including Isaiah Martin, Luke Skaggs, Micheal Keller and last year’s freshman phenom, Jaxin Patterson.
Patterson topped 40 carries in a game twice last season, rushing 43 times against De Soto and 44 against Sikeston. His relentless work in the weight room kept him upright, but if the rest of the backfield stays healthy this fall, Sucharski said there shouldn’t be the need to pound Patterson at defenses that many times a game.
“He can be a very good defensive player for us,” Sucharski said. “If he plays on both sides of the ball, we’ll have to play others to spell him. He goes as hard in practice as he does in a game.
“We have had good running backs every year and we’ve been a good running team throughout the years.”
Like every other coach, Sucharski is gearing up for his first camp in a world that’s seen stops and starts in sports and most other aspects of life since the coronavirus pandemic began months ago. Football has been listed as a high-risk sport by the National Federation of State High School Associations. There are too many unknowns to count when it comes to what high school football will be like when and if a season gets underway in late August.
“We’ve told the kids what they can and can’t do and we do that every day,” Sucharski said. “In the heat of the moment when someone scores a TD and they can’t celebrate with their teammates, it will be a ‘Twilight Zone’ kind of moment. But we have to stay vigilant with them. The biggest thing you explain to the kids is we don’t want a couple of guys jeopardizing the season. We’re not sure what the Health Department is going to say if you get a couple of positive cases.”
Sucharski’s assistant coaches this season are Bobby Anderson, Tom Ludwig, Frank Ray, Ryan Bubulka, Mike Wattle, Ben Llufrio, Lance Kiggins, Don Horn and Kevin Bishop.
New soccer coach brings plenty of experience
Nansel, 34, was a two-time all-state goalkeeper for the Hawks during his junior and senior years. He lives in Hillsboro, is engaged, and has a 10-month-old daughter, Sage. Nansel was Schacht’s assistant and primary goalkeeper coach the last seven years. He played college soccer at Fontbonne University.
Hillsboro advanced to the Class 3 state quarterfinals last year and lost to Webster Groves.
“I want to keep the program going in the right direction,” Nansel said. “The boys ended on a high note last season in the quarterfinals. Eventually I want to put my own stamp on the program.
“The players had an immense amount of respect for Chris. I hope to provide a great experience for those students now and in the future.”
Nansel has already had a positive impact on the students at Hillsboro as the school’s director of Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG).
“The goal of JAG is to help certain students transition from high school into the real world,” Nansel said.
One of the projects Nansel and his students participated in this past school year was called Cyber Seniors, a pilot program at Jefferson College. The college students taught seniors how to navigate the world of technology and participate on social media to make it easier for them to communicate with their families. Nansel said the program has garnered state awards and finished in third place at a national competition last year.
“It’s a program that can be tough to run but he’s done a great job of it and that told me he can run our soccer program also,” Schacht said.
On the pitch last fall, the Hillsboro boys finished 19-6-1 and beat Windsor 1-0 to claim the Class 3 District 2 championship. The Hawks and Owls have met in the District 2 final the past four years, with both teams winning twice.
Nansel has mentored some quality goalkeepers for the Hawks. Last season, A.J. Krasnesky, who will be a junior this fall, posted 11 shutouts for the stingy Hawks, who allowed 33 goals in 26 games. Before Krasnesky, Nansel instructed Seth Oshia and Joe Bogowith between the pipes. Nansel said he knows he won’t be able to devote as much time coaching one position.
“You can train anyone to stop shots, but to be a true goalie you have to have a strong mental game and play beyond the mistakes in front of you,” Nansel said. “I always preach to the goalies that game management is as important as saving shots.”
Because COVID-19 shut down high school sports in the spring, the girls soccer season was canceled. Like the boys, the Hillsboro girls soccer team has been locked in a struggle to win the District 2 crown against Windsor. The Owls won in 2019 and the Hawks in 2018.
One of Nansel’s toughest duties this school year, he said, will be getting the girls back to form after missing an entire season of competition.
“It will have a pretty big impact,” he said. “When I look at our team, we had a couple of successful seasons, then that core graduated and (2020) was going to be a rebuilding year and they lost out on all that training and experience.”