Dennis Burgin has coached football at just about every level besides the professional game.
He’s about to embark on a new challenge.
Burgin, an Aurora resident who played football in high school at Wheaton Academy and collegiately at Wheaton College, has been hired as the coach at Parkview Christian Academy as the Yorkville school is set to field its first 8-man football team this fall.
Parkview will do so as part of a co-op with Families of Faith Christian Academy in Channahon. There were 24 8-man football programs in Illinois last season.
“We’re hoping it will have a positive effect on our school and our community, now that kids have an option to experience football,” Burgin said.
This will be Burgin’s second experience starting a program from the ground up. He was coach for Crossroad Christian’s home school team for four years. He has also helped coach youth football for St. Paul. Raphael youth football in Naperville and helped out at Aurora Christian when his middle son played there.
Burgin first considered the idea that Parkview start its own football program seven to eight years ago, when his son started to go there. At that time, Parkview was much smaller, and 11-man football the only option in Illinois.
“Eight-man started five years and I kept my eyes on it that first season, I thought maybe this is something Parkview could do,” Burgin said. “Third season, we started to think about pulling the trigger – and then COVID hit and the rest is history. This past December, we thought we might try to start this thing. Things started to align from there.”
Burgin is guessing he’ll have 25-30 kids come out for football this fall. They’ve already had an offseason strength and conditioning program, getting guys some football experience.
“We have a lot of kids who have never played football before, but some kids who have,” Burgin said. “One kid from Families of Faith, he’s played three years of high school football so he has three years of football under his belt. We have a kid who is a freshman, an amazing athlete, his dad played 11 years in the NFL, he’s been on a 7-on-7 club that’s won a national championship. And then we have kids who have never put a helmet on.”
Burgin himself has never coached 8-man football, nor has he ever played it. But he’s quickly getting an education on the game through internet research.
“The general gist of it is that it’s a faster, higher-scoring game. It’s not unusual for scores to resemble a low-scoring basketball game, more than a traditional football game,” Burgin said. “Having said that, the final score of last year’s state championship game was 13-6.”
The 8-man game is a good alternative for a small school like Parkview that wants to start a football program.
“It’s easier from a numbers standpoint; you don’t need to have as many kids to practice for one thing,” Burgin said. “While the football field is narrower, it’s the same length, so you still have to defend and utilize the same areas of the field. Your mind has to think differently and you have to be a little more creative.”
Parkview will play in the 8-man North 1 Division, and is scheduled to play its first game at Alden-Hebron Aug. 26. The Falcons currently have a bye week in Week 2, but is looking to try to perhaps plug in a game with an out-of-state team. The rest of the season will feature games with Hiawatha, Ashton-Franklin Center, Galva, Blue Ridge, Harvest Christian, Rockford Christian and South Beloit.
Parkview is finalizing plans to play its home games at a municipal field with brand new artificial turf.
“Our concept for this year was that we are team one,” Burgin said. “It’s unusual for any athlete to be a part of the first team ever, regardless of sport. Most teams have been around 80, 90 years. My oldest son was part of the 121st team at East Aurora. It being new, it’s interesting, and now that we’re co-oping it means something different uniting and unifying these schools. Our slogan is one God, one team, one goal.”