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Kevin Braucht couldn't recall what he did on the opening day of high school football practice last August. Likely, he was busy with his job as owner of Drive Appraisal, LLC.

Braucht knows exactly where he was on the first Friday of the 2018 regular season.

"I went out and played 18 holes by myself on purpose ... just kind of relaxed and wanted to stay away from it because it was tough," Braucht said.

For the first time in more than 20 years, football came and went without Braucht last season. After a 12-year run as offensive coordinator at Normal West, and assistant coaching stints at Central Catholic, Heyworth, Tri-Valley and University High before that, he was without a team.

"I was at Crestwicke (Country Club)," Braucht said. "My wife said, 'You want me to come out?' I said, 'No.' I walked 18 (holes). Actually, I think I played 22. I played a couple extra until it was too dark.

"Then I went home and enjoyed my family. I didn't even check scores the next day. I kind of stayed as far away from it as possible."

Golf will have to wait this year. When Central Catholic opens Aug. 30 at Pontiac, Braucht will be on the sidelines as the Saints' head coach.

Monday morning, he was on the lush green grass at Bill Hundman Memorial Field, directing the Saints through their first official practice.

"Back in the saddle," Braucht said with a wide grin. "It's like you never left. It really started in January (when he was hired) and then in June (summer workouts). But today, when the alarm went off at 4:30, I didn't have to hit the snooze button. I was ready to go."

A coaching change at West led to Braucht sitting out last season. He spent more time with his wife and their two daughters, enabling the family to "do some things in the fall we'd never got to do."

"I enjoyed my year off," he said.

Still ...

"I don't think there was any doubt that I would be back," Braucht said. "It was just a matter of when and where. Everything happens for a reason. It was a perfect time and place (at Central). It's a good fit for me and my staff.

"My girls are Corpus Christi (Grade School) girls. If things go well, I hope I can be here for the next 15 or 20 years."

A 1996 Central grad, Braucht was a starting linebacker on the Saints' 1994 Class 3A state championship team. He calls being Central's head coach "my dream job," and is determined to rebuild the Saints after last year's 0-9 season.

It came in Joe Walters' only year as head coach, a season which ended with a mere 22 healthy players in the program.

Monday, at 6:30 a.m. sharp, there were 45 players going through drills.

"We didn't have one guy late," Braucht said. "That may not be a big thing in some programs, but I think coming into this year, we wanted to make sure guys were excited and wanted to be here at 6:30."

Braucht wasn't the only former Saints player making his official return Monday. Bobby Crawford, a teammate of Braucht's on the 1994 title team, was a longtime Central assistant coach under former head coach Bobby Moews.

Crawford had not coached since 2013. 

"He was one of my first calls (in January)," Braucht said.

Crawford will be helping coordinate the defense as well as working with the defensive and offensive lines.

"We coached together at Heyworth 20-some years ago and here we are back at it," Crawford said. "Obviously, this was our dream to coach varsity together here. It's a good feeling.

"Things have changed in six years. But the first time you yell and blow a whistle, it feels like your're home again."

Braucht's staff also includes former West assistants Jeff Porter and Kyle Myers, former West player Cory Ortiz, former longtime Saints kicking coach Bud Concklin and former Saints players/assistant coaches Matt Neff and Jimmy Flynn, among others.

"It was good to get my network," Braucht said. "Everybody said yes, so I didn't have to reach out too far."

Braucht reached out plenty within the hallways at Central after being hired. He looked at rosters from the past three seasons and contacted anyone who had played football during that time, even if they didn't play a year ago.

The efforts were reflected in the numbers on the field Monday. Now, it's about coaching them up and getting the needle pointing upward again. The Saints had made the playoffs 14 straight years prior to last season.

Speaking of last season ...

"What did you shoot?" Braucht was asked.

"Oh ... I don't know," he said, laughing. "I'll tell you I shot par. How about that? I don't think it was about the score. It was about occupying my time."

A year later, the score matters again. Time is short.

And the coach is loving every second. 


Photos: Central Catholic football practice

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Contact Randy Kindred at (309) 820-3402. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_kindred

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Sports Editor

Sports editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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