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Prep Notebook

Prep Sports Notebook | Kozuszek makes numbers work at Nashville

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Nashville football coach Stephen Kozuszek in team huddle

Nashville football coach Stephen Kozuszek addresses his team huddle following a 47-22 victory over Anna-Jonesboro in a SIRR-Mississippi Conference matchup on Sept. 17.

The guy who’s taken Nashville’s football team to its second Class 2A championship game in three years didn’t have any intentions of coaching when he graduated from SIU Edwardsville.

In fact, Stephen Kozuszek spent his first two years out of college as an accountant, a world far removed from Xs and Os. That time in the white collar world helped Kozuszek come to an epiphany.

“I realized it wasn’t for me,” he said Monday morning.

What was for Kozuszek? Try teaching and coaching, his way of staying involved with the sports he loved growing up in Nashville. He was a three-sport athlete for the Hornets, although he didn’t play sports at SIUE.

He started coaching as a volunteer assistant in 2010 and became a defensive coordinator the following year. After that came a four-year stint as the offensive coordinator under Tim Kuhn, who took the Hornets to a 2A semifinal in 2015.

When Kuhn left after the 2016 season, Kozuszek took over. After a 4-5 2017, it’s been nothing but winning for Nashville. Its record over the last four seasons is 37-6 with consecutive SIRR Mississippi titles and now a second trip to DeKalb for Friday’s 1 p.m. title game with Wilmington. 

A Hornets win would make them the first Southern Illinois school to win a state championship since Harrisburg captured the Class 3A title by going 14-0 in 2000. It would also be Nashville’s first state title in football.

And for an alum who would probably bleed red and royal blue if you cut him, a state title would be that much more meaningful.

“I live across the street from the high school,” Kozuszek said. “I think all of our assistants played here too, so it makes it that much more special. It just gives it more meaning. Everyone here has a lot of pride and wants to get it done.”


Prep boys basketball season started Monday night with some regular season games and a handful of Thanksgiving week tournaments, including the traditional events at Vienna and Christopher. Nashville is hosting its normal week-long girls basketball event as well.

A couple of intriguing games on the boys side will take place at Herrin and Vienna. On Tuesday night, the Tigers take on Marion in a Williamson County rivalry that will probably fill Memorial Gym.

On Friday night, Class 1A power Cobden will test defending SIRR Ohio champion Massac County in a 7 p.m. start at Vienna. It will give the Appleknockers a chance to see how their new backcourt will hold up against a tough defensive team like the Patriots.


Drew Stokes (Murphysboro) propelled Colorado School of Mines to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference volleyball title Saturday night in Denver with 50 assists and 16 digs in the Orediggers’ 3-2 win over Mountain State, the top-ranked team in Division II.

Stokes added three aces for Mines (26-3) as they earned the conference’s automatic bid for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Her 1,220 assists this year is the eighth-highest for a season in school history; she already owns the third and fifth-best marks.

Averi Vanderzille (Carterville) finished her freshman season at SIU on Saturday with three blocks and a kill in the Salukis’ four-set loss to Indiana State. Vanderzille collected 28 kills and 38 blocks in 23 matches despite playing with a torn labrum that limited what she could do.

Elaine Shaneyfelt (Pinckneyville) rolled up 507 assists in 27 matches at John A. Logan, which finished the year at 15-12. Lexi Hobbs (Fairfield) collected 454 digs and 17 service aces for the Volunteers.

Megan Barton (Carterville), who signed a scholarship with Bradley earlier this month, is averaging 13.5 points and 8.3 rebounds through six games at Rend Lake. Barton is canning 47.8 percent of her shots while leading the team in assists at 2.8 per game.


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