DO OR DIE BOWL DIARY: DAY ONE WITH THE WEST SQUAD
Arrived in Hannibal to instantly discover that Clark County's Kyle Kovar, Austin Egley and Logan Prewitt were sporting newly shorn mohawks. Prewitt's is a bizarre piece of art, with a strange bend in the back. It's really worthy of a column unto itself. Bryce Boudreau, who still hasn't received injury clearance to play football, says he was spared having to join the Mohawk Club, much to the delight of his girlfriend.
Special guest visitors included WCAZ Radio Play by Play man Keith Yex, 2012 DOD West Squad Alums Blayne White and Brice Caldwell of Palmyra, and reigning West Offensive MVP Scott Kroeger of Clopton/Elsberry. The now Lindenwood University Quarterback made my week by telling me last year's DOD Bowl was the most fun he ever had in a football game and that he walked out of Flinn Stadium last year feeling like the best part of the experience was "making 41 new friends." Then he went on to fully admit to tripping D'Angelo Dean in the backfield on purpose last season. Love that kid....
Most striking first impression: West Offensive Line is gigantic. Keokuk's Ryan Hawkins is killing it in the weight room, clearly and looks more physically now like a College Offensive Linemen. Two years from now, he will be the steal of Jeff Duvendeck's recruiting class at Culver Stockton. He's added 50 pounds to his max squat alone in the last month. Between the Keokuk and Centralia factions up front, sprinkled in with guys like Will Funkenbusch and Nathan Miller, this might be one of the more impressive Line Groups we have assembled.
Quarterback play was a first day plus as well. Gabe Vandenberg looks like the kid who was born to play in the Centralia Offense and his throws fit the Panther mantra perfectly: aim small, miss small. Erle Bennett could not stop gushing about Dalton Powell after practice, remarking twice to me what a great college quarterback he thought Dalton would be because he is so smart and coachable. Interestingly Truman State runs a pistol system not unlike the one Dalton is playing this week.
Speaking of the Quarterbacks, Dalton had a pair of rushing touchdowns in the team's only "live" session to close the day for Goal Line drills. Gabe had the play of the day rolling out on a bootleg and throwing back across his body to his Keokuk teammate Darrion Sanders who made a spectacular leaping snare for the TD. Beyond those three plays, however, the Quentin Hamner's defense largely dominated the drill.
Speaking of Defense, 2012 DoD Bowl Coach Tony DeGrave (assisting this year with the Defense) told me during practice he thought this year's West Defense might be even more impressive because the Defensive Line play is so very stacked. Kovar, Gruenloh, and Ross on the field together at the same time is flat unfair.
Always interesting to watch some of the really talented kids on teams that struggled get coached up and get a moment to shine on a bigger stage game. In that spirit, keep an eye on Van-Far's Brandon Billings at Nose Guard this week, who has a ton of raw potential and great size. He is a kid who may walk out of this week as twice the player he was stepping in the door. Saw the West Defensive staff take an interest in him during Goal Line Drills.
Brookfield's Ramzie Cooper has impressive burst to the football. Didn't get to watch him much this year but he is a difference making kid.
Centralia's Blair Thall has been converted to Tight End for this game. Caught plenty of good natured flak from Erle Bennett when he dropped a pass for "looking like a converted guard" out there.
Speaking of Erle, his Pencil Necks vs Guys with Beards theory deserves its own PHD level dissertation. The West Boss told his wide receiver that he wants them to work to the edge because "pencil neck Defensive Backs can hurt you; the guys with Beards (read Linebackers) can" This may be my new favorite Football Epiphany of all time.
Feature coming Tuesday at 6pm on KHQA about the window this week offers impressive, if somewhat under radar Mark Twain Tailback Tyler Steinkamp
I will be with the East Squad on Tuesday. Tune in here for more then.