78
      Friday
      92 / 71
      Saturday
      91 / 73
      Sunday
      92 / 74

      Gimmie Something Good (Duerrisms for August 21st)

      Gridiron greetings my friends and welcome back to the little pigskin party we like to call Duerrisms. Hope your summer has been restful and relaxing. But now its time time to go to work.

      We will be here for your weekly perusal every Thursday morning when you wake up with breakdowns of the week that was, the week ahead, and of course, all the various random musings I can muster from my many sporting travels about the Tri States in all sports. And trust me, we go a lot of places and see a lot of sports every week.

      Obviously the once a week format here is a little limiting, so I would encourage you to join our very large and active Twitter and Facebook communities for news, opinions, and scores as they happen on Friday Nights. My Facebook landing page can be found here https://www.facebook.com/KHQAChrisDuerr and for the Twitterverse, we give you https://twitter.com/ChrisDuerr I will do my best to be entertaining and on point, though I can't guarantee that some random Sacramento Kings post game anger, Game of Thrones spoilers, and

      Lots of you have asked, we are still endeavoring to hit everyone in the area for our Barnstorm Tour. With the earlier Missouri Start this season, the Show Me State became first priority. So if we haven't gotten to our friends in Illinois and Iowa yet, we will. We are simply playing a new clock as best we can. As of this writing, Will Wilson and I have hit 22 high school football programs, two college teams, and a soccer squad in just over two weeks. That's not easy on such a short clock. Fortunately, we do still have a nice cushion to get this massive tour done before your respective opening night. And to our friends who golf, run cross country, play volleyball, soccer or softball; we certainly haven't forsaken you. We've got a list of potentially great stories to tell from all of your respective stories in relatively short order. Before the end of September, I am hoping you will all be sick of seeing us so much...

      GAME OF THE WEEK is getting a little tweaking this Fall. Stay tuned for your chance to win delicious Subway eats in a brand new way starting this Thursday and every Thursday at 6pm for you chance to win.

      For those asking, the KHQA GRIDIRON PLAYBOOK is scheduled to arrive at our studios on August 20th and be distributed to our various sponsors in every local community as quickly as possible from there. Undoubtedly, depth charts have changed since I started writing the book way back in April but glancing back through all the work, I still think we've given you a heck of a landmark to kick start your Fall Football enjoyment at every high school and local college in our area. The book truly is a labor of love and I hope it brings you as much entertainment as I derived from its writing.

      Thanks again for all your support. We love doing this job for you and your enthusiasm, passion and cooperation is, as always a Godsend to us. Just one more reminder that I am lucky enough to work in the best Television Market on the planet...

      ----------------------------------------

      FOOTBALL 2014

      KHQA PRESEASON PIGSKIN POWER POLL

      ??

      1) CENTRAL PANTHERS

      Season Opener: vs North Greene August 29th

      RATIONALE: Admittedly, the safe, easy preseason pick. If you don't lose a regular season game for three years, this slot becomes an incredibly easy fit for media guys trying to look smart. But do not misread this. There is no bulletproof team in Tri-State Sports this season and I do have concerns about the Panthers. This is a team that just graduated 100% of the best Offensive Line in Tri State Football; not to mention watched one of the area's best young trench coaching gurus leave the program to take over as a rival head coach at West Central. The question is: has the Central program under Brad Dixon reached the level of mid 1990's Carthage Football yet; where personnel defections are immaterial and the previous standard of excellence coaxes same from the next generation of starters? We are about to find out. By all accounts, this rebuilt Offensive Line has worked its tail off in the off-season and put up some of the best strength and conditioning numbers in the history of the program. That established: 300 pound bench presses don't block anyone. Nasty, motivated bodyguards do. And if the Panthers have them, that Offense will be nearly impossible to start with the best Thunder/Lightning run duo in area returning in Saldana and Keltz (900 plus yards each last season) not to mention a pair of potential stars in super quick Wingback Eric Lee and bruiser Andrew Shake. The Panthers also have two All Conference Tight Ends returning in Zach Foote and Jason Dormire as well as a kid who really impressed me this preseason under center in Ryan Freiburg; a lefty with a cannon for an arm. Defensively, it's a Brad Dixon team and my question marks are fewer. Andrew Shake will likely lead Western Illinois in tackles and Central is as good at developing linebackers as the Ferguson Police Department is bad at cultivating public relations. These guys are fast, motivated, and there's some edge and swagger here. The schedule is much more fun as well with the addition of Illini West in Week Three and a nasty Carrollton team awaiting in Week Eight. There are no more barriers left to shatter; only one unrealized goal left. And that's a trip to the biggest stage in Illinois. If the bodyguards can pave the way, there is no reason the Panthers can't get there.

      ??

      ??

      2) HANNIBAL PIRATES

      Season Opener: vs MICDS August 22nd

      RATIONALE: If you accused me of going safe in the top spot, you have to at least admire my guts here. Granted there is a lot going on away from the field for Mark St Clair and the Hannibal Football family. And the top of the schedule could not possibly be tougher with that MICDS/Helias two step looming, especially for a program that traditional starts like molasses. And you people may think I am out of my mind if the Pirates are in fact 0-2 before September. All of that conceded, show me a more talented football team top to bottom; or one more capable of beating any opponent on a given night. Where do you want to start? The Defense that was a bit too porous last Fall? Okay, but lets remember that Hannibal barely returned the same lineup week to week at any point last year due to the rash of injuries it endured. Now factor in that the Pirates return the Tri-States most complete secondary, complete with a burgeoning Division One prospect in Jerry McBride. Up front? Dylan Powell is garnering Division One looks as an Offensive Lineman and he is joined by wrestling sharpened kids like Harrison Vessell and Austin Hawes as well as one of the better sleeper trench kids in our area in Tanner Sanborne. That troublesome Linebacker spot? Spoken for with the rising Devon Thomas, Colton Gottman, and Austin Robertson having put together a hell of a camp. That's a unit on paper that doesn't have a lot of flaws. And that is the Pirates weak suit. The Offense is loaded to the teeth. The Pirates have spent time building quarterback packages for both returning starter Austin Kirby AND slash guy Jerry McBride, who might be the most explosive single kid in Northeast Missouri this season. Granted, the running game loses an all time great in Mitch Nichols but only Hannibal can bounce back with All Conference holdover Wyatt King (who is tougher than a three dollar steak) and a kid I absolutely love going forward in Shemar Griffith (the Pirates answer to Macon's Joe Lewis if he stays healthy) and run behind one of the nastiest lines Hannibal has ever produced; led again by returning All Stater Dylan Powell. I feel very convicted in the talent here and even more so in the character of this team; which has been underscored by just how well these kids have dealt with last year's adversity and just how much they want to do something special for MaryAnn St Clair. They clearly have the means to that end.

      ??

      ??

      ??

      3) MACON TIGERS

      Season Opener: at PALMYRA August 22nd (KHQA/SUBWAY GAME OF THE WEEK)

      RATIONALE: My pick to win the Cannon, which is saying a lot considering the threat posed by Centralia, reigning champs Palmyra, and a Brookfield squad that looks to have more residual star power than the Expendables III right now. Why so high on Pete Claas' crew? I am absolutely enamored of the toughness of this Defense, especially a Linebacker unit built around potential All Stater Brandon Sontheimer (103 tackles last season) and the rising Bradley Burkhardt. Those guys are like the Bermuda Triangle of stinginess against the run. And to that mix, Pete is adding a lot of really good looking young talent. Outside of the Quarterback position, the Tigers also strike me as boasting the Cannon's most stable returning Offensive nucleus. There are two already minted game breakers in Joe Lewis and All Stater Brendan Watts, the top receiver in our region (and its not close) but also a host of kids who can step in a produce next to those guys to take the pressure off the marquee names. The Offensive Line has a core nucleus of starting talent and some big, gifted youngsters coming in James Mitchell and Jonathan Kothe who will dwarf 90% of the kids who line up across from them. And from what we saw in limited Jamboree action Friday, the team's one looming question mark appears to be in good hands with Nolan Bright at Quarterback; not to mention Aaron Brown as an option as well. The CCC is going to be an absolute war this season and I am playing a hunch here. But there's a grit to this Macon team that makes it feel like a very savvy call. We will see instantly. No better game in Week One than Macon traveling to P-Town to prove itself.

      ??

      ??

      ??

      4) JACKSONVILLE CRIMSONS

      Season Opener: vs LANPHIER August 29th

      RATIONALE: The Crimsons graduated a ton, including Do or Die Bowl revelations Bryce Schnitker, Kody Wood and DeVante Clark, but my goodness does Mark Grounds have a wonderful base to build from. Both the Crimson Boss and assistant Ryan "The Iron Hawk" Van Aken mentioned just how strong a summer session this team has had when I quizzed them on Saturday. And those are guys who aren't given to throwing out unearned praise. There's been some shift in the approach in Jacksonville towards greater across the board physicality and the play in the first two levels of the Defense (and in particular at Linebacker) during Pride Drill is something I am not sure we've ever seen from the Crimsons even during their best years. No, there is not one Les Hammers type lynchpin. The nastiness is evenly distributed and apparently contagious. Relentless Defensive Tackle Coulton Hillis described it to me as no longer playing "defense" but rather making the opposing offense "defend' them. It may sound like nothing more than a credo...until you watch these guys go. You couple that kind of ethic with an Offense that is year in, year out the standard in our region for spread success and you have the makings of a team that can play with anyone; even the toughest conference in the state of Illinois. There will be some new faces in the backfield with Joe Brannen taking over at Quarterback (who helped JAX to a 7 on 7 title at Kansas State this summer) and a by-committee running approach that will be more physical (keep an eye on Braxton Criss here) than in years past. That should not be of concern with a tremendous Offensive Line, led by Hillis and Illinois pledge Gabe Megginson up front and the region's strongest/deepest receiving corps poised to create a whole new crop of stars around returning cornerstone Zac Lonergan. Find the Achilles Heel here. Now lets just see how it all plays out against the Tri States most brutish schedule.

      ??

      ??

      ??

      ??

      5) QUINCY HIGH BLUE DEVILS

      Season Opener: vs EAST MOLINE August 29th

      RATIONALE: I realize this seems high given the graduation losses but I am working on the theory here that the Blue Devils traded marquee talent for better overall balance in 2014. Short of Seth Holtschlag posting 160 tackles at Middle Linebacker, the chances of QHS producing another Bondon/Robbins Player of the Year winner seem slim. The tao of this squad is the connective tissue and the depth, and that's not a bad thing. It's hard to find one glaring question mark here...provided Devin Prost's knee stays sound and that talented young man cements the Offensive Line the way we think he will. Given that, I think you will see a Quincy High team that spreads stats around very evenly on both sides of the ball and see stat sheets that smack more of a Tom Little rather than Rick Little coached squad. While Bryce Unmisig made a late season star turn, I suspect his touches will be roughly in line with the numbers he saw in the games from mid-October with a host of backs getting plenty of play. And QHS has some very good ones just waiting in the wings. I think we also see the proliferation of the Brian Lewton influenced passing game come more into prominence. The Devils have a smart quarterback in George Crickard IV, two All Conference level Tight Ends in Donavin Ruths and Seth Holtschlag, and host of versatile RB/WR type pieces who can catch the ball as slot type weapons. And given the Tight End windfall here, it would not surprise me to see Lewton steal a page from the Jacksonville Playbook and go "heavy" at Wide Receiver with either/both of those guys, creating matchup issues a plenty for the poor Defensive Backs trying to check that size/strength in the pattern. There are a ton of exciting things this QHS Offense can do that previous, more conservative versions could not. And that is where a lot of my enthusiasm for this team comes from. Balance. Creativity. And a better sense of across the board of aggression because there are no more "safety net" guys. Everyone has to pull their own weight on defense and in camp we are seeing a bunch of kids who didn't draw eyes before really show what they can do. Just trust me on this one. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the overall product of QHS Football this season, even in new "packaging."

      ??

      ??

      ??

      ??

      6) SOUTH SHELBY CARDINALS

      Season Opener: at BROOKFIELD August 22nd

      RATIONALE: The "if" team for 2014. If All State Running Back Trace Windsor is upright and healthy at the end of the season. If Brett Threlkeld is as dangerous passing the football as he is running it. If Rob Wilt can fill 2.5 vacancies on his offensive line. If the middle linebackers (Bryce Fifer and Sidney Wear) are even half as good as the advance billing. If no one gets hurt and plays into the Cardinals lack of depth, then yes, as a Class 1 Team the Cardinals might well have the best chance of anyone on this list of reaching a State Title game. Where the Cardinals are strong, they are as strong as any small school team could ever hope to be. That established, there are just a lot of variables in play between now and the start of Districts. I tend to give Rob Wilt coached teams the benefit of the doubt, and so did the State Sportswriters. The Cardinals opened this week as the only state ranked team in NEMO from our area. But empirical evidence is fast on the way as South opens on the road against an outstanding Brookfield club. Put simply, this is a fun, stacked team...which also happens to have the smallest margin for error of any of the above contenders. But if November rolls around and these guys are rolling, Katy Bar the Door.

      ??

      ??

      ??

      7) ILLINI WEST CHARGERS

      Season Opener: at ROCKFORD CHRISTIAN

      RATIONALE: Speed kills. And the Chargers from top to bottom, might be the quickest football team in Western Illinois. There's no Ser Whitaker type here but the talent on balance with Jacob Sholl, Nolan Ard, Austin Curfman and Quarterback Braden Bennett, not to mention a gifted second group waiting in the wings is as athletic as any group in the rich history of the program. That's the upshot here. Now lets see what the Chargers do out in front of these guys with a completely rebuilt Offensive Line. And let's see what kind of Defensive Improvement IW makes coming off what might be the weakest overall season of play on that side of the ball in Carthage since 1996. The schedule isn't really favorable as well with the additions of Momence, Rockford Christian, Moweaqua Central A&M, Central, and especially Tolono Unity. I tend to think this season will be more a referendum on the Chargers focus and fortitude than it will be on their talent. On paper, IW is as good as anybody. The hallmark of the great Carthage and Northwestern/LaHarpe teams were bringing that effort, in all phases of the game, week to week without hiccups. The challenge facing this team is exactly that. And if the Chargers can deliver on their enormous promise, a return to glory is within their grasp.

      -------------------------------

      THE NEXT LEVEL

      ??

      8) CENTRALIA PANTHERS

      Positional changes sure to make stars of Logan Armontrout at Quarterback and hard nose Ethan Leighton at Fullback. Erle Bennett also has great size to work with in the trenches and his team gets a most favorable three game springboard into the meet of the Clarence Cannon Conference schedule. Would it surprise anyone if these guys go on a run? Me neither....

      ??

      ??

      9) PALMYRA PANTHERS

      Most surprisingly impressive team I saw in my travels, considering all they lost to graduation. Panthers are super quick with the Mason Franklin/Trevor Wheeler backfield working and Skyler Kline poised for a major breakout on both sides of the ball. Matt Frankenbach might be area's best Defensive Lineman as well. Reserving full judgement until I see Offensive Line in action. Not sure anyone is running CCC table this season but I think Panthers are good enough to play themselves into the mix of one-loss teams at the top.

      ??

      10) BROWN COUNTY HORNETS

      Maybe the least sexy team in the Top Ten but Tom Little's crew will be uber-powerful in the trenches and methodical enough in the run game to eat up huge chunks of clock and frustrate the heck out of people. And this is a Defense that can punish and pulverize. Lack of top level speed, especially against the likes of Central here, is a bit concerning but this is a program that knows how to play to strength and dictate tempo. Don't be stunned if these guys fight their way to a really ugly 9-0 on power football alone.

      ??

      ??

      11) BOWLING GREEN BOBCATS

      The Bobcats are one of those teams that could make you look really savvy or incredibly stupid in the prognostication game. There is superb talent here, especially on offense, where I have Adam Holt in my top five Preseason Player of the Year favorites. This is also a team with a proven track record of playing laissez-faire defense last season and checking out mentally in key moments and pressure games and shooting themselves in the foot. I am incapable of being surprised by Bowling Green, win or lose. But I am beguiled by the talent and the thought of what could be if they put this thing all together. Scary potential, in every sense of the word.

      ??

      ??

      12) QUINCY NOTRE DAME RAIDERS

      Easier than usual to dismiss this team because it returns just five full time starters, one of whom is a kicker. But I also ask you, when was the last time a Raider Team with a Franchise Back (1500 yard runner Daylin Anders) and nasty linebackers (Arens, Tappe, Kientzle and Frieden are a load) went wrong? Here's my determiner: every opponent on the first half of QND's schedule is going to pack the box and defy someone other than Anders to beat them. Here's your line of demarcation, boys.

      ??

      ??

      13) PARIS COYOTES

      The highest powered passing game this side of Jacksonville. The Kyle Popkes/Slater Stone/Laine Forrest faction is capable of putting 35 on the board through the air against 75% of the teams (of any size) in our area. But I need serious convincing this team can defend yet at a level to start competing with the Westrans and Marcelines of the world. And that will take a giant leap forward from last year.

      ??

      ??

      14) TRIOPIA TROJANS

      Coming off the most inexplicable 2-7 finish in memory, it is really hard to get a read off this team. There were chemistry issues last year. Word is they have been fixed. Which leaves us with a brutish, beastly Class 1A club with two 220 pound plus Sherman Tanks in the backfield in Dean Arendt and Matt Parker, plus an outsized Line to match. Triop passes the eye test as well as anyone, but it's hard to yet trust a team that returns 24 starters from last year's campaign of surprisingly brittle psyche. It may all be in the start here. If Triopia gets on a roll, they may not stop. If they struggle early, it could be a regression back to the mean.

      ??

      ??

      15) KEOKUK CHIEFS

      Give Doug Dodds a huge, physical offensive line and good things tend to happen. And with four now much more seasoned starters back up front, I think the Chiefs are positioned nicely to double up on last years paltry offensive game by game totals. There is a lot of "on the cusp" talent here and with the right spark, even a against a really nasty schedule, Keokuk appears to have the horses to win a half dozen games, return to the playoffs and power their way to the programs first postseason win since the James Gang glory days.

      ??

      ??

      16) CLARK COUNTY INDIANS

      For my money, Jacob Trump is the best all around Football Player in the Tri States. Top five running back. Best Linebacker. Stud. But his Player of the Year chances hinge on his ability to lift those around him. I think Clark County is sneaky good in spots (Wide Receiver, Linebacker, Defensive Back) and suspect enough in others (Offensive Line) to have me hedging my bets on where this teams floor and ceiling might ultimately be; especially against such a great slate of CCC Opponents. The safe money puts the Indians smack dab in the middle.

      ??

      ??

      17) SCOTLAND COUNTY TIGERS

      Incredibly impressive showing last week at Monroe City Jamboree with a star turn from new Quarterback Aaron Buford raising the Tigers stock exponentially. Still can play the power game with the best of them behind College Nose Guard sized Fullback Will McRobert and a massive frontline. To be honest, it was the quality of the SC Defense that really turned my head. Unlike our friends in the Cannon and Lewis and Clark, Scotland has a lot more room to make hay in the Tri-Rivers Conference. They may not play a lot of pretty football this year, but don't be surprised if they win seven regular season games.

      ??

      ??

      ??

      18) BEARDSTOWN TIGERS

      Talented, without question. But 25 total varsity players? Quality over quantity I guess with QB Gus Vermillion and RB Dante McWIlliams destined for star turns. Can Tyler Buhlig keep this team healthy enough and physical enough on Defense to compete at the top end of the Prairieland? I am vexed. Terribly vexed.

      ??

      ??

      19) MONROE CITY PANTHERS

      Another rising squad stuck whose progress is impeded by the meatgrinder that is the Cannon schedule. Once it gets healthy/seasoned, I absolutely love the Garner/Shuck/Minter backfield. It's one of the most gifted in Tri State Football. And the Line play, on both sides of the ball, is greatly improved. Still need to see if this team can stop getting in its own way. Four turnovers against Scotland County at the Jamboree in twelve plays isn't exactly the most encouraging sign in that department. But if it clicks, my goodness there is some enviable fast and nasty here.

      ??

      ??

      20) KNOX COUNTY EAGLES

      Love the idea of Brody Moubry running behind Nat Harder and Riley Poston in this Conference. That sounds like a recipe for All State honors. But it would be dishonest of me not to acknowledge how much the play of Donavan Edwards made the Eagle Offense soar last season and I am not sure if/how AVD and company can approximate that this year. On the plus side, I do think the Eagle Defense is going to be really, really staunch in the Front Seven. This seems a little low but these guys certainly hold some intrigue.

      ??

      ??

      MO/IA SLEEPER: LOUISIANA BULLDOGS

      If they played anywhere other than the Cannon, I'd rank them 10 spots higher. Vastly improved Line play. Super smart, gifted option quarterback in Zach Richardson. Really good, unsung backs. This is a team that could be an incredible tough out in Districts and may pull off and upset or four along the way in League Play as well. Greg Purdum is still fighting the culture change battle, but this there is clear, marked improvement to be seen here.

      ??

      ??

      ILLINOIS SLEEPER: WEST CENTRAL COUGARS

      Massive Offensive Line that dwarfs everybody not named Pleasant Hill/Western in the WIVC. And considering that Line Play is new coach Alex Ebbing's area of expertise, that is a compelling reason to like the Cougars as an under radar threat to move up to the middle or even second tier of the WIVC South. There's sneaky good skill position talent here as well.

      ----------------------------------

      THE NEXT LEVEL

      22) PITTSFIELD SAUKEES

      23) FORT MADISON BLOODHOUNDS

      24) PLEASANT HILL/WESTERN WOLVES

      25) MACOMB BOMBERS

      26) RUSHVILLE/INDUSTRY ROCKETS

      27) UNITY/PAYSON MUSTANGS

      28) VAN-FAR INDIANS

      29) WEST HANCOCK TITANS

      30) MARK TWAIN TIGERS

      31) BWP SPARCLONES

      32) NORTH SHELBY RAIDERS

      --------------------------------------

      FEARLESS DUERR PREDICTIONS FOR WEEK ONE

      MACON 14

      PALMYRA 21

      ??

      HIGHLAND 7

      CENTRALIA 42

      ??

      CLARK COUNTY 20

      MONROE CITY 24

      LOUISIANA 28

      BOWLING GREEN 42

      ??

      SOUTH SHELBY 14

      BROOKFIELD 18

      ??

      MARCELINE 30

      KNOX COUNTY 14

      ??

      SCHUYLER COUNTY 20

      PARIS 42

      ??

      NORTH SHELBY 6

      VAN-FAR 18

      ??

      SCOTLAND COUNTY 14

      SALISBURY 21

      ??

      HANNIBAL 30

      MICDS 28

      ---------------------------------------

      THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN

      Seven Strongest Player of the Year Winners, in order of likelihood

      ??

      1) TRACE WINDSOR, South Shelby

      Barring injury, he's going to become the Cardinals All Time Rushing Leader. There carries will be there. The yards will be there. And the Cardinals are set up for a deep Class 1 Playoff run. Hands down, your odds on favorite given the circumstances

      ??

      ??

      ??

      2) JACOB TRUMP, Clark County

      Most complete all around Football Player in the region. Best Linebacker in our area. Top four running back. If Clark can survive the Cannon meat grinder and play its way back into being a top ten area team, Trump is good enough to merit this distinction

      ??

      ??

      ??

      3) DAYLIN ANDERS, QND

      An already proven Franchise back in a system that is going to give him huge carry numbers. The question is, can Daylin replicated and better last year's numbers with so many eyes upon him.

      ??

      ??

      ??

      4) JERRY MCBRIDE, HANNIBAL

      The most explosive player in Tri State Football. Hard to tell here whether the duality of his role as a QB/RB/WR works for or against him in mitigating his stats. Pirate offense is also crowded with weapons. But this kid is special.

      ??

      ??

      ??

      5) ADAM HOLT, Bowling Green

      Incredible athlete who is going to be the focal point of a Bobcat Offense that puts up huge offensive numbers. And he's no longer sharing the football with Malik McPike. Holt could stuff the ballot box with outlier statistical output rushing the football.

      ??

      ??

      ??

      6) KYLE POPKES, Paris

      The Coyotes are going to have to beat two of the three L&C big dogs for their Quarterback to have a shot; but the Junior Southpaw has already proven he can sling the football and put up monster passing stats.

      ??

      ??

      ??

      7) SETH HOLTSCHLAG, Quincy High

      A pure Defensive Guy hasn't won this award since Trevor Frericks. By the same token, Quincy High's monster in the middle is getting all of Malik Bondon's action with a smaller number of tackle vultures picking off his stats. If QHS is upper echelon, he's your guy.

      -------------------------------------------

      Seven Names You Don't Know Now but will by October

      ??

      1) MASON FRANKLIN, Palmyra

      Lightning quick athlete who is positioned perfectly on a really talented team and has the benefit of being a little bit off radar. That won't last long. A weapon both running and catching the football but may be even better as a DB when all is said and done

      ??

      ??

      ??

      2) TYLER STROHECKER, Winchester West Central

      Tore his ACL three weeks into last season but is near 100% now and ready to be a battering ram Fullback behind the Cougars massive front line. There is some Trey Yocum to his game and I don't throw around that comparo lightly.

      ??

      ??

      ??

      3) LAKIN LABBY, Pittsfield

      Have no idea what to make of the Saukees as they embark on a brave new world of football in the Sangamo. But I do know Labby is the ideal mix of fast and nasty and is almost impossible to bring down on first contact. Kid will put up numbers, I guarantee.

      ??

      ??

      ??

      4) AARON BUFORD, Scotland County

      His move to Quarterback caught me off guard at the Jamboree; but not nearly as much as his stellar, gutsy play there. He's got a legit arm and a linebacker's mentality. And he's surrounded by an Offense that is massive up front and Wil McRobert-sized in the backfield.

      ??

      ??

      ??

      5) CALVIN COOKSON, Quincy High

      Lots of tackles to be found in the QHS defense, given graduation losses. Cookson is going to clean up filling that void. He's got the old Mike Merriwether dimenson to his game; equally good at tradition Linebacker play and dropping into the passing lanes. A keeper.

      ??

      ??

      ??

      6) SKYLER KLINE, Palmyra

      One of the few returnees back in P-Town, but's cut from the Devante Clark mold. Phenomenal high jumper who stands 6'2" and he runs like the wind to boot.

      ??

      ??

      ??

      7) JOE BRANNAN, Jacksonville

      Who doesn't want to the Crimson Quarterback? New JAX slinger is savvy and gets to work to a receiving corps whose second four would start for 90% of the team in our area.

      --------------------------------------

      Seven guys we just have an incredibly positive vibe on going into 2014

      ??

      1) ZACH RICHARDSON, QB, Louisiana

      Impressive young man with sky high IQ and a great feel for running the old school option.

      ??

      ??

      2) NAT HARDER/RILEY POSTON, OL, Knox County

      Brody Moubry's the show in Edina and a darned fine feature back. But how about a little love for the guys up front who pave the way to glory. Knox is blessed to have a pair of no-nonsense maulers up front who relish a trench brawl setting the tone.

      ??

      ??

      3) DEAN ARENDT, FB, Triopia

      Looked like a million bucks in camp this weekend, running with a much lower bad level and bad intentions. Not sure how anyone is going to wrap this kid up. Better hit him early

      ??

      ??

      4) LOGAN MINTER, FB, Monroe City

      For my money, the most intriguing Sophomore in the region this year. A hulking between the tackles runner who is going to benefit greatly from all the attention paid Tariq Garner.

      ??

      ??

      5) JOEL HOWREN, DE/TE, Keokuk

      May be better known as the Chiefs Pivot in basketball, but Joel made the single best catch we've seen on the Barnstorm Tour and at 6'4" is an uncoverable target lined up next to workhorse possession receiver Kolton Marlin. One of those rare kids who can be as good as he wants.

      ??

      ??

      6) COLTON BEHYMER/COLLIN CLINGING, DE, Brown County

      They get zero ink, largely because Brown County doesn't cultivate "flashy" on Defense. But these two relentless bookends take care of business as cleanly as any Linemen in the game and are the pillars upon which a really good Defense is built. And they are made even better by the fact that Michael Scoggan has become downright scary as a run stuffing Linebacker these days.

      ??

      ??

      ??

      7) ERIC LEE, DB/RB, Central

      Just what the Panthers needed: another fast guy to pair with Alger Saldana and Bobby Keltz. Don't sleep on Lee, who is going to thrive in the role that Austin Kramburg so perfectly carved out for him last season.

      ---------------------------------------

      Seven Really Good Players hidden away on 2013 Sub-500 Teams

      1) DUSTIN LOGAN, OL, BWP

      2) CORBY EDWARDS, RB, Pleasant Hill/Western

      2) LUCAS ROBINSON, QB, Van-Far

      3) AUSTIN HARDY, LB, West Hancock

      4) TARIBIA JACKSON, OL, Macomb

      5) COREY GILMORE, OL/DL, Mark Twain

      6) COLLIN STARK, OL, Louisiana

      7) MANNING PLATER, DL/TE, R/I

      ----------------------------------------

      Seven Best Fall State Title Hopefuls Away from the Gridiron

      1) HOLY TRINITY VOLLEYBALL

      2) QND GOLF

      3) QUINCY HIGH SOCCER

      4) BUSHNELL/WEST PRAIRIE VOLLEYBALL

      5) QND SOCCER

      6) HIGHLAND SOFTBALL

      7) PALMYRA SOFTBALL

      ----------------------------------

      Seven Best Fall Sports Sleeper Teams/Non Football

      ??

      1) JACKSONVILLE SOCCER

      2) KNOX COUNTY SOFTBALL

      3) MACOMB SOCCER

      4) LIBERTY GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY

      5) PAYSON SEYMOUR VOLLEYBALL

      6) PITTSFIELD GOLF

      7) HANNIBAL BOYS CROSS COUNTRY

      -------------------------------------

      Seven Best Fall Athletes who don't play Football

      ??

      1) MIKAELA FOECKE, Holy Trinity Volleyball

      2) DREW EATON, QND Golf

      3) HUNTER HOSCHAR, Quincy High Soccer

      4) AVERY JOHNSON, Highland Softball

      5) MALIAH BLAKEMORE, Quincy High Volleyball

      6) COOPER REIS, QND Soccer

      7) CARLY GARNETT, Illini West Cross Country

      -------------------------------------

      Seven Fall Athletes, Non-Football, poised for Major Star Turns

      ??

      1) AUBREY REIS, QND Soccer

      2) PAIGE WEBSTER, BWP Volleyball

      3) PETER GREENING, Pittsfield Golf

      4) KATELYN OBERT, Liberty Girls Cross Country

      5) TYLER GERST, Quincy High Soccer

      6) MARIA VONDERHAAR, Holy Trinity Volleyball

      7) PAIGE COUCH, Knox County Softball