Shadowboxing (Duerrisms for the Week of November 3rd)
Equal parts logistical stress and sheer postseason elation, that was quite a week we just put into our rearview mirrors. There was obviously some carnage (largely of the expected variety but that Beardstown near-upset against BCC was a brutal blow. And Quincy High continued playoff disappointments against Chicago region competition remain a vexing Achilles Heel to that program) but I prefer to concentrate on the blessings in play here. Three IHSA Football competitors still alive in the Playoff Pool. Two really compelling head-to-head rematches in MSHSAA District Football looming Friday. A handful of runners with chances to make Top Ten type splashes at their respective State Cross Country meets, not to mention the really cool “Palmyra District Title Surprise” at Bowling Green Saturday Morning. And a handful of very compelling volleyball powers left, at least as I sit down to pen this intro on Sunday. So the Fall Sports Season lives on for at least one more week. And every extra day we get is a bonus.
To the cause of bringing it all to you, this is DUERRISMS for the week of November 3rd, 2017 presented as always by our friends at SLEEP TIGHT. We are here for you in this guise for as long as we have Fall Sports to report. Then back in this space with our annual Do or Die Team Awards in December, for your enjoyment.
If you are not already making OVERTIME a part of your weekly local sports ritual, now is the ideal time to start doing so. Last week, we had highlights from every single IHSA Football Playoff Game involving Tri-State Teams including extended three minute coverage clips each of West Hancock and Beardstown; as well as longer form takes on BWP, Illini West and Central. This time of year, the usual 45 seconds of coverage per game just doesn’t cut it. With 30 minutes every Saturday, devoted exclusively to local sports, we have the freedom to tell the stories of your favorite teams with greater depth and clarity. Plus we can still give the Cross Country, Volleyball, and College Football scenes the highlight coverage they deserve. If you love local sports, OVERTIME with CHRIS DUERR every Saturday at 10:30pm on KHQA-CBS is the only place to turn.
Hope to have an announcement soon for you as to a replacement for Nico. We’ve had really good interviews with a couple of prospective candidates. And we will finish the process with our finalists this week. In the interim, Nico’s last day with us before moving up the ladder of success is November 10th so if you have not yet had the chance to pat him on the back and say “thank you” for all of his service to your kids, the window is starting to close up.
Just a fan fact for you all. I am 47 years old. Says so on my Driver’s License. Really. Started here in 1995 when I was 25. I will concede that such a long tenure (and the bald head) probably makes me seem more ancient than that. But, I’m not. So if you hear “retirement” rumors about me, they are very, very premature and not even remotely on my horizon. I have a wedding to pay for next year. And if you know my daughter Tayler, you know that’s probably going to put me in hock for the next few decades, so I gots to keep working. I also still very much love my job and plan to do it until they either wise up and fire me around here or carry me out of here in a pine box. And I long ago decided, I’m not going anywhere else on the planet to do this until KHQA decides they are done with me. So for those asking, I plan to work until I am maybe 85 or 90 if I am lucky enough to make it there. And I am going to try and make that look “Vin Scully” type dapper when I get there. So for those asking: I am looking at least at another 40 years of this, if they will still have me here. Consider me on “The Dave Swisegood Plan” if you will, so you never again have to ask me about a rumor or if I am ready to hang things up yet (sorry, for those of you hoping for the latter)
Hope that sets the record straight,
KHQA STUDENT ATHLETE OF THE WEEK PRESENTED BY HANNIBAL REGIONAL HOSPITAL, CELL TECH, REFRESHMENT SERVICES PEPSI AND SUBWAY
On Wednesdays at KHQA, we scrap the traditional format and devote our entire three minute six o'clock newscast to honoring the outstanding student athletes in Tri-State Sports. Minimum requirement to be considered for this award is a 3.5 GPA with participation in at least one sport. And you must be a High School Senior. At year's end, our independent nominating committee will choose and reward the top Male and Female from the 36 candidates appearing in our Wednesday Night honor roll with a college scholarship. If you know of a deserving candidate, you can obtain a nomination form from your High School's Athletic Director or Principal, who must sign off on the nomination for it to be considered. Or print one from the KHQA Website, but be sure to have your AD and Principal sign off on it. We don't want to miss out on introducing the Tri-States to single deserving candidate so help us put the spotlight on these amazing Young Men and Women in our communities. Plus there is a dinner banquet to honor all of our nominees in June. Please help us add to the list below. Our second (and second to last) nomination vote is set for January 8th, 2018, your next deadline to send us quality kids to honor.
2018 KHQA SAW Honorees
Week One-SIERRA ERKE, Quincy High Volleyball
Week Two-ELI TEN EYCK, Pittsfield Cross Country/Track and Field
Week Three-MICHAELA DAVIS, Keokuk Basketball/Track and Field/Volleyball
Week Four-TAYLOR KLUSMEYER, Unity Football/Basketball/Track and Field
Week Five-JOE HENDRICKER, Brown County Football/Basketball/Baseball
PAST SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS
2017-KOLBY MCCLELLAND, Southeastern, Murray State
2017-CORY MILLER, Unity, John Wood Community College
2016-MARIAH BRODIE, Illini West, Illinois State
2016-DYLAN POWELL, Hannibal, Stanford
2015-MIKAELA FOECKE, Holy Trinity, Nebraska
2015-CAMERON DURST, Canton, Columbia College
2014-TYLER NIEMANN, Canton, Morehead State
2014-KATEE HINKLE, Palmyra, Bowling Green
2013-KASSIDY GENGENBACHER, QND, Lindenwood
2013-DALTON POWELL, Hannibal, Truman State
2012-ALEX WALTER, Central, Augustana
2012-TORI KUHN, QND, Quincy University
2011-JACOB CONLEY, Central, US Millitary Academy at West Point
2011-DAKOTA FLESNER, Payson, Iowa Wesleyan
2010-MICHAEL LAFFERTY, Illini West, Monmouth
2010-TAYLOR BAXTER, Palmyra, Illinois State
2009-CHLOE BARNES, QND (Ball State)
2009-MATT PATTERSON, South Shelby (Truman State)
2008-LUKE GUTHRIE, Quincy High (Illinois)
2007-KATELYN BASTERT, Illini West (Duke)
2006-MIKAL BENECOMO, Clopton (SEMO)
KHQA/SLEEP TIGHT PLAYER OF THE WEEK (AS VOTED BY YOU THE FANS ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE
JOE HENDRICKER, QB, Brown County
Rationale: The Brown County Quarterback wins by a whisker over West Hancock Fullback Bryce Wilson after leading his Hornets out of a three game funk and into a tremendously impressive victory at Arcola. Maybe the new “money” hairstyle is yielding dividends because Joe Hendricker becomes the first ever athlete to be accorded KHQA SAW and SLEEP TIGHT POTW honors in the same week. His numbers in the victory of the Purple Riders were good: 5 of 7 completions for 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns, one of them off a fake punt. And watching that kid launch footballs with the velocity of an RPG Grenade Launcher never gets old in this corner. The more telling tribute to Joe here is how he and his Senior Teammates seized command and reversed polarity on one of the strangest “funks” we’ve seen from a good team in recent times. That’s a pretty tenuous spot to be, slumping and on the road in Week Nine, but clearly these guys weren’t going to slide quietly off radar. When we interviewed Joe for SAW this week, he made it a point to say how much the mantle of leadership, both as a Quarterback and as Senior, mattered to him as a point of responsibility. Clearly his play and his approach echoed that sentiment perfectly here. And obviously, the Hornets will need a whole lot more of that Saturday in trying to get past Tuscola at The Nest. Still, knowing you have a kid like this competing as hard as he does on every single play certainly has to make BC Fans know that this group is equal to the fight and that’s a big deal when you are staring down this sized challenge. BC’s fans should be awfully proud of this one.
Week One: KEVIN CAMPBELL, RB/DB, Hannibal (vs Helias)
Week Two: DEVIN TYNAN, RB/DB, Brown County (vs West Central)
Week Three: ALEX GULLY, RB/DB, Fort Madison (vs Central Lee)
Week Four: JOE HENDRICKER, QB, Brown County (vs Beardstown)
Week Five: DALTON CRANE, QB, Pleasant Hill/Western (vs Calhoun)
Week Six: JIREHL BROCK, RB, Quincy High (vs Rocky)
Week Seven: DARIAN DRAKE, RB/LB, Brown County (vs Triopia)
Week Eight: GABE GOODWIN, OLB, Palmyra (vs Brookfield)
Week Nine: COLE PENNEWELL, FB/LB, Monroe City (vs Palmyra)
Week Ten: CALEB GEHLE, RB, Fort Madison (vs Washington)
IHSA 1A SECOND ROUND-CENTRAL AT CARROLLTON
BIG DUDES, SMALL DETAILS: It’s not high art what the Central Panthers are doing right now. This is not a beguilingly elegant watch or a highlight reel thrill ride for spectators. This is elemental football, done right. And clearly it is working at a very high level, whether you think there’s pizazz there or not. These Panthers? They block and they tackle. Every snap. Better than you. And that’s it. There’s no singular “lynchpin” on one side of the ball or the other. Sure, Cole Williams is really a talented kid. He didn’t have 75 rushing yards this week and he didn’t rush for a touchdown. Didn’t change the final outcome. Their centerpiece Linebacker? Stands 5’8” and may actually weigh 155 pounds only after repeated multiple trips through the buffet line. Brad Dixon hasn’t wasted one hot second caring about the optics of how they profile. He just wants production. Ensemble casts get things done. And right now the Central Panthers have more key contributors than a Game of Thrones season storyline. The Calhoun revenge match just proves how far this group has grown together from Week One to Week Ten. The Panthers amassed 311 rushing yards at the Warriors expense on Saturday. Wasn’t like Aaron Elmore hadn’t seen this act before and didn’t know what was coming. Sure, Eric Jones passing acumen makes this Panther Offense more diverse than some past incarnations, but in the end, if you stop the Panthers from untracking their ground game, you stand a pretty fair chance of winning. No one has in the second half of this season. This week is was Noah Strohkirch’s turn to wear the mantle as “Leading Rusher” (which he did to the tune of 161 yards) and Chase Norfolk delivered two big touchdowns in key spots. The “who” in those statements has almost proven immaterial. Central has a phalanx of talented backs and all of them have stood tallest among their peers at one time or another. They are all talented and they all get to work under the protection of an offensive line that flat backs people off the line of scrimmage. That group of blockers has been in an incredible groove ever since the Beardstown Game and the continued continuity of playing together just seems to be getting them better week by week. As we touched on last week, the incorporation of the Tight Ends back into the scheme of the offense (Tristan Brocksieck had two more catches this week for 25 yards and a juggling touchdown) just to give Nick Flowers and friends more to think about into the Carrollton rematch. There’s nothing earth-shattering in that, except that Casey Rhea keeps adding to the palate of options at his disposal and the list of things Central does really well on offense tends to exceed the list of assets in most defense’s arsenal. They will find and utilize that small wrinkle that hits you precisely at softness. They will mix and match backs to find the guy whose running skill set most accentuates your flaws. And they won’t ever quite let you draw a comfortable bead on what they are doing. The only “tendency” here is execution and I can’t think of too many teams we’ve said that about. Defensively, I thought the Panthers continued to shrink the field on the Warriors. Ty Bick is a very talented quarterback and he of course made some plays, did a nice job finding his Tight Ends in a couple of nice spots. But he had to work for every bit of that yardage and the net result of which was a paltry 12 points. That’s outstanding containment. And again, the “stars” in that equation proved variable and situational. Brandon Welty led the team in tackles with a dozen. Cole Williams added a punctuation Interception to close up shop on the Warriors comeback hopes. Tristan Brocksieck, Eric Jones and Noah Strohkirch all posted Quarterback sacks. Again, the collective rules the day.
As for the rematch with Carrollton, yep…it is going to be a far tougher proposition the second time around. Carrollton is a really tough place to play. The Hawks Coaching Staff is still smarting from getting “trapped” by Casey Rhea’s Tight End Surprise Game Plan in Week Nine and given what I know of Coach Flowers and his crew, that won’t be a mistake they repeat. And the existing rivalry between these two programs is plenty spicy as it is, so a renewal of this thing so quickly only heightens the “point of pride” applications here, particularly to the side that lost the last matchup. Bottom line, Central is going to be walking into an emotional ambush on a Saturday against a team, at least on paper, that reads as having the more talented roster. Two things matter here, however. Post-Beardstown, Central is arguably the most emotionally stable and mature Football team we have left on the board. Brad Dixon’s crew rarely hurts itself and has done an amazing job of using opponents tendencies against it. As a collective, this is a Panther team that seems to like the chess game of it all. Who do we have to be this week to beat Brown County, Carrollton, Calhoun? And then they just go out and model that persona to a tee. Point blank, give this group of kids a game plan and they are as certain in executing it as anyone. For as innately athletic as they were, I’d argue if Madison had anywhere near Central’s ability to adapt, we’d be talking about a different Panther opponent in Week Two of the Playoffs. Madison tried to beat Carrollton with what Madison does best, not with what Madison needed to do specific to the opponent they were playing. Central has already proven it can mold itself (without changing the root identity of who it is) to the task at hand. We need to bring Tight End pop passes into the gameplan after letting that part of our offense lie dormant for weeks? Sure, why not. More than that, I think Central’s level of determination is an outlier in itself. No team in our area has done a better job maximizing its gifts. It’s easy to look at the Panthers and see what they don’t have. That is a trap. It’s the way this coaching staff has put these kids into positions to succeed and play to strength that is one of the most impressive aspects of this late season run. Chase Norfolk might not be the biggest household name but he was the right running back (I don’t even know what you characterize his outlier as in his running back skill set. Innate squirminess?) to deliver the two biggest touchdowns of the game. Noah Strohkirch as best fit workhorse option against Calhoun. Why not? Going heavy up front on the D-Line versus Brown County?? Worked to absolute perfection. This is the X-factor in Central that no one sees. So sure, Central is going to probably be the underdog again against a really good Carrollton team that has the circumstances better tipped in their favor. That’s the mistake I made the last time around. Failing to account for adaptability. So while it’s easy to be dazzled by Hunter Flowers (how good a Sophomore campaign has that kid had? My word..) and his collection of both runners (Byron Holmes) and terrific edge weapons, I can’t help but thinking Central mixes and matches properly again here and finds away. Three weeks ago, I would have thought it an impossibility that the Panthers could beat Carrollton twice in three weeks. But now, having seen first-hand the vibe that drives this team, I can’t escape the screaming voice in the back of my head that says Central is poised to do exactly that and this crest of momentum is still very much gathering.
FEARLESS DUERR PREDICTION
IHSA 1A SECOND ROUND-TUSCOLA AT BROWN COUNTY
THE COLA WARS: Welcome back, Hornets. I don’t what exactly what magic pulled you out of your three week “flat spin” but rarely have we seen a team positioned as poorly as Brown County was last week (lingering malaise, uncommonly poor playoff draw for a 7-2 squad) respond with this kind of Lazarus act. Our Tuscola highlights were a trade with our friends in Champaign, so basically between that and Sting Squad Vimeo, I only got to see the Hornet High Notes in this one. As you saw from our video, the tag-team Kickoff return Touchdown between Darian Drake and Gavin Lancaster was something special to behold. It was also a true “bow your neck moment” as the Hornets respond to a negative (Martin Rund’s touchdown catch to put the Purple Riders up 7-0 early) by making their own fortune. And credit Lancaster for great presence of mind here, being in the right spot at mid-field when D-Drake was stripped of the ball and finishing the job with a 50 yard return to even the score. That was merely a set up for the best quarter of football the Hornets have played maybe since the first half of the Beardstown game, at least relative to competition. A fake punt call allowed Tanner Sussenbach to get free over the top of the Arcola coverage and Joe Hendricker found him with a 58 yard scoring strike that gave the Hornets the lead for good. The duo would combine more conventionally for a 13 yard scoring strike at the end of the half that found Sussenbach displaying a dancer’s feet to keep one limb in bounds in extending the lead to 21-7 at the half. (Duerr Aside: It’s really remarkable the package of big and nimble that Tanner possess at Tight End and obviously, no fluke that he became the school’s all-time receiving Touchdown Leader in the process. If I am college coach with a redshirt to burn, I’d give Tanner serious consideration as a dark horse recruit. He’d make someone an incredible Strong Safety with a little dedicated coaching and one-position focus.) The Hornets put another 21 on the board in the second half, fueled by a nice mix on the ground of Devin Tynan (178 rushing yards, 2 TD) and D. Drake (78 yards and a TD) thwarting all manner of Arcola comeback bids along the way. Again, in full disclosure, I saw nothing but positive plays from Brown County on Saturday as our highlight package arrived pre-cut. So I can only speak to that. But the plays I did see looked like the Hornet Offensive Line was getting off the football far better than what we had seen in recent weeks, which might be the most positive development of all. Look, Darian Drake always destroys people as a lead blocker. It is what he does. But the fourteen or so different offensive cut-ups I saw showed energy and intensity from more than just the usual suspects. It looked contagious and in this offense, everything flows from there. Central didn’t beat Brown County because the Panthers are so innately more talented than the Hornets. The Panthers won that game because the Hornets seemed to be painting by numbers up front. That wasn’t the case on Saturday from what I could glean and whoever lit that fire needs to keep it raging here. A combative BC running the football is a dangerous BC. That element of this equation is the essence of what the most successful version of this team can be. The loss of that spark is why so many of us had written off the Hornets for dead during their ill-timed slump. This “awakening” is the most pleasant of surprises for all involved.
Which brings us to the issue of “sustainability” seeing as the number two ranked Tuscola Warriors serve as the Hornets second round opponent. Obviously, there’s plenty of history here between Brown County (and the WIVC Power Elite as a whole) and Tuscola; albeit with a new head man at the helm of the Warriors in Andy Romine. As ever, Tuscola is well armed at Quarterback with Luke Sluder doing the dual-threat thing at the helm of the offense. He had a pair of touchdown passes in the blowout win (56-0) over Chester in the playoff opener. He was also his team’s leading rusher with 57 yards, which is standard for the kid; who is his team’s leading rusher on the season. He’s got a true playmaker to work to in Dalton Hoel, who had three touchdowns against Chester, including a long punt return. And there’s Junior Andrew Erickson, who not only doubles as his team’s leading tackler, but who according to a blurb I saw from Romine somewhere on line, might be as good a blocking running back as the Hornets have seen all year. It’s a huge challenge, but one the Hornets have some facility with after seeing really good Unity/Payson Spread Offenses the last few years. Brown County will be a big underdog, even at home against an undefeated, high powered foe. That established, what have the Hornets got to lose here? They are playing with house money. And after last week, the Puncher’s Chance Tom Little’s team has feels more a lot more potent. Confidence is a funny thing when you are in the “Coaching Kids” Business. Brown County reaffirmed a seemingly lost identity last week and looked really good doing it. Knowing who you are and what you do well, with conviction, wins you a lot of battles in life: Football and Beyond. If the Hornets return to the field with the same zeal they did in dispatching Arcola, who knows what they might achieve. A little bit of restored “edge: here could go a long ways.
FEARLESS DUERR PREDICTION
BROWN CO. 22
IHSA 2A SECOND ROUND-BISMARCK-HENNING AT WEST HANCOCK
NO SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVILS: My original plan on Saturday was to stay longer in Warsaw and enjoy the rare freedom I am afforded during Playoff Saturdays to actually enjoy four full quarters of a game. As it turns out, I didn’t need to do so. By halftime, a very focused West Hancock group had given me all the highlights I needed and had put the game’s final outcome beyond a shadow of a doubt. That takes some doing against a Dave Bates-coached (what a terrific coach and gentleman that man is) squad, but West Hancock’s dominance was such (on both sides of the ball) that this thing was on ice by halftime and I could better spend my time back at the station trying to organize and collect all the incoming video from around the state. To be honest, I was incredibly impressed with the manner in which Travis Cook’s defense really put Auburn’s passing attack under duress. I think I was expecting a game more akin to last year’s QND/West Hancock tilt. Not nearly as close in final score and overall nature, but I thought there was some precedent in place here for a spread offense with a stellar quarterback (and Destin Chance is every bit of that having now seen him in person) and good receivers to at least move the ball effectively against the root run-based nature of the Titans Defense. Suffice it to say, the Titans have come a long ways in the department. The pressure West Hancock applied via the blitz was a revelation. Chance never got much of a chance in that first half to set his feet. Credit some of that to Travis Cook himself, who I think it is fair to say has really honed his sense, just in the last year even, in how and where to bring pressure with this group. And the Titans did so with negligible and not noticeable attrition in the quality of coverage. Look, in full honesty, when we usually say “coverage” in conjunction to the Titans it’s Duerr-coded language for “Riley Langford looks down opponents best receiver.” What we say Saturday was a different level of TEAM dedication to the cause of not allowing Auburn’s receivers to be viable targets. And that’s big. Here’s the really interesting thing: Destin Chance has a tremendous talent for extending plays. There was a first half highlight for Auburn where Destin reverse-pivoted out of what would have ordinarily been a Quarterback Sack and ended up making a first down out of the affair with his feet. He had a second play in that same drive (Trojans third of the game, if memory serves) that netted Auburn a catch (and fumble with recovered possession) at the West Hancock 2 yard line. In the first instance, I looked down the field (about six seconds into the play) and Chance still had no open receivers reasonably in play. On the second, the kid who caught the ball was the only dude still open about a seven or eight count into that play. Even with Destin Chance back there doing his best Rothlisbergerian best to extend plays, the Titans Secondary was giving quarter. I remember but two instances of Destin Chance having an easily visible target in the entire first half. One was a slant pattern on a three step drop (read: of course the dude was open) and the second was off the hook and lateral play to end the half, where Chase Hartweg made as good an open field tackle as we have seen this year by staying home on the pitch. That’s it. To me, the defining moment of this first half was Peyton Dooley’s interception in the end zone which kept the Trojans scoreless in the first half. Not because of what it meant to the overall game scenario, but rather because it was the exact second that the Titan Secondary demanded it be taken seriously as a unit. I was in the back of the end zone and got to watch Destin Chance’s eyes on that pass (3rd and goal from about the six, I believe) and literally could almost read his mind as a “target opportunity” in the end zone began to take shape. And Chance can absolutely wing the football. But apparently, I wasn’t the only one seeing into the Auburn Quarterback’s brain. Dooley jumped that football like a big time Saturday Cornerback. I remember thinking at the time “my word that was a fast break on the ball, must be Langford.” Except it wasn’t. Oxygen gone from the Auburn Offense for the rest of the half. And here’s the thing, that spark from Peyton came (and boy he’s shown a knack for that of late) on the back end of a series that I think had grown sluggish after five straight plays that had gotten flagged. Everything to that point had felt a little staid and bloated about the series, save for Dooley’s urgency to get to that ball. There was a maturity and presence there that fits a much higher level of profile for a Secondary that sometimes gets a little forgotten in the overall mix. And hey, I am guilty of that myself. What was last week’s KHQA West Hancock playoff feature? Great run stopping Linebackers, right? So it’s kind of cool here that the two biggest plays of Saturday for the Titans were made by Defensive Backs not named Riley Langford, no? The Dooley Interception and the Trenton Rooney Scoop and Score (thought I would suggest more than partial credit on that one should go to Tyler Korn with the outstanding strip of the football) Again, I do want to underscore that having pressure on the Quarterback allowed those things to happen. And guys like Korey Van Fleet did an excellent job not losing contain on the edge so as not to allow Destin Chance’s feet make him a bigger threat when things did break down. You could see at times Destin wanted to run. Those windows to do so dried up pretty quickly. As far as the Titan Offense goes, I’d say it was probably more of a B+ type effort overall. I had heard scuttlebutt all week from Football people in the Springfield area that this Auburn Defense was “terrible against the run” and “not as good as some of the Sangamo’s better JV Defenses” which turned out to be wildly overstated. Based on that indicator, I thought Auburn played the run pretty darned well. Dave Bates had clearly scouted out a lot of the Titans run tendencies (down and distance wise) and did a good job on that first drive taking some root basics away from Jim Unruh. And the Trojans tackled well enough. A nifty play-action pass from Bryce Buckert to Bryce Wilson kind of opened things up to set up the first touchdown; a Chase Hartweg counter that had worked once previously on the drive. But if you look at how fiercely the Trojans defended West Hancock’s 2 point conversions all day, I think that spoke well of the tenacity and improvement Auburn has made since earlier in the year. The Titans didn’t beat a bad defense on Saturday. They beat a decent one. And they did so largely through brought physicality up front and a lot of Wilson (three touchdowns worth) hammering away against tired legs late in the half. Again, I’ve been beating this drum since the preseason but again, Wilson (and now to a greater degree Hartweg) is an absolutely perfect piece in the overall construct of this offense. He still retains much of his old speed. But his enhanced physical profile makes him a chore to tackle on every play. It’s a different animal than it was Will Fox, obviously. That it is a different weapon to the same end, however, speaks volumes about the work Bryce has done and his meaning here. And tackling him is roughly as much fun as it would be to go out and use a fire hydrant as a speed bag. He exacts a toll every single run.
Which brings us to the rematch with Bismarck-Henning. As I stated here (and on Twitter after last Saturday) this is a very good opponent the Titans are facing and we all know the adage about facing a good team twice. The Blue Devils won a thriller over Carmi last week 37-34 with Running Back Travis Lappin taking a very different profile than the one we saw from him in the first meeting with West Hancock. Lappin caught a pair of touchdown strikes from Wyatt Edwards for 116 yards worth of receiving production. This is a new wrinkle from what I perceived to be a pretty astute offensive staff (just from the way they attack the Titans and what I overheard on the sidelines on that Saturday) and I think you can bank on seeing some very West Hancock specific additions to the Blue Devil playbook this week as well. Doesn’t look like any of that will include Sophomore star Caleb Lahey, whose status appears to be much more in doubt than it was a week ago when I was talking with a member of the Bismarck-Henning staff. I suspect Mark Dood is just going to roll with the pieces he’s got. And what we learned last time around is that those pieces were very physical. On the very first offensive play a week ago, Guard Cody Miller absolutely annihilated a member of the Titan Defense to set a tone. The Titan Defense needs to set that tone back this time and obviously match that physicality for four quarters. West Hancock didn’t do a particularly great job stop the Blue Devils in Week Nine and got a few breaks (and one huge Chase Hartweg sack) along the way in posting at 10 point victory in the first meeting. The Titans are going to need to offer more resistance there on Defense. I suspect Travis Cook will ramp up his run-blitz package as well to try and keep the the Blue Devils from stringing together those long, deflating drives that seem to be a big part of their modus operandi. I assume Bismarck will be better on Defense than what we saw the first time around, but I think the Blue Devils will be hard pressed to stop the Titans especially if Bryce Buckert’s play action passing is as sharp as it was in meeting one. The Blue Devil Secondary had no answer for Jim Unruh slotting running backs into the pass pattern in that first meeting (which might have actually been the stolen impetus for Travis Lappin’s new passing game value against Carmi; just a hunch on my part but I think a pretty educated one) and I am guessing Bismarck-Henning better incorporates that into the package this week. Honestly, this was a pretty fun game to watch the first time around and I like the passion of the Blue Devil fan base, so I think we are in for a spicy affair in Round Two in Hamilton. I just don’t think the Blue Devils have enough to the edge and over the top to slow the Titans and hold their scoring down. The shootout thing may have worked with Carmi. It doesn’t work nearly as well here. And if West Hancock’s defense plays more in tune with some of its better performance; heck more in tune with what it did last week to Auburn, I suspect the final margin will be more pronounced than the first meeting. Travis Cook and Jim Unruh have gotten a free look at these guys. That feels to me like a pretty safe bet for success.
FEARLESS DUERR PREDICTION
WEST HANCOCK 35
MSHSAA CLASS 2-DISTRICT 6 TITLE GAME-CLARK COUNTY AT PALMYRA
BRAMMER TIME: I can pay you lip service and create artificial drama here. Or I can be honest. I am going to choose the latter and tell you that last week’s shutout win over Centralia (the Panthers second of the season) all but cemented my Player of the Year vote for Peyton Plunkett. He is the center of gravity on the best defense in the area (hands down on both of those statements) and while I guess there are things that could happen down the stretch (candidates tend to fall and rise week to week, impressive resumes will fall by the wayside as teams are eliminated) I am firmly entrenched on the notion that that guy is the best two way football player in the area and far and away the most impactful linebacker this area has produced since Brett Taylor. (By the way, what ever happened to That GUY? Did he go on to do anything after Macomb??) Yeah, Plunkett is that good and watching him F-5 Tornado his through the the Centralia offense a second time is the exclamation point I needed to a notion that has been rumbling through my head since Week One here. Peyton had another 11 tackles, eight of them solo (four for loss) in the blanking of the Panthers; the centerpiece of a defense that limited Centralia to just 201 yards of total offense and no points in eight combined quarters of football. That’s pretty good, no? And that’s not to suggest that Plunkett is the only guy really getting after people in that Panther Defense. He’s just the most obvious catalyst. Brady Barnett optically had another big night. And the final stat sheet bore that out with nine and half stops, six solos and a pair of very obvious tackles for loss. Gabe Goodwin and Braxden Neil continue to be two of the best “big play” splash defenders in our area. The puzzle is really good here. And right now, that’s a good thing because Palmyra’s offense is not operating at Max-Q. Obviously, Centralia boasts a very good, very active defense. And that is not to be discounted here. Still, Palmyra’s offense has felt very hit and miss at times. The “funny” stat from last week was that Kicker Noah Mencer led Palmyra in passing with 22 yards. Except that it’s not so very funny when you consider that Clark County, with all of Bryan Plenge’s run-blitz packages, is probably better positioned to frustrate Palmyra on the ground than Centralia did. It’s been a weirdly underplayed storyline, but the Indians Defense really seems to have found a different level of productivity with the rise of Trevor Schorr at Linebacker. A subtle tweak but one that the Sophomore Linebacker has taken advantage of to yield big dividends. The notion that Palmyra can simply line up in the I and run over the top of these guys, absent a viable over the top threat, is a tough one to buy. Again, Kevin Miles is as good as they come with scheme and he too has had a free look at the Clark County Defense, so I fully expect he will have devised appropriate countermeasures. And make no mistake, this is probably the biggest litmus test since the Monroe City game for that Panther Offensive Line as Jack Hunziker, Kyle Golbricht (who missed the first meeting) and Brad “The Masked Banditio” Forquer are formidable physical presences who nicely set up Chayson Kleine to roam and destroy. The Indians Secondary, coming off a showdown with the terrific Nash Waller, also found some traction last week with three interceptions (London Brunk, Zeb Riney, and Dalton Albert) so testing Clark through the air isn’t an easy bargain as well. Will be interested to see just how Palmyra attacks this group and if the Panthers can find rhythm doing so.
Clark’s Offense challenge is, as alluded to previously, a daunting one. Ethan Allen credits his teams current six game win streak to simplifying the playbook and getting back to the things that the Indians do best. That means a steady diet of Caleb Lapsley behind a big and rising Offensive Line. And as Allen points out, behind a tremendous blocking Fullback in Garrett Brammer, who has essentially become an extra 190 pound guard in the equation here. Establishing Lapsley against Palmyra’s pirhana frenzy of a defense is a must. I am not saying the kid has to bust for 150 yards. Or even 100. Palmyra doesn’t allow that kind of things. But Clark does need him to produce positive yards, extend drives and draw the attention of Plunkett in particular. Allen says that Caleb has the added ability to “get skinny” when there aren’t obvious holes and running lanes in play and find hidden yardage. That’s a big plus here in preoccupying Palmyra’s reactive Front level guys. The longer Clark holds on to possession Friday, the better their chances to pull the upset. Centralia found out very specifically on Friday that there is some ability to attack Palmyra in the middle of the field…but that the sledding gets near impossible against these guys from about the 30 yard line in. I think if Clark can move the ball similarly, the Indians do have some more directed aways to attack to and through the red zone. Obviously Zeb Riney is going to ping radar every time he looks downfield bound. London Brunk is one of the craftiest quarterbacks around and his unorthodox ability to kind of find things; to create production out of something that initially looks doomed or ugly is a big plus against Palmyra as well. Those are places I think Clark can find traction. The problem for the Indians, going back to that first meeting, is that Palmyra has a huge edge here in Special Teams. They have against everyone. Noah Mencer is obviously a pretty good bet at 3 every time the Panthers visit the red zone. Palmyra gets points there that other teams don’t and that applies a certain amount of added scoring pressure. As we saw with Centralia; things kind of seized up for them in the red zone because they had to force the issue that Palmyra didn’t. Clark also made mistakes in that part of the game in the first meeting; notably the blocked and returned for a touchdown punt. To have a chance to win Friday, Clark is going to have to play not just a near perfect game in that discipline of the game; but perhaps create a Special Teams (or at least some kind of )Opportunity that feeds momentum into the equation to balance the scales. It’s a tall task. Not undoable. But tall. And this comes from a guy who is really impressed with Clark at this Juncture. I expect Palmyra to win. But it would not floor me if Clark rides this wave to an upset either. Two very good football teams and I am excited to take this one in…in person.
FEARLESS DUERR PREDICTION
CLARK COUNTY 8
MSHSAA CLASS 1 DISTRICT 5 TITLE GAME-SOUTH SHELBY AT MONROE CITY
WHERE THERE’S A WILT THERE’S A WAY: I am not going to even suggest that Monroe City would not have won the previous meeting anyway. The Panthers are the best football team in Northeast Missouri, if not the entire Tri-States. But a couple of things creep back into mind about South Shelby/Monroe Part I that do merit your deeper consideration. First, without saying too much here, the Cardinals were dealing with a personnel issue that week that was an unfortunate blind-siding (and let’s be honest: significant talent attrition) that certainly left them a bit under-armed for the task of battling the Panthers. I am not suggesting any one player tilts the field South’s direction. Or that those aren’t the break of life. Just that it was an unfortunate ham-stringing of a team in a critical week. I will also mention that South Shelby didn’t exactly play poorly in the early going of that 38-6 loss. To their credit, the Panthers responded to every good Cardinal Defense turn on their first possession with statement third and fourth down plays. Great teams do that. I am just suggesting that South could have just as easily made one of those stops and perhaps the nature of that early game would have been different. South fumbling away the football on its first possession as well, was an absolute killer. A true 14 point swing as the Cardinals appeared to be moving the football decently enough against Monroe City’s defense. How different would this game have been had South not fumbled that ball away..and Monroe City been even up at 7 rather than up by 14 early? Few teams in our region are better with a lead than David Kirby’s crew. My point here being that even in Week Three the disparity of talent between Monroe and South isn’t as great as the team’s records would portray. South is a really talented football team. South is a team that has historically risen late under Rob Wilt’s command and appears to be doing so again this season. See also two very impressive wins against a pretty good Scotland squad. Brock Wood might be as hot a running back as exists in our area right now. There are just a host of dynamics here to suggest that if Monroe City takes its focus off the Cards for even a second, South is a ridiculously dangerous opponent here and a very viable threat to give the Top Ranked Team in the state all kinds of trouble. David Kirby has proven masterful in his brief head coaching tenure at keeping his Monroe squads focused. And I know first-hand that Kirby has a ton of respect for Rob Wilt and the South talent pool, so I don’t think that will be an issue. But again: 16-18 year old kids are a vexing lot to have to hitch your job status (and your sanity) to on a week to week basis. So Monroe’s approach and focus Friday with all that lies ahead is critical here.
Again, my standard issue answer to all questions Monroe City this year is that if the Panthers play well on a given night, there may be three teams in Class 1 and 2 that can beat them. Last week, MC dismantled a Twain club that while young, had been trending nicely upwards. Zach Osborn led the charge with 130 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The Panther Defense put the clamps hard to Jace Barton and the Twain running game, limiting the Tigers to just 140 total yards on the night. Again, South is a more difficult entity to hem in with both Wood and Cody McKenzie as targets, but Monroe's defensive athleticism also allows the Panthers a better chance to close the edges on Wood and make the sledding harder for McKenzie between the tackles. This is a defense that is well designed to meet South's offense at strength. The question then becomes what does Rob Wilt have up his sleeve to try and tip the scales in his favor some how. Clever, clever coach. But he's going to need all his wizardry for this one.
FEARLESS DUERR PREDICTION
SOUTH SHELBY 18
MONROE CITY 38
KHQA Preseason All Do or Die Girls Squad
KHQA Preseason Girls Player of the Year: BLAIR BORROWMAN, Western
Rationale: Your reigning KHQA Player of the Year is going to see her role change…for the better, I would think. After leading the region in scoring as a Junior (21.1ppg) Blair Borrowman is about to get a nifty infusion of help, by way of the new basketball co-op with Payson Seymour. The additions, in particular, of Haley Hickerson and Riley Epperson figure to take some of the scoring onus of the Lindenwood commit and allow her to be the “all-around” contributor that her talent portends, as opposed to having to shoulder the entirety of the offensive load. Think pre-injury/vintage Paul George as her new high school basketball profile here. By way of more help, Blair is going to get to show off her floor vision more organically this Winter and I would think her assist numbers would blossom. She’s going to have a chance to play off the basketball, which is big (and a glimpse of her future in college.) And her skills as a lockdown defender will be far better enhanced, since she won’t have to work so hard at just one end of the floor. I’m sure she will still have nights where she will go for 20 or 30 points. The neat thing here, however, is that she won’t HAVE to push her team to wins most nights. Her value here is no less, but it will show up in new and different ways. Her future college coach Tony Francis views Blair as a superb team concept player and saw value in the way her future teammates loved playing with her. With the enriched roster here, she’s going to get to show off that outlier asset at the high school level as well. And she’s still there for Elizabeth Seals to call on if her team needs a boost in a tight spot or a big shot in end game scenarios. Just one more perumation to enjoy on a super all-around kid and one of the hardest workers in any sport, anywhere. That established, Blair is no shoo-in to repeat this honor this season. The guard corps is loaded in all three states this Winter and I suspect Laney Lantz at Central-Southeastern and defensive monster Katelynn Kuntz at Clopton, with a broader job freedoms this Winter, in particular make big runs at this award. It’s going to be an insanely fun year.
First Team Preseason All Do-or-Die
Center-MARIAH MARKERT, Brown County
Forward-JADA SUMMERS, Monroe City
Guard-BAYLEE CLAMPITT, Illini West
Guard- KATELYNN KUNTZ, Clopton
Guard-LANEY LANTZ, Central-Southeastern
Sixth-ANIKA KAUFMANN, West Central
Second Team Preseason All Do-or-Die
Center-AUDREY FOHEY, Palmyra
Forward-RILEY EPPERSON, Western/Payson
Guard-MCKENZIE LATHROM, Mark Twain
Guard-MCKENZIE NORTHUP, Central Lee
Guard- MICHAELA DAVIS, Keokuk
Sixth-CARISSA BEVANS, Clark County
KHQA 2018 Breakout Team to Stardom Team
Center-MYA MERSCHMAN, Central Lee
Forward-SARAH NELSON, Quincy High
Forward-KAYLEE FALCONER, Hannibal
Guard-TARYN ROE, Liberty
Guard-KAITLIN BENSON, Highland
Illini West Track and Field Star and Defending State Long Jump Champion Connor Artman made his official pledge to Notre Dame Track and Field on Wednesday. Artman, who has eight state medals (and counting) to his credit thus far throughout his high school career, becomes the second Charger Track Star to go D-1 this Fall. Teammate Jacob Bryan has pledged Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Connor, who is a 4.0 student, has worked tirelessly this Fall to push the margins on his Long Jumping and that dedication has certainly yielded a very deserved and very cool dividend here. We don't get many Fighting Irish Pledges in these parts. Obviously, Artman is a tremendously skilled natural athlete. But the countless hours of work he poured in to maximize that talent is a credit to the young man, his work ethic, and his pursuit of dream. Pretty neat stuff, indeed.
Dynamic Mark Twain Guard McKenzie Lathrom has found her college landing spot; the latest UMSL pledge out of the Tri-State Hardwood recruiting pool. She many not be possessed of prototype guard size but man is Miss Lathrom a nice athlete (another accomplished long jumper in her own right) and a finely crafted basketball player who can really put the ball in the hoop. I surmise she's going to be one of those players who get even better when surrounded by better players at the next level.
I sometimes get asked the question: who is the best high school coach in Tri-State Sports. I rarely hesitate when answering. We've got a ton of great coaches in our area and I would argue, relative to our size in the scope of the universe, and inordinate number of elite ones for our tiny piece of geography. But even in such lofty company, only one of those esteemed leaders has led her team to now eight straight state appearances. What Melissa Freesmeier has done at Holy Trinity over the entirety of her tenure, but especially now with ever shifting personnel, makes dynasty feel like too tiny a word to encompass the scope of her work. We tease her about her Cub Fandom and her "Trapper Keeper of Death" but there is no one else in our region who wins as consistently, heck as relentlessly as the Crusaders win Volleyball games. And between Holy Trinity, West Prairie, QND, and Payson Seymour alone, this area is fairly called a Volleyball haven. Teri Paul and Rich Meyer are two of the all time winningest coaches in IHSA History. At this rate, Melissa may catch the 800 match win total in even quicker pace in Southeast Iowa, which is even more revealing. She is that darned good at what she does.
Speaking of terrific Volleyball Coaches, got to spend a little time around the ever entertaining Patrick Gibson this week during the Triopia Sectional. Gibby's Routt squad showed impressive firepower early in the Semifinals against Lincolnwood, before letting a Game One win slide into two straight W's for the comeback minded Lancers. Routt was, as usual, well coached and I thought intriguingly talented this season. Madi Fellhauer leads a tremendous crew of soon to be graduating Seniors. I am told thought that Madi's Sophomore Sister is going to be quite the talent in her own right in pretty short order. Pair her up with the returns of Katie Abell, Bella Powell and some other quality underclassmen and Routt could be really interesting in the next few years.
Some postmortem on teams eliminated from the Playoff Pool this week: Quincy High's continued struggles playing Chicago competition in the postseason are pretty strong indictment that the Blue Devils current schedule isn't properly preparing this team for what it takes to make that next step. QHS wasn't remotely competitive against Oak Forest three seasons ago. And giving up 418 yards to Tori Clinton two years later is too glaring a mishap to so easily sweep aside. There is no easy fix to this. The Western Big Six has become, relatively speaking, a pretty pedestrian conference. The Devils, Moline, and Alleman all got housed in one-and-done playoff scenarios Week Ten. And not one of them put anything remote resembling Defensive Resistance to their initial opponents. And I am not sure what the answer is here. Logistically, QHS has no real recourse or options. The Devils have scheduled quality non-conference opponents in the recent past with the likes of Edwardsville, Genesseo, and QND, so it's not like Rick Little is trying to take the Bill Snyder approach. Still, I am not wrong to point out that QHS isn't going to take that elusive next step (adding just the second postseason win in program history) until it starts gettng better, earlier barometers on where the flaws exist. I don't envy Rick Little and his staff that challenge but they need to find a bridge to jump start that process.
Robbi Howard's Beardstown Tigers gave Bloomington Central Catholic all it could handle on its home digs Saturday before the Saints escaped with a 35-31 win. Again, I would argue that that is a telling show of the physical and mental toughness of this Tiger Team has affected. Two season ago, the Tigers couldn't win a game. Two years later, they nearly take out a perennial state power on the road. Moral victories aren't very satisfying and I am sure Howard and his kids have spent a lot of time thinking "what if" in the wake of that contest. That said, who anywhere in the State actually gave this upstart program an chance to be in the game with the Saints, let alone leading in the second half. It may hurt now but the Tiger Seniors who modeled such great grit and physicality have left their successors a template that should fuel an even brighter future to come. It's fine work you did Gents, especially given where you can came from. Be Proud.
Give Lyle Klein's Chargers credit as well for fighting incredibly well against a loaded Maroa Forsyth crew. Lots of returning talent coming back for Illini West and I thought that crew really grew up nicely down the stretch.
Quincy High alum Malique Robbins scored the first receiving Touchdown of his Truman State Career in his Gem City homecoming against Quincy University, a 33 yard grab in the third quarter of a 31-7 win over Quincy University.
Bowling Green Cross Country Coaching Svenghali Matt Chance announced this week on Social Media that his scans for throat cancer had come back clean. That's fantastic news for a fantastic man. And both his Girls and Boys Cross Country Teams punched tickets back to Jefferson City on Saturday. That's a pretty darned good week.