And you folks wonder why I love my job....
I know it's really just the first blush of the Autumn Postseason but what a crazy, fun, eventful week it was that just transpired. Somehow, Clark County/Centralia lived up to the hype. Quincy High/QND Soccer was epically good. And I got to watch the best, most thrilling softball game I've seen in some time on Saturday between Knox County and Scotland County in Edina. And that was just the start of the madness. This week we add Small School Playoff Soccer to the mix. We've got Palmyra and Knox County fighting for State Softball berths in the Show Me State. And we could crown potential state champions in Illinois High School Boys and Girls Golf. I glanced at the schedule last week and realized that there was at least one event I was excited to cover every day this week. In what other profession does that happen?
In that spirit, welcome to Duerrisms my friends, brought to you as always by our good friends at GAMEMASTERS here in Quincy; the only outfitter you will ever need for any sporting need you could possibly imagine. Seriously, if you haven't been, go check them out. There store is a wonderland.
A reminder to all you social media users out there: you can follow me on Twitter ( https://twitter.com/ChrisDuerr ) for instant feedback, scores as the happen, and stories as they break in real time on Twitter. And if you are up late on Friday Night after the games, the Pigskin Party continues for KHQA on our Facebook site ( http://www.facebook.com/KHQAChrisDuerr ) We are there until Midnight delivering opinions and sharing your observations and comments on the night's action. Plus it's your chance to vote on our Star of the Week Poll, the winner of which is unveiled below every week in this column. We've got something akin to 2200 Twitter Followers and 2300 Facebook users on those specific sites, so come join the party with us. It's fun and easy and I guarantee you it will heighten your enjoyment of local sports.
Apologies for all the weird underlining in this column this week. Yours truly had to get a little creative to get this thing to the Web, given some of the technical issues that beset my computer over the last ten days.
KHQA STUDENT ATHLETE OF THE WEEK presented by CELL TECH, PETERS HEATING/AIR, and SUBWAY
Now in its eight year of existence, the KHQA Student Athlete of the Week Award celebrates the best and brightest examples of achievement in Tri State Athletics. Every Wednesday Night at 6:00pm, we will profile a deserving senior selected from a pool of applicants by our independent nominating committee. It's a look beyond just their highlights into the mindset and determination that make these young men and women successful in all that they do; a reminder to all of you just how much good there is out there to be celebrated in this generation. And at year's end, we will once again award scholarships to the top boys and girls scholar athletes in our area.
If you know of a deserving senior who sports a minimum 3.5 GPA, please contact your high school athletic director and have them fill out a form on that student's behalf. Or help expedite the process yourself by printing a nomination form from our website (which can be found on the Student Athlete of the Week Page) and turning it in to your local athletic director so that they can submit it to us. Our next nominating session is Mid-December, at which point we will pick or last 12 more honorees from the pool of seniors. The window of opportunity to nominate a deserving applicant is closing fast. We don't want to miss anyone in the process and sincerely hope you will help us out in that spirit.
Week One: DALTON POWELL, Hannibal High Football/Basketball/Baseball
Week Two: INDIA GREEN, Quincy High Volleyball
Past Scholarship Winners
2012: ALEX WALTER, Central High (Augustana)
TORI KUHN, Quincy Notre Dame (Lindenwood University)
2011: JACOB CONLEY, Central High (U.S. Military Academy at West Point)
DAKOTA FLESNER, Payson Seymour (John Wood Community College)
2010: MICHAEL LAFFERTY, Illini West (Monmouth College)
TAYLOR BAXTER, Palmyra (Illinois State)
2009: MATT PATTERSON, South Shelby (Truman State)
CHLOE BARNES, Quincy Notre Dame (Ball State University)
2009: LUKE GUTHRIE, Quincy High (University of Illinois)
2007: KATELYN BASTERT, Illini West (Duke University)
2006: MIKAL BENECOMO, Clopton (Southeast Missouri State)
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN-WEEK SEVEN
7) DONOVAN EDWARDS, QB, Knox County
11 Carries, 202 Yards, 2 TD vs Scotland County
6) ZACH ABNEY, RB, Pittsfield/Griggsville Perry
230 Rushing Yards, 3 TD vs West Hancock
5) AARON VASQUEZ, DB, Jacksonville
3 Interceptions vs Taylorville
4) TRACE WINDSOR, RB, South Shelby
33 Carries, 224 Yards, 3 TD vs Highland
3) BLAKE GRICE, RB, Monroe City
22 Carries, 170 Yards, 4 TD vs Louisiana
2) JORDAN OSBORNE, RB, Quincy High
8 Carries, 180 Yards, 4 TD vs East Moline
1) JORDAN CHAPEL, DB/WR, Quincy Notre Dame
65 Yard Punt Return for TD; 77 Yard Kickoff Return for TD; 46 Yard Pick Six vs Peoria Manual
KHQA HERO OF THE WEEK
As voted by you the fans at http://www.facebook.com/KHQAChrisDuerr
BRADY LONG, Brown County
Good to see the Brown County faithful back out in force the last two weeks trying to positively help rally their beloved Hornets for a playoff rush. The Offensive sledding wasn't exactly easy this past week against Unity/Payson team that has shown effective Defensive chops at times this season. Which is what made Brady Long's first quarter punt return of such critical importance on Friday in Mount Sterling. The fact that the Hornets were able to build a little early separation on big plays (Long's 74 yarder and an 82 yard rumble by Braxton Phelps) helped allow the Hornets to breath a bit and play their style and tempo football, without trying to push or rush things. That's an important piece of ground for this team to carve out for itself since Brown County isn't constructed to be a team that plays well from behind. This is a squad that needs to seize and early lead and play within its own comfort zone. It's a very nice win and one I am not at all surprised that Brady Long had a big hand in. As anyone who has seen the kid (in a couple of different sports) will attest, he's a terrific natural athlete. Not only as good as you will find on the Hornet roster but in that top echelon of the WIVC as well. Long makes difficult things (for example weaving in and out of 11 crazed special defenders who like nothing more than to hand you your helmet) look effortless. He is an excellent player in space. When the Hornets have struggled this season, it's because they haven't found the kind of space they need for their difference makers. To Brown County's credit, the coaching staff seems to have identified new and different ways to pull the top off opposing defenses and get guys like Long and Phelps better chances to take advantage of their gifts. That's a good thing for all involved, especially us selfish TV guys who love the big play highlights because I am willing to hazard Brady Long has a lot more of those for us to broadcast left in the tank.
Week One: ANDRE REYNOLDS, Macon
Week Two: TYLER STEINKAMP, Mark Twain
Week Three: BROCK BUTLER, Palmyra
Week Four: TYLER STEINKAMP, Mark Twain
Week Five: JUSTIN PRICE, Hannibal
Week Six: ADAM VEITH, Brown County
KHQA POWER POLL FOR WEEK EIGHT
1) CLARK COUNTY (7-0)
Last Week: 20-15 win over Centralia
This Week: at South Shelby
THE SKINNY: The Streak is now history, some seventy games later. Clark County won the biggest "Red Letter" game of the regular season, in hostile climes, against an opponent that had not dropped a Conference Game in six years. Let that soak in a second. When you play in the Panthers House, there simply aren't many calls to be had or advantages to be gained. The Indians had to stand toe to toe with a supremely well coached, very gifted team and win by knockout. The deciding haymakers came in the fourth quarter: first by virtue of a Austin Egley to Lincoln Jones go-ahead touchdown pass. Then from an Aaron Six interception that shut the door on Zach Etzler's comeback march. Like most great fights, however, the knockouts are a by-product of all the withering (if not as spectacular or celebrated) shots that came before. And in this case, I would argue that came from the Indians Defense, which succeded in making the Panthers somewhat one dimensional on offense. It's not very often you see an Erle Bennett squad limited to less than 100 yards of total rushing. After going back through our tape in the wee hours of Saturday morning, you could tell Centralia wasn't very comfortable testing the Indians big Defensive Line between the tackles and simply could not outflank Clark County's range to the edge, at least in the first half. I really was impressed with Clark's Linebacker play on Friday, particularly from Jones and Jacob Trump who really got locked into their targets quickly in read/diagnose and then went aggessively to the football. Those kids can flat tackle. Clearly, Centralia made some critical adjustments and started creating flow in the third quarter, after falling behind 12-0 and a lot of that speaks to a pretty good Centralia Offensive Line and some very quick backs who started getting North and South with some real immediacy. That coupled with Zach Etzler settling in and making some really nice passes to Chandler Blackwell and Dixon Dollens that loosened the Indians up a bit. Good teams do that and there is no doubt Centralia is a very good team. So why was Clark better? Obviously, Austin Egley is one acceptable answer. Centralia had no answer for his escape ability, just as most CCC teams had no answer last year for Dax Dollens. More than any offensive weapon in Tri State Football right now, Egley heightens the threat level on every play. He is, quite literally, one step on every snap from finding the end zone because there just aren't many defenders who can comparably run with him. To me, the more salient answer is that the Indians proved Friday Night that they can close. Look, we knew all along Clark County had really special talent in a lot of really important places. What we did not know, until Friday night, is how they would fare when thing got a little tight; a little adverse. No real panic. No critical mistakes. Just pure production. And I have to believe a ton of that falls on the shoulders of an offensive line that breeds confidence. Let's not mince words: Clark did not exactly have a stellar looking passing game working against Centralia; a team that on paper may have better overall speed/athleticisim than Clark in the passing game. Egley didn't exactly has his A+ stuff throwing the football around either on a cold Friday night. But you can just see on that final drive how much confidence; the comfort level that the Indians skill guys have in their protection up front. They play fearless football because they know the holes will be there when they get to them. Even against a Centralia level threat with outstanding D-Linemen and super-fast linebackers. And thusly, Austin Egley worked his magic. And the the Clark County defense closed when it needed to. In summation: we saw what we needed to see from Clark County. The Indians proved they could take a shot to the jaw and come back swinging, proved they could play a fourth quarter, and proved they can close. Just a very impressive performance from a team that has not only lived up to the preseason hype, but given us all new reasons to believe in them with each passing week. Schedule isn't exactly easy to finish with South Shelby and Brookfield looming, but based on what we've seen through seven weeks this season, does anyone really think Clark County won't show up and continue this Mission of Carnage for as long as it takes to achieve their end goals?
2) CENTRAL-SOUTHEASTERN (7-0)
Last Week: 59-6 win over ISD
This Week: at North Greene
THE SKINNY: The Panthers took another step towards fashioning their second straight perfect run through the regular season with 59-6 thrashing of ISD. Dalton Heubner, Douglas Weese, Bobby Keltz and Alger Saldana eached scored a pair of touchdowns in the white washing. And two of Seth Leezer's three completions went for touchdown strikes on the night. The Panther Defense rolled up nine quarterback sacks (including three from Logan Myers, who is still wearing a full cast on his arm) against the Tigers Spread Offense and limited ISD to negative 68 yards in total rushing. There really isn't a whole lot to extrapolate from here. CSE is a really good football team. ISD is a really overmatched football team at this point. That established, I do think there is good work for the Panthers to be done against a North Greene team this week that plays with good physicality and is 2-1 on the season on its home digs. The Spartans are also fighting to secure a playoff berth, which should at least give CSE some semblence of Playoff Feel (or at the very least some feeling of legitimate threat) this week to help sharpen the edges for the 2A Playoffs. To be brutally honest, however, I've already kind of checked out on CSE's Regular Season and began playing the "How do the Panther stack up with Illini West/Auburn game in my head" since the rest of the regular season schedule is pretty pedestrian. I have that luxury. Brad Dixon and his players do not. This team has been a pretty focused lot from start to finish. I suspect they handle their business accordingly these next two weeks and we can all fast forward to the real fun.
3) MACOMB (7-0)
Last Week: 21-0 win over Princeton
This Week: vs Rockridge
THE SKINNY: I don't know what your particular thoughts are as to the Player of the Year race at this point, especially with so many really viable "conventional" candidates in the mix in Austin Egley, Dalton Heubner, and Nick Weiman in play. But there is a voice in the back of my head screaming at me that Macomb Linebacker Brett Taylor is the most valuable single entity anywhere in Tri State Football right now and that it may not be even close for second. There is a compelling, Trevor Frericks-styled argument to be made here for the Bombers Senior 'Backer, who just happens to be coming off a 19 tackle effort in Macomb's shutout of Princeton the other night. That is now 131 tackles and 2 Interceptions in seven games, or roughly 18 plus stops a night. The next closest Bomber has nearly 100 less tackles than the Brett Taylor, which might be the most telling stat in all of Tri State Football. Without this kid, where is Macomb right now? Undefeated?? I don't think so. He's a rainmaker of the highest order the likes of which we haven't seen since the aforemention Frericks; save for the fact that Brett is statisically twice as active as the former KHQA Player of the Year. Just food for thought. As far as the Bombers win over Princeton goes, it was simply more of the same. Nothing particularly flashy (save for the big Jacob Moon punt return that spurred Macomb's first touchdown) or sexy, just good old winning football born of nasty defense and a particularly effective running game. There is a very real chance this week that both Jarrod Rockhold and Eli Cousins could go over the 1000 yard mark for the season in Macomb's showdown with Rockridge. Clearly, Kelly Sears on Defense and Max Kreps on Offense have found, embraced, and clinged to a successful m.o. for this team that fits its comparative strengths. And they are going to continue pushing those agendas until someone is man enough to step up and stop them. Haven't seen it yet. From a roster standpoint, Rockridge might be the best heeled team to pull an upset against Macomb since at least Illini West. Still can't see it happening. More than anything, Macomb has developed a great comfort level with its own identity and there is a comfort level in this that is very reassuring. This is a team that very well could string together 14 "ugly" games this season and all of them might well be victories. They just keep finding a way to get that W and until someone proves Macomb mortal, I am not jumping ship or discounting any possible end game for this squad.
4) HANNIBAL (7-0)
Last Week: 34-22 win over Moberly
This Week: at Marshall
THE SKINNY: I haven't had much luck this season watching the Hannibal Pirates in person in first halves this Fall. They've been outscored 37-7 in my viewings over that 48 minutes (and if we are being technical about it, I did not even see Dalton Powell's rushing TD against QHS. Our live shot operator filmed that while I was rushing back from Monroe City/Mark Twain) so far this Fall. So it was really nice to see the Pirates shake out of their malaise in the second half on Friday and look like the team that has electrified the highlight clips the last two months. The surge started with a Caleb Bieniek 80 yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage (he finished with 2 TD and 184 yards) and netted four total 3rd quarter touchdowns for the Pirates in total. Mitch Nichols had three scoring runs on the night to punctuate the box score. And I went from not having a single usable Pirate Highlight from the first half to having my cup runneth over in very short order. In short, this was a typical Homecoming type game. The Pirates had no school on Friday, got out of their routine and looked completely flat on both sides of the football to start the game. Then, they hit the switch. At MaxQ, the Pirates are as impressive as anyone; both sides of the football. Clearly, its just a matter of getting to that level earlier, quicker, more consistently during the game. It took two quarters, for example, for the Pirates Linebacking play to dethaw against Moberly. Once it did, the missed tackles and running lanes evaporated. Save for Justin Connaway's spectacular throw on third and long from near his own end zone, the Spartan Offense was largely invisible at the end of the night. It doesn't much much ink, but the Hannibal Defensive Line is a really tight unit.Had those gentlemen not done such a good job up front, the game might have been much uglier than the 9-0 hole the Pirates found themselves in at halftime. Projecting forward, I think the schedule to end the regular season behooves Mark St Clair well here. Marshall is a solid opponent. Helias is a spectacular one, especially on the road. These two games offer Mark St Clair a chance to smoke out any niggling issues before District roll around.
5) ILLINI WEST (6-1)
Last Week: 48-0 win over Trenton
Next Week: at Sherrard
THE SKINNY: Win/Loss records aside, there is part of me that feels like this might well be the second best team in Tri State Football right now. In NFL power poll parlance, this is the team you view through the same prism as say the 49ers or the Patriots. Yes, there is a blemish on the record. But on a neutral field right now, who are you picking to beat these guys? Obviously, Trenton didn't put up much resistence. Alex Ourth intercepted Trenton's first pass attempt of the game, Bryton Smith (fast becoming one of the Tri State's best gamebreakers) popped the Bulldogs for a 35 yard Touchdown run and from that point forward, the outcome was never in question. Smith finished with a pair of touchdowns. The tough-as-nails Alex Appel also reached the end zone twice and finished with 115 yards and continued his rise as one of the most punishing runners in our region. Ben Gittings and Bryor Grotts added touchdowns as well. Between those four differently talented running back options and the speed of Quarterback Brody Gronewold, IW has fashioned the Tri State's most perfectly balanced and blended array of rushing weapons; if not the hardest in the region to now game plan against. But that is only part of the equation. The more interesting dynamic to me on Friday was just how many times on our video there were strewn bodies along the Trenton Defensive Line. The Charger Offensive Line was just absolutely jack hammering people up front. I was probably most impressed wtih Andrew Brackenbury and Andrew McGhghy, who form a really imposing tackle/guard combo on the left side. At one point, I tried to count the number of "victims" those two gentlemen had either pancaked or caved in with a hit, but some of the plays got a little murky due to camera angle/photographer following the football. My favorite play of the night, however, might have been Ben Gittings 2 yard touchdown run where Center Tyler Wildrick pushed a kid to the back of the end zone, Kale Carlisle decleated a kid, and there were two other bodies on the ground I whose "takedowns" I could not account for in the scrum, although I think one of those shots was delivered by Collin Swanson. There is also a pull play in the second quarter where Carlisle hits a kid and literally lifts him off the ground to clear the way for a six yard run that Kale could have really made fun by dumping the kid on his back. Again, just a really dominant performance by the guys up front to keep the Chargers rolling. That is a very good Offensive Line and one that is maybe more imposing that I initially realized. IW Defense was plenty good on Friday as well, with Ben Gittings and Kale Carlisle leading the way with 6 tackles apiece. Charger Defense gets a much better test this week from a potentially explosive Sherrard Offense on Friday on the road, but as well as IW as answering the bell every week right now, I am not sure this will be any prettier for an opponent than it was last week. If these guys are one of the last teams standing come November, don't say I didn't warn you in advance.
6) CENTRALIA (6-1)
Last Week: 20-15 loss to Clark County
This Week: vs Louisiana
THE SKINNY: Beyond struggling to contain Austin Egley (and really...to this point...who hasn't?) I thought the Panthers defense was every bit as good as advertised and played well enough to win on Friday. Centralia's team speed is impressive and I love the way that guys like Kinkead and Arnold and even big guys like Haden Morris and AJ Jerichow get to the football like heat-seeking missles. Egley used that aggressiveness against the Panthers at least three times that I remember, but even at that, I thought Centralia did a very credible job otherwise limiting the most unique weapon in Tri State Football. The Panthers simply didn't make enough plays offensively (or maybe more accurately, make the plays they needed at the right times) to beat a team with a Defense the caliber of Clark County. To be absolutely honest, I still think Erle Bennett's crew is a viable threat deep into the Class 3 Playoffs and I don't think even at that level, they will encounter many teams with a defense that can match the one that hit Centralia on Friday. More importantly, I think the Panthers have a real growth opportunity coming off that slugfest with the Indians. That third quarter (and the adjustments the Centralia staff made) prove that the Panthers have a much higher ceiling. They are young, but I really like the kids Zach Etzler has out in the pass pattern in Dixon Dollens and Chandler Blackwell. There isn't a QB in Tri State Football who would not profit from their presence and I shudder to think how good that passing combination will be next year. Point blank, this just wasn't a team that Centralia matchs up with particularly well; given Clark's relative size/strength in the trenches and ability to negate one of the Panthers biggest strengths. But again, there aren't many other Clark County level teams out there in the Missouri Playoff Wilderness and Centralia will regroup, refocus, and re-engage with greater zeal going forward. That is bad news for everyone else left on the schedule. By the way, I also think it bares mentioning what a classy, cleanly played, respectful rivalry this Clark/Centralia thing has become in short order. These are two teams that do it the right way and that was clearly in evidence by the focus with which each gave the small details and the decorum with which each conducted themselves. These two communities have a lot to be proud of with these two groups of young men.
7) TRIOPIA (6-1)
Last Week: 52-0 win over Routt
This Week: at Pleasant Hill/Western
THE SKINNY: The Trojans gave star Tailback/Defensive Back Derek Schone a chance to rest his ailing shoulder on Saturday and it looked like Routt might make Rich Thompson rue that decision...for at least 12 minutes. Give the Rockets some credit here. They put together a plucky effort early on Defense in spite of their injury issues before eventually being worn from time spent on the field (read: they didn't get much break from their Offense.) But after a scoreless, sluggish First Quarter, Triopia hit the gas and never looked back. Cody Curry and Tanner Huddleston picked up much of the slack in Schone's absence. The former rushed for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns at the Rockets expense. The Trojan Quarterback, meanwhile, pulled off a 66 yard QB keeper (see it this week on Sensational Seven) and threw a touchdown strike to Dakota Longley to jump start the Offense. And the Trojan Defense feasted at the expense of a still injury riddled Rocket Offense that could not find any kind of continuity and could not stay on the field. The Trojans have a fairly favorable schedule the next two weeks to try and get healed up in time for their Playoff Push; one that should seem them fairly highly seed and well positioned at a likely 8-1 going forward. This is still a team that is very easy to like going into the 1A Playoffs and one I think (allowing for good health) that can still make a legitimate run onto the Carpet.
THE SECOND TIER
8) QND (5-2)
Once more...with feeling. Quincy Notre Dame and Richwoods end their epic series with, appropriately enough, a Mid State Six Title on the line. Raiders will come into this game riding a crest of momentum after returning to the state rankings and blasting Manual this week. Jordan Chapel may have delivered the years best single game performance in that contest by returning a punt, a kickoff, and an interception all for touchdowns. Joe McCaughey also produced his best QB showing yet in that contest, going 7 of 10 passing for 140 yards and Touchdown. The Raider Defense is plenty primed...will it be enough to slow Illinois commit Kendrick Foster and friends in your KHQA Game of the Week on Friday???
9) BEARDSTOWN (6-1)
High quality road win for the Tigers against a rising Farmington squad. Gus Vermillion shows his big game chops by engineering a game winning touchdown pass to Greg Carnes in the games final seven minutes to break a 13 all tie. Aaron Elmore's Tigers will be heavy favorites to secure their seventh win when BPCA comes to town Friday and appear to be trending towards hosting a first round playoff game, should they continue to take care of business. A quick tip of the cap to Alex Myles and the Tiger Defense, which continues to quietly excel.??
10) MACON (5-2)
Big week for the Brothers Kothe in the Tigers shutout victory of Mark Twain with Trey posting five tackles and 2.5 sacks and Kendall registering a team high eight tackles. Big star turn this week on Offense for Chris Little, who stamps himself as just the latest threat from a loaded Tiger backfield with 135 yards and a touchdown against Twain. Tyrone Walker added 89 and a score as well. Okay, I'll bite. Curious as heck to see where these guys are in two weeks against Centralia.
11) KNOX COUNTY (5-2)
Huge game coming for the Eagles Friday at Schuyler County with the likely Three Seed in Districts at stake. The Eagles destroy Scotland County this past week with another big showing in the team rushing department behind Kellen Gillaspy (157 yards, 4 TD) and Donovan Edwards (202 yards, 2 TD) for a team that has rolled up a mind numbing 112 points in the last two weeks. ??
12) JACKSONVILLE (4-3)
It's a difficult spot to be thrown into but new Crimson quarterback Zac Lonergan is acquitting himself well as Jacksonville's starter, completing 70% of his passes thus far and picking up his first win in a 21-7 effort last Friday against Taylorville. The kid is smart enough to know he's got good weapons and he seems to have knack for finding them in good places. Doesn't hurt that Crimson Defense has been a unit possessed the last seven quarters either. It's as simple as this, JAX has to find a way to beat either Rochester or Breese Mater Dei (two very good teams) to punch a playoff ticket. The Crimsons may be just clever enough as a group to swing one of those games to strength.
13) SOUTH SHELBY (4-3)
Five combined touchdowns from Trace Windsor and Alex Blackford did a masterful job in squealching any carry over momentum Highland may have had from its big win a week prior against Mark Twain. More impressively, the Cardinal Defense got it done, behind a 12 tackle effort from the rising Jacob Trivette. Are these guys actually catching Clark County at a good time with the Indians perhaps still awash in the afterglow of the Centralia victory? Interesting to see if Windsor, who has been a revelation with 1085 yards and 8 touchdowns this season, can find running room against that stout CC Defense...
14) QUINCY HIGH (3-4)
Step one of Operation: Win Three Straight went off without a hitch, thanks in no small measure to the heroics of Jordan Osborne. The degree of difficulty will be higher this week with a road trip to Galeburg for a battle with a Streak club that has been thorny at times this season. Par Pitts in Week Nine is no picnic either.
THE THIRD TIER
18) BROWN COUNTY
19) WEST CENTRAL
22) PLEASANT HILL
WEEK EIGHT SNAP JUDGEMENTS
1) Just a friendly heads-up on Monroe City for those who may have committed the Panthers to the "pay-no-mind" list after an 0-6 start: Brendan Williams returned to the line-up healthy for the first time this season, giving MC the kind of impact, physical and experienced lineman this program desperately needed. He had seven tackles in his return and grabbed one of the five fumbles his team forced against Louisiana. Interesting that Williams comes back and Tariq Garner and Derrick Kendrick both post their best games of the season with three sacks apiece. And with a bit better blocking, Blake Grice (4 TD) suddenly looked like Blake Grice again. Hmm.. I am not suggesting the Panthers are suddenly going to overthrow the current Cannon Conference power structure. But these guys could take a two game win streak into Palmyra and be a darned frisky out come District time.
2) We were spoiled the last two weeks with Centralia/Clark and Triopia/CSE. This week, the focus turns from the top of the football food chain to the mid-level teams in our area fighting to secure a playoff berth in Western Illinois. The most interesting games this week may be PGP's "elimination bout" on the road at Orion. Both teams are 3-4 on the year, which means the loser has no chance of securing a playoff bid. Orion's record may be a bit misleading. The Chargers losses have come to Alleman, Illini West, Rockridge and Macomb, who are a combined 25-3 right now. And the Chargers played the Bombers to a 22-20 game. Zach Abney and the Saukees have a real fight on their hands Saturday to stay in this mix. Brown County/Greenfield carries plenty in the way of playoff implications as well.
3) For the second time this season, we get treated to a Battle of Brothers in Tri State Football as the Graham Family tries to sort it out when Routt and West Central play a WIVC cross over game. The Rockets are eliminated from playoff contention for the first time in the Nate Graham era but could still take some solace in derailing Nick Graham's Cougars play off push Saturday night in Jacksonville. Earlier this fall, Steve and Jeff Gschwender also battled head to head when Louisiana and Bowling Green renewed a Pike County rivalry.
4) Not the homecoming celebration or the playoff boost the Keokuk Chiefs were looking for last Friday against Williamsburg in a potentially damning 33-27 defeat. Credit though to Trevor Roth for his gritty comeback from a high ankle sprain that at one point looked to have put his season in peril. Two weeks later, he was back in the mix rushing for a team high 83 yards on 19 carries despite playing at less than 100%. The Chiefs also got some 383 passing yards from Gabe Vandenberg in the defeat.
5) His winless club has fallen off media radar but don't sleep on the production that North Shelby back John Arnett has put up in adverse circumstances this season. He has had three games of more than 100 yards rushing this season, including more than 140 this week in a six point loss to Putnam County. Kid deserves some ink.
6) Your Tri-State High School Fantasy Football plays this week have to include the aforementioned Blake Grice at Monroe City, Austin Boehs of West Central, any member of the West Hancock Passing Game, and fast rising Keokuk receiving sensation Stacy Kinkeade in a very favorable matchup with Mount Pleasant.
WEEK EIGHT FEARLESS PREDICTIONS
Last Week: 15 of 16 (93.75%)
Season to Date: 102 of 120 (85%)
QUINCY HIGH 21
WEST HANCOCK 28
WEST CENTRAL 24
BROWN COUNTY 12
NORTH GREENE 12
PLEASANT HILL 14
CLARK COUNTY 30
SOUTH SHELBY 20
MONROE CITY 35
MARK TWAIN 7
KNOX COUNTY 28
SCHUYLER COUNTY 21
MOUNT PLEASANT 14
The Western Illinois Football team snapped an eight game road losing streak this weekend with a 24-17 win at South Dakota. The QND alumni brigade was in full effect. Quinton Keating recovered a block punt for the Leathernecks and Eddy Holtschlag had a Quarterback Sack and Fumble Recovery to spur the Defense. That game also marked a changing of the guard at Quarterback as Wil Lunt took over the reigns and looked sharp in throwing a pair of touchdown passes in the win.
For the second time this season, Central Lee alum Brad Vogel is the IIAC Special Teams Player of the Week. The Simpson College Junior returned two kickoffs for 67 yards and two punts for 10 yards in Simpson's victory at Central. He also snared a game best seven receptions for 74 yards.
The Hannibal Pirate Soccer team made its MSHSAA State Rankings debut this week at #10 in Class 2. Really amazing how far Eric Hill has brought this program in a short amount of time. The Pirates picked up their 15th win of the season on Tuesday in a thrilling 2-1 victory over Moberly, one capped by a golden goal from Aaron White and a spectacular header from Clay Cunningham. The Pirates entered Wednesday night with a stellar 8-1 record in NCMC Play.
The Macomb Soccer team will play for a Regional Title against Peoria Christian in East Peoria on Friday. That scheduling means Kelly Sears will be without his place kicker for the Bombers regular season game with Rockridge as Aaron O'Neill pulls double duty for both the Bomber Soccer and Football squads.
If you havent seen this yet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s201w6itoMg from the Quincy High Soccer Team, it's well worth your while. The Matt Longo cameo seals it for me...
Congrats and kudos to all our State Bound Illinois Golfers this week, a list that includes the Quincy High and West Central Boys squads, the QND Girls team, and individuals including QND's Drew Eaton, Unity's Wil Klusmeyer, West Central's Lauren Frye and Macomb's Hailea Hadsall. I was out of the loop on Monday with my daughter on a previously scheduled (poorly on my part by the way) College Visit but we will make it up to you this weekend.
Knox County/Scotland County Regional Championship Softball game was some of the best sports theatre I have seen this year. The Lady Eagles won a 4-3 decision on their home field to secure the team's first District Title since 1983 but not before the phenomenal Megan Creek put a scare into Eagle Nation with a 2 run home run in the Top of the Seventh that went to the deepest part of the park against a stiff wind. Rachel Poston shook off the mistake on the hill, settled in, and got the win. And the place went absolutely nuts in Knox County. Those are the type of stories you love to tell in this business. Small town goes bonkers over a great group of kids making history. Knox will travel to Moberly on Saturday to face Cairo for a trip to the Final Four in Springfield.
Palmyra appears to be a gathering storm in its quest to grab another State Softball title in Class 2. The Panthers pounded out 16 runs and 16 hits, including a pair of home runs from Lex VanNostrand and Liz Stansberry on Wednesday in route to a 16-0 win over Elsberry. The Panthers travel to South Callaway on Saturday in quest to return to the Final Four.