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Villains of Circumstance (Duerrisms for the Week of September 1st)

Alex Gully's rushing heroics fueled the Bloodhounds of Fort Madison to their first program win since 2015 

Now it’s a officially party, my friends. All three States officially in the Pigskin Pool. And boy did we have some fun and learn a few things this past Friday.

Greetings each and every single one of you. Thrilled to have you aboard here for DUERRISMS, presented by the Fine Folks at SLEEP TIGHT in Quincy. We are here for your reading pleasure every single week during the Fall Sports Season with all the mental flotsam and pop culture references that can be reasonably packed into a blog of this nature. Thanks as always for your patronage. And thanks to all our patrons who indulge us so graciously to write about your towns, your schools and your kids.

This is such a weird time of the year. It kind of feels like combining Christmas with taking the Bar Exam every week. The exact intersection of a nerve-wracking work nightmare in a time of utter elation. Limited sleep/long hours to the point that most Saturday’s I can barely keep my eyes open and want to cash out the minute my head hits the pillow that night; yet can’t because the adrenaline is still pumping. It’s the most fulfilling type of exhaustion I can imagine, because every Sunday I feel like I have really earned the 24 hours of respite. And yet I am ready to get right back at it on Monday morn. And while I can only speak for myself here, I think it’s the same way for everyone else in this market who covers local sports. This community is blessed to have a bunch of folks here who are deeply devoted to doing this job for your kids; in every media: radio/TV/Newspaper and even less traditionally now but just as enjoyably from my standpoint: on social media. If you have an opinion and a Facebook Page, you can do exactly what it is that I am doing here. And to be honest, I so enjoy reading your stuff when you do. So “at” me with your Twitter takes or feel free to link you stuff to our Facebook Page. Do remember that these are largely volunteer coaches and kids who are participants, so the rules of engagement are way different than with Pro Athletes. This is not your chance to take out a 16 year old kid. But if you are here to promote the greater Tri-State Sports culture, I would be thrilled to help you extend your platform in some way. Pass along your blog or retweet your Friday Night “takes” to a larger audience (provided they are well reasoned and interesting.) PASSION is what makes “our thing” here in the Tri-States great. We too often take for granted that you can flip on the radio here and hear 15 different live high school football games being broadcast at a given time. That’s unique to us. Think END ZONE on KRES; what it means to Northeast Missouri. It’s near religion. Yet in a bigger market, you can’t even pitch that kind of wonderful idea and find sponsors to make it fly. Here? It’s near-religion. And that kind of fervor is something I never want to see die. It’s why I have never really had any desire to leave this particular little corner of the world in my professional career. I got spoiled for two-years in Columbia/Jeff City to start my career and then came here in 1995 and realized at my first Blue Devil Basketball Game I’d hit the vocational PowerBall for a Sports Guy. And at every juncture of my career, the three or four times when someone has offered me a chance to “move up the ladder” professionally, and I’ve weighed what I would be giving up in freedom here (try asking for 14 minute of a newscast to do Friday Night Football highlights anywhere else in this business if you don’t believe me) and your passionate support… to move on to some “bigger TV station” to I guess sate my own ego…it has dawned on: I am never going to have it any better in this job than I have it here in the Tri-States. I interviewed for a job once in a TV Market that was 100 spots bigger than Quincy/Hannibal/Keokuk on the DMA List (TV Market Size in terms of viewers we serve) that would have been a gigantic leap professionally on my resume. Their offer involved a pay raise too, that at the time seemed very tempting. The catch was…they only did three minutes of nightly sports. You people know me well enough after 22 years to realize I can’t even spit out “Tip Top of the Evening” in two minutes, let alone give highlights the attention they deserve. In contrast, here they let me do 5 minutes at 10pm on a normal night, 15 minutes on Fridays during Basketball and Football Season, and 30 minutes on OVERTIME? On…and let me write a High School Football Magazine. And do a Saturday Morning Radio Show. And even run my own High School Football All Star Game for a Decade. I am the most spoiled rotten dude in this business. So the desire to leave here has never really arisen for me. I’m 47 years old and feel like I could do this until I am 107 (God help you all, someone please have the good sense to put me out pasture long before that)

Every year I see kids fresh out of college come into this media business to get their start. Most can’t wait to get out of here and think this “starter-sized market” is quickly “beneath them” and their burgeoning skills the first time they can cleanly read a teleprompter. I was there once too at 22 years old, too dumb yet to know all I had to learn. I still hear echoes of that stuff in passing from some of these “cubs” trying to get out the door and I just kind of laugh to myself and think “Kid…you are never going to have it any better in this business than you have it in Quincy, Illinois.” Especially in sports. This culture makes up for whatever it is I’ve traded off over the years in not living in a bigger city. And it’s not close. Take that from someone who grew up in the phenomenal city of Sacramento and went to college for two years in Los Angeles. This community is awesome to serve. And I owe it all to you people. For supporting what it is I get to do on a daily basis. Because you still care DEEPLY about High School Sports and the kids that play them from your neighborhood and across your greater community. That is a debt I can never repay. But one for which you will forever have my undying gratitude. In short: thank you for this. It makes the long hours on the road and the crazy Friday night “near” heart attacks not only worth it, but my life’s great privilege.

Yours in Sports,

Chris Duerr

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SEVEN BIG SPORTS TAKEAWAYS FROM THE WEEK THAT WAS

1)It dawned on me in the wee small hours of Saturday Morning: the middle of the WIVC is way broader, deeper and better than I imagined. No one was surprised Friday that Central/Calhoun was a thrill ride. Did it occur to any of us that Routt/North Greene would be so wildly encouraging and entertaining as well? Did we see Unity/Payson, with all the Mustangs had lost, really rising up to that level of grittiness and toughness and fortitude with all the offensive glitz they lost to graduation? In Conner McLaughlin’s first game? Against a Greenfield program famous for its program resolve over many many years? Did we see Carrollton rallying from a 30-19 deficit with just eight minutes left to take down a good young Triopia crew? Considering all the circumstances, that is a scary show of force. It’s said every single year as lip service/coach speak to the point of cliché that there “are not easy games on our schedule” Friday’s slate of football happenings in the WIVC Crossover games made a believer out of me. There was legit preseason traction that both Pleasant Hill/Western and West Central were talented sleepers. Both got beaten on Friday not because of a lack of a talent, but because they picked the wrong night be flat against elite foes. Is is it beyond the possibility however, to believe that PH/W could beat Triopia at home this weekend? Or that Adam Brockhouse’s crew rebounds at home and catches Unity/Payson in victory hangover? This conference is a freaking minefield. Yes, eventually there will be a bottom of the standings here because there has to be. But from top to bottom, there is less differential here than in any other league in our area. And that makes the WIVC far and away the most entertaining and unpredictable conference in Tri-State Football right now. Eight more weeks of this is going to be insane.

2)I don’t want to oversell one win (the programs first since 2015) against a very pedestrian opponent, but Fort Madison’s victory over Davis County on Friday felt like a pivot point for a long suffering program. And it wasn’t hard to see coming. After 25 years spent in Quincy and Jeff City watching young coaches come and go, I feel like I’ve developed a pretty good mental check list of things to look for in rookie coaches that generally tend to portend future success. And a couple of years ago, in a wide-ranging but enlightening conversation about the nature of the profession with no less than the most successful Football Coach in Tri-State history (hint: his name rhymes with Jim Shmunruh) I unloaded all my theories on the man and found we were strangely in agreement on just about all of them. Plotted on a time line, I think you would find that every school of similar size has roughly the same level of historic athletic talent. Sure, it ebbs and flows from year to year but generally speaking there’s no real discernible difference between the overall athletic ability of the kids walking the halls at say Triopia and Camp Point Central, for example. Yet, Triopia has been a relevant program at or near the top of IHSA Small School Football since Don Kemp (and through Jay Wessler/Rich Thompson) Central was a befuddling disappointment on the gridiron for years of wild-underachievement…until Bill Reed arrived in town and brought a young assistant named Brad Dixon with him. In short: coaching at this level of football is everything. It’s why the same programs are relevant every single year. Rob Wilt wins football games every year. Is South Shelby really a better healed program to do so than say long suffering Highland? Was the landscape at Beardstown really this different than before Robbi Howard arrived. Brown County went from one of the worst to one of the best high school football coaches I’ve ever seen with the Tom Little hire. Calhoun under Aaron Elmore. West Hancock…then Quincy High under Rick Little. The examples are endless. Tony Shiffman feels like that next evolution guy. There is a palpable charisma and boundless young guy energy there. But it’s more than that. The Unruh additive to my initial theory is the importance of staff; the energy level it both reflects and gives to the head guy. If you ever watched a Carthage practice in its heyday, the environment of practice that proved cauldron to the Blueboys greatness came from his assistants. Unruh was/is the best in-game offensive play-caller I’ve ever seen. But his ability to play CEO and let Bill Reed, Bill Lapp, Lyle Klein set the tempo for practice was everything with their fire; often a pick-me up not just to the players but to Unruh himself. Everyone in every business has an off day. But with enough good young folks around you, there’s always a safety net. This young staff Shiffman has assembled around him might be of equal importance to his own hire here in getting the Hounds turned around. Shiffman gets to play both good and bad cop, given his intensity and understanding of culture change. But the guys he has brought on staff with him are the direct positional bosses; like the best mid-level managers you’ve ever had in your job. And their ability to relate to kids (young dudes all of them) allow Shiffman to have the luxury of having guys that attend to the all-important “micro” while he spends his energies on the Macro. Again, this is no guarantee of anything. Fort Madison might end up the year 1-8. I’d be stunned, but they could. It’s what I see here structurally in practice that is so impressive and it was nice to see that tangibly reward on Friday with a rare win. It’s a huge turnaround they are trying to undertake at the Fort, with no guarantee of ultimate success. But I can say with certainty, they are undergoing the process in a matter that seems to draw from some of the great program reversals in our area’s history.

3)Doesn’t matter if it is Jirehl Brock or Barry Sanders in his prime in the offensive backfield, if your offensive line doesn’t get off the football with enthusiasm, you are not running the football with any success at any level of football. Quincy High’s Offensive Line was missing last year’s “spark” in the opener against Belleville West, which was not the storyline I thought I would be writing this week. I saw the Blue Devils in camp and thought that maybe this line, in terms of raw talent in strength, might be better on paper than the really great group that was at the heart of the WB6 Title run last Fall. And they still can be. On Friday though, the Blue Devil blockers looked like they were painting by numbers, not relishing the opportunity to knock someone on their backside for the first time this year. This group missed, for lack of a better description, Tyree Williams almost puppy dog-like zeal to hit people. That guy fired off the ball and couldn’t wait to hit his intial target, so he could get to the next level and hit somebody else. Payton Brunier was there for the only chance to legally bully someone in society, and you got the sense he enjoyed the heck out of it. Jack Sassen was out there playing “football chess” against bigger dudes because that fueled his football identity and he was good at it. The fun and fire was missing Friday in the QHS Trenches and its absence was deafening from Offensive Snap One. Forget all the injury talk for a second, because that is an uncontrollable function of football. Passion, conversely. Is one of the few things we can control on the grid. Quincy High getting right offensively isn’t about waiting to see who is healthy enough to play on Friday at Alton. It’s about having fun up front again, getting off the ball like you are racing to the front of the buffet line and decking someone with the full force of all that strength you worked so hard to accrue in the weight room. QHS might be the easiest “fix” of the Week One strugglers. Take a deep breath and have some fun with it gents, because you are gigantic up front and inarguably talented. Everything else will fall into place from there.

4)The weird early season roller coaster ride continues for the Hannibal Pirates. Coming off last week’s emotional comeback win at Jeff City Helias, the Pirates were immediately punched in the mouth by QND on the first play from scrimmage (65 yard Nick Wellman to Jackson Connell TD Pass) then proceed to fumble away the kickoff and give the Raiders a short field on which to try and augment the lead. To its credit, the Pirates Defense held the line and Hannibal started to dig itself out of said early hole. The Pirates showed plenty of fight in leveling the score with the Raiders on a JaQuez McGruder TD run. And through much of the later stages of the first quarter, Hannibal looked to be the more physical and perhaps talented team on both sides of the ball. But as QND started surgically working over the top of Defensive Box in the second quarter (two big Reed Hyer catches in the drive that turned the tide in the Raiders favor) Hannibal seemed to lose its footing and its confidence again. And maybe that’s the most telling thing about this squad to date. We’ve seen wild swings from this squad between really good football and really shaky football; sometimes play to play. At Max-Q, this looks to be a very talented squad that can hurt you in a lot of different ways. But I am not sure this roster’s incredible versatility isn’t also what might be hurting it. Like a restaurant that packs the menu with too many various options trying to please everyone, the Pirates aren’t doing any one thing as consistently well as it should. One of my all-time favorite coaching quotes came many moons ago from then-Macomb Offensive Coordinator Steve Horrell, who I heard on day one of practice tell his team this: “Be Kentucky Fried Chicken. We will do one thing and we will do it better than anyone else.” Hannibal’s early season woes aren’t born of lack of talent or toughness. What this team seems to lack, at least to this moment, is a cogent self-identity. That’s not something a coaching staff can give you. That’s a mantle that players themselves craft and affect. The Pirates have benefitted greatly from having some super talented players the last few years. Four of whom, off the top of my head, have gone on to play at significant Division One or Two college programs. All were great talents, sure. But it was their personalities and determination that steeled the “webbing” of players around them. Will Sewell set a tone with his hitting, and everyone around him on defense tried to amplify it. Jerry McBride was all confidence and swagger and that gave same to the guys around him. Shamar Griffith made magic happen with his athleticism; a more quite confidence that anything was possible with him around and that if the players around him did their job, they could overcome anything eventually. Dylan Powell brought smarts and indomitable toughness up front. More than that, he’s probably the most talented kid Mark St Clair has or will ever coach and thusly Mark coached him harder than any kid I have ever seen come through that program. That example mattered because if Coach St Clair would take on the dude getting recruiting attention from Michigan and Stanford for not paying attention to the smallest detail on every single play, that meant everyone was held accountable to that exacting standard in reaching their own peak. In hindsight these were great guideposts for this next generation of Pirate. Leadership needs to assert itself. I get the sense in talking with people around this program that this team as a collective requires constant coaching “attention,” a high maintenance entity for lack of a better description with issues both football and external. And that divides focus from the goal at hand of winning football games. Friday’s loss was a crossroads moment for this group of players to get it figured out. Everything that the Pirates can be, at best or for not, was in evidence against QND. Now it’s time for these players to make a choice who it is they want to be and either devote themselves to taking the path of least resistance to greater success or persist in the mind-set that has undercut them in times that are impossible to miss. “Post Rain Delay” Hannibal is good enough to be playing the day after Thanksgiving. Jamboree Hannibal might not play above 500. The choice is laid very clear. And only the players themselves can make it. This will be a fascinating case-study in team cohesion the rest of the way.

5)SLEEP TIGHT “SUPER SLEEPER” AWARD FOR WEEK TWO: Typically, we try to look beyond the obvious here and find outlier performers who may not be kids who pinged preseason radar. I’m going a different route this week. If you saw any bit of our preseason magazine or barnstorm coverage, you have probably figured out that we are unabashed fans of what we think is a greatly bolstered Keokuk defense; and in particular of the potential of two stellar Sophomore Linebackers in Keegan Carter and DYLAN JEFFERS who played a ton as Freshmen. Both were pleasant surprises, to be sure, last year as ninth graders. The question being here would they raise their play commensurate with the expectations laid at their doorstep. Suffice it to say, you can put any “Sophomore Jinx” arguments to rest on the latter. I hate the phrase “good loss” but if you are going to use that terminology, Keokuk’s 21-14 defeat at Central Lee was about as confidence-inducing as a loss can be. The Chiefs went heads up with a stellar two-time playoff qualifier and held superstar tailback Adam Rooney to just 40 rushing yards on 18 carries and surrendered just 241 ground yards overall to the Hawks. That’s heady stuff. Credit to Central Lee for alternative means to combat that Keokuk Defensive threat (namely, Austin Gaylord) but that’s still a real feather in the cap for Matt McGhghy’s crew. And Dylan Jeffers himself, was an F5 on the Fujita scale of destruction. He posted 11 total tackles in the loss, eight of them solos, and wrecked havoc with four tackles for loss and a pair of Quarterback Sacks. That young man has an insatiable appetite for destroying offensive backfields...and he’s just scratching the surface. It’s way too early to be throwing this out but I am going to say this anyway at risk of looking dumb in three years from now: there is a lot of former QND star Nick Weiman to Dylan’s game. And look, Keokuk as a collective still has a long ways to go as a team to get where it wants to be, particularly on offense. But I thought Friday’s Week One effort was a great step in the right direction and one that could yield great dividends. And with kids with zeal for contact like Dylan Jeffers leading the way, it’s a good bet they get there.

6)With a perfect game in her season opener against Paris and by helping her Lady Birds to a consolation title at the loaded Monroe City Tournament, South Shelby pitcher Sadie Wear had quite a week. And few athletes in our area have worked harder or been through more just to return to the pitcher’s circle for her Junior year. First, Sadie had to battle through a bizarre fusion of muscles in her pitching arm that required her to essentially rebuild her delivery from the ground up. That feat alone would make this story noteworthy, but Sadie also had to deal with a far scarier proposition: the emergence of a tumor in her jaw that has started eating away at the bone structure to the point that it appeared her jaw had been made brittle enough to break. And I am told there is still risk it could. The upshot for Miss Wear is that surgery has successful removed all of the root cause of this rare condition and clearly the family gene for unflappable toughness is strong with this Wear as well. She’s an easy kid to root for going forward. And man, has she pitched well to date for new head coach Taylor O’Laughlin, who knows more than a little something about the fine art of pitching.

7)SPOILER ALERT: Not sports related, but what a fine end Sunday to a weird penultimate season of Game of Thrones. Prior to “The Dragon and The Wolf” I thought the intense criticism the show has received for rushed pacing, catering to fan theories, lousy dialogue, bizarre storylines (creepy Bran, Arya vs Sansa) and ridiculous suspension of disbelief (Are Dragons really faster than the SR-71 in Westeros? Does the Army of the Dead carry chains everywhere it goes for just such a purpose? Is Wilding Gilly really the smartest person at the Citadel? Dickon Tarley???) was pretty darned valid. To be honest, this had started to feel like David Chase-phones-in-wrapping-up- “The Sopranos”-just-to-show-us-his-Kubrick-level-contempt-for-the-audience type territory. I was actually somewhat dreading the premise of bringing together every major player for a sit-down at Kings Landing but the Showrunners actually handled this scene deftly and let every actor in play do the heavy lifting. Peter Dinklage/Lena Heady scenes, rare as they are, are everything to this day. Pilou Asbaek as Euron Greyjoy nearly stole the scene from everyone. And who doesn’t love a Pod/Tyrion/Bronn reunion? And the episode got better from there. Even Creepy Bran didn’t annoy me, but my joy over Lord Baelish’s “new necktie” might have also elevated that scene for me. And to be honest with you, I am such a huge mark for the Jamie Lannister Storyline, which is now Don Draper-esque in storyline, arch and scope. If George RR Martin really had this kind of journey in mind for this character when he started penning him over 20 years ago, bully for you sir. This really did feel like an improbable turnaround moment; the Frank Reich-level comeback in episodic television History. So now we wait another nine to eighteen months to see how it all ends. I have no idea how I will pass the time away on Sunday nights until then. But the upshot for you is your Weekend Twitter feed is now spared my fanboy geeking out. So for that, you’re welcome…..

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FOOTBALL 2017

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN-Our Salute to the Top Performers of Week Two

7)ALEX GULLY, RB, Fort Madison

22 Carries, 157 Yards, 3 TD vs Davis County

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6)NICK VORHIES, RB, Illini West

13 Carries, 175 Yards, 3 TD vs United

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5)PEYTON PLUNKETT, RB/LB, Palmyra

23 Carries, 226 Yards, 3 TD vs Bowling Green

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4)JACKSON CONNELL, RB/LB, Quincy Notre Dame

11 Carries, 112 Yards, 2 TD; 65 Yard Receiving TD vs Hannibal

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3)BRYCE WILSON, FB, West Hancock

14 Carries, 230 Rushing Yards, 2 TD vs Putnam County

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2)AUSTIN GAYLORD, QB, Central Lee

8 of 10 Passing, 112 Yards, 2 TD; 12 Carries, 102 yards vs Keokuk

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1)IKE RIDDLE, QB, Beardstown

8 of 11 Passing, 208 Yards, 4 TD vs Pleasant Hill/Western

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KHQA PLAYER OF THE WEEK-AS VOTED BY YOU THE FANS ON OUR KHQA SPORTS FACEBOOK PAGE

DEVIN TYNAN, RB/DB, Brown County High School

Rationale: Tight weekend of voting but I think it yielded a very fair and equitable result. Devin Tynan was THE individual talking point in our office in the aftermath of Friday, not just because of what he did against West Central but because of the frightening potential it represents. All of us media types spent this preseason framing the argument for you that this would be the most dynamic Brown County offense we’ve seen in some time; perhaps the most “unfettered” of the Tom Little Era. You heard Tom Little himself say the big personal coaching takeaway for him last season was learning to be less conservative in approach and more aggressive in utilizing playmakers. The West Central game serves as Exhibit A. And let me further qualify this by saying I think West Central may end up being a pretty darned good defensive team when all is said and done. The Cougars just didn’t have enough athletes to account for every contingency now on the BC table. Apparently, those contingencies now include the delightful prospect of the ever explosive Devin Tynan getting to channel his inner Alger Saldana. If I told you Tynan finished Friday night with seven rushes, 55 yards and two touchdowns, you think that sounds pretty much in line with every great wingback performance in every win that every Paul Unruh coaching tree Wing-T ever produced. Standard issue stuff from the most electrifying kid on the field for a run dedicated team. Limited touches, maximum yards per carry pop. The Ashton Gronewold Special, if you will. This whole turn Devin Tynan into USC-era Reggie Bush is a decidedly new way of thinking. Five catches, 122 yards, three touchdowns? You tell me what WIVC Secondary has the athletes to counterbalance this threat level, especially when coupled with Tanner Sussenbach and the dedicated task of a Fullback dominant run attack staffed by no less than Darian Drake at Fullback? This is next level stuff. (As Tom Little quipped to me this week, three touchdown receptions is a standout CAREER for most Hornet backs.) And it is, speaking candidly, the role Devin Tynan was born to play. If you had stuck this kid in say, Hannibal’s offense, he’s effortlessly quick enough to have given you are reasonable statistical imitation of Shamar Griffith. Especially if you are going to dedicate a couple of plays nightly to swinging him the ball out of the backfield. Few kids find open field as instinctively as Devin. It’s not complex what he does; there aren’t any big “jaw drop” moments with jukes or feints or whatnot. He’s a single correction back and that economy of motion, coupled with his speed gives him such incredible value in space and to space. He’s not standing still trying to make you miss before hitting the gas. He’s the constantly moving (daring I saw flowing) target who you aren’t fast enough to track down anyway. And it is a skill set that demands more of this, weekly. I can’t remember a Brown County back putting up a stat-line like this off the top of my head. And realize, I think Friday was Tom Little playing with the format. I don’t think BC has scratched the surface yet of just how they will use all these intriguing pieces. But I have a funny feeling that there probably isn’t a 10-12 touch-a-game guy in our area who compares. And that makes him the Gennady Golovkin Overhand Right of Offensive Weapons in Western Illinois right now.

Past Winners:

Week One: KEVIN CAMPBELL, Hannibal

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KHQA POWER POLL FOR WEEK THREE

1)WEST HANCOCK (1-0)

Last Week: 42-3 win at Putnam County

Up Next: at Miller Career Academy (Saturday)

THE BRYCE IS RIGHT: Ask anyone who has ever started a restaurant or acted in a play or musical: there is no such thing as a perfect opening night. The same logic applies to Football. West Hancock was sluggish out of the gate in Unionville on Friday; a luxury the Titans won’t have this weekend in St Louis. By the same token, I wouldn’t read terribly much more into that then jitters. And of course, playing against an opponent who had the luxury of a real dress rehearsal and one full real game under its belt. The Titans roared back from a 3-0 deficit in the first quarter to score 42 unanswered points and untrack themselves nicely. I got a chance to watch some of the highlights on line and a couple of things stood out. Yes, Bryce Wilson and Riley Langford had great nights individually but I thought the Titan Offensive Line, once it got untracked, really created some nice holes. And the Langford/Wilson dynamic feeds off that nicely. Riley is a tremendous cut back runner. We started it to see it last year. Against Putnam County, he was almost counter-intuitively cutting back against the grain and making it work on some of his better runs. Couple that with Wilson’s ability to tunnel into the heart of a defense and burst out on the otherside and you’ve got plenty of defensive headaches to contend with as an opponent. I also saw a clip where Wilson gets hit with a textbook shot to the waist and the kid still bounces off him like a rubber back. That’s a kid generating some kind of core power to absorb that hit, keep moving forward while sending the dude trying to take you down sailing backwards. As I touched on in preseason, the play action threat is for real here. Bryce Buckert didn’t have to profile it much on Friday. He had just 67 passing yards, but two touchdowns on a mostly efficient night. Defensively, a very clean sheet performance here led by the two savviest guys on the field as Kolton Johnson and Chase Hartweg each cleaned up 9 tackles a piece. Apparently, it was a nice debut for Wyette Casey (as if this team needed more weapons) who forced and recovered a fumble on defense and snared a touchdown reception to boot. All in all, a very tidy performance on that side of the ball. Things are about to escalate quickly, however. Again, West Hancock’s biggest Defensive challenge, perhaps overall challenge on the schedule comes in their biggest and perhaps most talented opponent: Saturday’s road trip to Miller Career, ranked 4th in the Missouri Class 3 Poll.The Phoenix rebounded from a Week One beat at the hands of Class 6 Power CBC to destroy Carnahan 36-8. Miller Career is a team with a big, salty Offensive Line and Titus Baker took advantage of in rushing for 201 yards and a pair of touchdowns in just 16 totes against Carnahan. Quarterback Devin Jackson threw a pair of touchdown passes as well. This is a big (and I’d argue necessary) step up in competition for West Hancock and I think we know far more this year in two weeks about this team than we did in seven or eight last year. And that gives this staff a chance to tinker and fix at a much higher level than it was afforded last season. I don’t know that West Hancock wins on Saturday; heck I’d tell you this probably the one time all year the Titans come in as an underdog. I’d liken this game to scheduling a Hannibal or Mexico for the Titans, a game in which the opponents will have more athletes on paper. I think that’s a bold and smart move for a program that wants to contend for State, not just Conference Championships. Chances are, regardless of outcome, West Hancock comes out of Saturday better for the experience. And if they come out the trip with a win, well, the confidence boost there could be enormous.

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2)MONROE CITY (2-0)

Last Week: 42-28 win over Macon

Up Next: vs South Shelby

TIGER TAMERS: Last week, your Defending CCC Champion Macon Tigers looked like a defensive juggernaut in smothering Palmyra. Monroe City took exactly one play, in effect one Zach Osborn touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage, to negate all that positive momentum and confidence. This is what David Kirby’s crew does. They get downhill on you and impose their will offensively with great backs and a rugged offensive line and they force you to try to run their race. To put this into the proper perspective, Palmyra came into the opener with the Tigers, profiling a dynamic quarterback and the threat of a passing game and was held to 70 ground yards. Monroe City, conversely, barely pretended the passing game was an option and just basically went with the “throat punch” offense; ramming the ball at the Tigers over and over to the tune of 405 total yards, 396 of which came on the ground. Cole Pennewell continued his mashing, doing what Palmyra could not a week ago in finding traction against the Tiger’s Front Seven. He finished with 149 ground yards on 32 carries and a pair of touchdowns. Osborn darted his way to 123 yards and three scores on 12 touches. Those are talented backs, obviously, who bring a wonderful thunder and lightning dynamic here. But credit where credit is due. The Panther Offensive Line got after it. That’s a force of will performance and one that succeded at the expense of maybe the best defensive interior Monroe City faces on the regular season schedule. It’s also telling that Monroe City finished this game Plus 5 in the giveaway/takeaway department, fanning the flames of its own offense by forcing Macon into self-immolating mistakes. The key to beating this Monroe City team is keeping their offense off the field. Macon didn’t do a very good job of that. Moreover, the Tigers were successful in that endeavor when they were able to hold onto the ball. Speaking plainly, the Monroe City Defense (in particular the pass defense) to this point has not really been sharp yet. The Panthers have given up 343 yards of passing in just two weeks. And I’d argue that the Ransom Chapin/Brook Wood/Guy Timbrook receiving group the Panthers face this week is the best set of pass catchers to cross their radar yet. If I am Rob Wilt and I am pouring over game tape, I’m seeing ample opportunity here to attack with play action, especially since the Cardinal run game demands so much respect with Cody McKenzie, Brock Wood, and now Brett Hall churning up yards in the early season. So yes, it is not inaccurate to suggest the top two teams in our Power Poll are facing their most significant tests to date and maybe the ultimately most significant tests of their regular season. South Shelby’s defense has been good and mitigating the threat posed by Khalil Walker and his gigantic bodyguards in a Week One win over Brookfield is certainly practical experience in trying to keep Osborn and friends hemmed in. To me, this South/Monroe tangle is interesting and telling at every level. I think it will illuminate some of the small shadows on two teams with very bright pictures. For starters, I don’t think either of these teams can win this game without an important Quarterback contribution along the way. Blake Hays and Dylan Threlkeld are on a higher level stage here. And I think both run defenses here are good enough to force both of them to have to make plays to tip the scales in their teams favor. I called dibs on this game this week because I think we will see plenty of offensive fireworks. But elementally here, best defense wins this contest. And as of yet, we have no definitive clue which one of these squads that moniker applies to yet. We will, however, know those answers by 10:30pm on Friday Night.

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3)BEARDSTOWN (1-0)

Last Week: 54-28 win over Pleasant Hill/Western

Up Next: at Carrollton

RIDDLE ME THIS: The boffo final stats were awesome and all, but there was a “Ike Riddle Arrives” moment that really speaks to just how far the Beardstown Quarterback has come in four years. Early in Friday’s win over Pleasant Hill/Western, Riddle fades back to pass and has Grant Peebles crashing in hard off the left edge bearing down to sack him. Riddle actual rolls at him, spins off the contact from the Wolves All Everything DE, and reverse pivots to hit Bill Cramblitt with a 13 yard completion. The last Quarterback we saw do anything like that in this neck of the woods went by the name of Scotty Kroeger. That stuff doesn’t show up in a stat sheet but man did we walk away going: yep, Beardstown is every bit as legit as the hype suggests. Four years after being thrown to the Lions as Freshman starter on a winless team, Riddle is himself a Tiger who no longer concerns himself with the opions of the sheep, so to speak. Kid was awesome on Friday with 4 touchdown passes and 208 yards on a perfect QBR scale. And he’s supposedly, not even the headliner here for this offense. Pascal Guilovogui had just 5 carries and one reception on Friday, though he busted two off them for touchdowns and netted some 102 yards passing. He was also 2 for 2 throwing the ball out of the Wildcat.

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4)CENTRALIA (2-0)

Last Week: 42-14 win over Clark County

Up Next: at Louisiana

TREY BIEN: Based on what we saw from both teams in Week One, this was not the football game I thought we would See at Miller Field. Given the high power offenses in play, a scoreless, largely highlight-less first Quarter would have lost me a prop bet in Vegas. Trey Owens finally got the Panthers untracked by pulling a fumble away from the Indians at the end of the first quarter, before breaking the seal on the scoring two plays into the second frame from two yards out. A Clayton Simkens Interception negated Clark County’s intended drive to answer and basically the Indians Offense spent the rest of the night stuck vainly in reverse. Credit much of that to the Panthers Defense, which really kind of carried the day here. Gus Stidham led the charge with 15 tackles and a pick six interception. The video we received had a Quarterback Sack from Caden Vanskike, one of his six tackles. Kaiden Davenport posted a half dozen stops and a pick as well. Offensively, Trey Owens was everything for the Panthers, scoring four rushing touchdowns and 169 yards on 25 tackles. Pound for pound, there might not be a tougher kid in the Cannon. That, coupled with Owens speed, makes him a pretty darned unique and effective weapon. Credit Jim Newsted for reading the tea leaves early on this game, simplifying the game plan to what worked and “plain jane-ing” it the rest of the way. Really, outside of surrendering a Caleb Lapsley kick-off return touchdown, Centralia maintained momentum and control of this game exclusive for the final three quarters and the Panthers were never really in any danger of losing that game. By the same token, the Panthers first two victories have not been without their loose moments and with tougher scheduling opponents looming next month, this is a good week to tidy things up and kind of get all the Centralia cogs turning in the right direction. The road trip to Louisiana likely won’t be pretty but even at that, a little fine tuning of the sports car timing here certainly is not without benefit moving forward.

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5)SOUTH SHELBY (2-0)

Last Week: 64-0 win over Louisiana

Up Next: at Monroe City

HALL PASS: Cody McKenzie’s 40 yard untouched scamper through the heart of the Louisiana Defense touched off a 64 point unanswered scoring barrage. And I can assure you there are a pair of Bulldog Defenders who wish they would have let Brett Hall pass “untouched” on his 39 yard touchdown run to follow, rather than getting trucked and posterized on Sensational Seven. It was unfortunately, that kind of proposition for the overmatched Dogs against South Shelby ground game that has been nothing shy of terrific over these first two weeks. Cody McKenzie had just four carriers Friday. They netted two touchdowns and 86 rushing yards, extending his per carry average to 7.1 for the season thus Fall. Brock Wood is averaging 9 a touch to date. And Hall is at a whopping 18 per tote on more limited work. Obviously, those three guys, and the offensive line who front for them, will be tested at a far higher level on Friday at Lankford Field. As will the Cardinals Defense, which for me is the real point of interest on Friday against Monroe City. To date, this group, absent any one “star” name, has worked incredibly well as a collective. Against Louisiana, the Cards had five guys post seven tackles, led by Luke Farrell and McKenzie, who notched 7 solo stops. Daniel Burke snared a pair of interceptions on Friday, and now already has three picks on the season. These may not be marquee defensive names but it’s a group that feeds well off one another. Can they continue that vibe against the best Offensive Line in Tri-State Football and all those Monroe City skills weapons. And can this underrated Offensive Line keep up its fantastic production to date (916 all purpose yards in two days) against the best Defense on paper they’ve seen to date; one that returns two All State performers in the Front Seven? There are a lot of us convinced that South Shelby, even as the second smallest enrollment in the Cannon, can contend for both the league and a District crown. The road to both seems to run headlong through Titletown. Theory has a chance to become reality at Monroe Friday night and to this point, everything that we’ve seen about the way the Cardinal kids conduct their business suggests legitimacy. We won’t have to guess any more after Friday Night.

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6) BROWN COUNTY (1-0)

Last Week: 47-8 win over West Central

Up Next: at Greenfield/Northwestern

EXTRAORDINARY JOES: We touched on Devin Tynan’s night for the ages above. Let’s not forget to throw some love in the direction of his Quarterback. Joe Hendricker was six of seven passing against the Cougars, generating 178 yards and those three touchdown strikes. The Hornets also had Cameron Zimmerman come off the bench in the second half of an already decided game and make a nifty little splash with a 64 yard rushing touchdown and 123 total ground yards (a name to file away for the future) So yeah, lots to process and celebrate here on the offensive side of the ledge. The question mark here was supposed to be how does this defense function absent All Stater Carter Lewis and what it lost to graduation. In a vacuum, that didn’t appear to be much of a problem. West Central’s only score came in garage time on an Austyn Noble 16 yarder in the fourth quarter, while most of the Hornets Starters were already on ice. A Joe Hendricker interception stifled the Cougars most legitimate scoring opportunity against the first teamers. The Hornets got nice pass rush pressure off the edge. We had a great shot Friday Night of Skyler Moorman roaring off the edge to help force a combined sack with Tanner Sussenbach. In fact, from the small sample we got from Friday’s game, I thought the Hornets Defensive Line play as a collective was very strong indeed. Overall, just hard to quibble with much in a very lopsided opener. The Hornets hit the road Friday for Greenfield/Northwestern, a team coming off a stinging loss to Unity/Payson. Not an easy place to play and obviously tackling 240 pounder Jacob Foiles is a next level challenge for any defense. And then a week later, the monster showdown with Beardstown. This is going to be a fun run.

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7) QUINCY NOTRE DAME (1-0)

Last Week: 39-20 win at Haninbal

Up next: vs Alleman

THE JACKSON CAGE: It’s a thankless job; one that everyone on the planet regardless of their experience level or actual knowledge thinks they can do better than you can. Being an Offensive Coordinator is no picnic and often blame drops at that doorstep, warranted or not. So let us throw some well-deserved praise in the direction of Joe Obert this week. The QND OC has now gone back to back season having his troops execute near flawless game plans against one of the savviest and most successful defensive staffs in the state of Missouri. From that game opening Nick Wellman to Jackson Connell bomb to dusting off the Fish Special, Obert had the right move called. (Quick aside here: the Fish Special, named for former QND Assistant Brent Fischer, is both the best and worst trick play in area football history. On the plus side, it seems to always work. Without fail. Conversely, it’s a simple play action fake off reverse action that shouldn’t be this effective in theory and is about as basic as it comes for trickeration. In short, it’s the Hulk Hogan Leg Drop of Finishing Moves. Awful and awesome all at the same time for those points. End aside) Moreover, his kids executed. Moving Jackson Connell to full time offensive duty clearly was overdue. Nick Wellman, other than one ill-timed interception where I don’t think he ever saw the defender, was terrific at Quarterback. And an offensive line that mixed both veteran talent with promising new Tackle Bo Paxson (who is going to be a ton) performed really well; against an opponent with as good a Defensive Line as QND may see this season. None of that really rises to the level of surprise revelation. And I think I can reasonable move one without having to articulate for the millionth time just how good Reed Hyer is at Wide Receiver. My greater focus in this instance is taking inventory of that greatly under-performed expectation last season, relative to the pieces it had in play. This is not to suggest QND’s Defense was anywhere near perfect on Friday. Heck, there were moments when Hannibal went to the power run game with JaQuez McGruder where I thought the Raiders might not be able to stop those drives. But I did see greater connectivity between the parts in play and that might have been the most encouraging development of all. There were some big signature moments for that unit overall, like Jackson Connell’s stop on Gabe Worthington before halftime. But I’d argue the vibe was more of a play to play thing. You go back to the film of the game and you see guys playing off each other better; defensive linemen occupying a Guard and trusting the guy behind him to do a job. And if you were counting helmets to the football on every play, the Raiders work rate this year just seemed more enthusiastic. It’s a heck of start to setting things right, against a really talented foe no less. The defensive concentration figures to be a bit more sharply focused Friday, when Alleman rolls into the Gem City after an impressive win over PND. Sam Mattecheck appears to be the focal point of the Pioneers offense and will provide the target for this Raider D to underscore its commitment to returning to form.

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THE NEXT LEVEL

8)CENTRAL LEE (1-0)

Austin Gaylord’s debut as Hawks Quarterback is a successful one with 214 yards of total offense and a hand in three touchdowns. Adam Rooney spearheaded a fine defensive charge with a pair of interceptions, while Jared Brisby and Aaron Wills helped lead the run stopping brigade with thirteen tackles between them. All good stuff in Nick Ehret’s Hawks Coaching Debut. Now the Hawks will make the shortest road trip of the year to put Fort Madison’s hot start to the test. This is a Central Lee team that prides itself on its defense. Fort Madison’s new spread offense was most impressive against Davis County. Will be interesting to see what gives in Hound Country on Friday

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9)ILLINI WEST (1-0)

With the old Aledo/Carthage rivalry as backdrop, the Chargers put their scorching hot debut to the test in Dragon County on Friday. The Illini West run game looked formidable in a 46-22 win over Monmouth United, with big nights from Nick Vorhies (175 yds, 3 TD) Colton Sargent, and Weston Pollock taking full advantage of a terrific looking young Offensive Line. Mercer County is coming off a rough opener in a lopsided loss to Farmington.

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10)BWP (1-0)

Nate Ferguson gets his turn to front the Sparclones backfield and delivers 208 yards and a pair of long touchdown runs to help BWP out “big play” the visiting Rushville/Industry Rockets and spoil ex-Sparclone Assistant Brian Lafferty’s Head Coaching Debut. Ferguson and QB Devin Yocum, who delivered a big rushing TD of his own will get the headlines, but credit the continuing growth of this program to a group of unsung Offensive Linemen who bring old fashioned grit to the job every single snap. BWP is 1-0 for the first time since 2014 and has a chance to double the fun at United on Friday.

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11)CENTRAL (0-1)

Chayse Houston’s knee lands about six inches shy of the pylon in overtime on a two-point conversion attempt, dealing the Panthers the hardest luck loss of Week One. The Panthers Defense kept Warriors stars Ty Bick and Jacob Watters from running wild and that’s a tremendous accomplishment in and of its own but Central struggled to find traction of its own behind that big offensive line. Panthers will work to atone next week at home against another hard luck overtime loser, North Greene.

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12)MACON (1-1)

There will be no perfect romp through the Cannon this Fall for Pete Claas’ crew, which turned the ball over five times to a team coming off at trip to the State Finals last year. That’s a bad recipe. Trip to Clark County will be no picnic Friday, as the Indians have played for better than the winless record would indicate.

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13) HANNIBAL (1-1)

Positives from the QND game I thought included instant impact play from Boogie Tate in helping to sure up the run defense, Gabe Worthington’s return to form at Quarterback in Game Two, the power running joy of JaQuez McGruder, Braden Schlueter’s ascent as a tackle maker, and a terrific glimpse into Kadin Morgan’s Defensive attention. That aside, I think this trip to Boonville Friday, if not must win from a team psyche standpoint, is at least a moment of priority.

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14) QHS (0-1)

Saw Jirehl Brock walking around the QND/Rocky Soccer game on Saturday morning in a shoulder sling. I am going to go out on a limb and say that’s not a great sign. Silver lining to Friday’s loss? I really thought that the Blue Devils Defense showed great promise, aggressiveness and toughness against a high quality back in Belleville West’s Kriston Davis. Dan Fross and Brock Baird before injury issues as well as Dax Floweree and Tristan Hoener in big 2nd Quarter moments. Ceiling here is higher than I realized…provided Rick Little has any healthy bodies left to pair with these guys Friday in Alton.

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BEST OF THE REST

15)PALMYRA (1-1)

16)CLOPTON/ELSBERRY (2-0)

17)UNITY/PAYSON (1-0)

18)CLARK COUNTY (0-2)

19)KNOX COUNTY (1-1)

20)BROOKFIELD (1-1)

21)PARIS (2-0)

22)VAN-FAR (2-0)

23)TRIOPIA (0-1)

24)PLEASANT HILL/WESTERN (0-1)

25)RUSHVILLE/INDUSTRY (0-1)

26)NORTH SHELBY (1-1)

27)FORT MADISON(1-0)

28)MARK TWAIN (1-1)

29)ROUTT (1-0)

30)MACOMB (0-1)

31)JACKSONVILLE (0-1)

32)WEST CENTRAL (0-1)

33)KEOKUK (0-1)

34)SCOTLAND CO (0-2)

35)PITTSFIELD (0-1)

36)HIGHLAND (0-2)

37)BOWLING GREEN (0-2)

38)LOUISIANA (0-2)

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FEARLESS DUERR PREDICTIONS

Week Two Results: 21 of 26 Correct (80.7%)

Season to Date: 28 of 37 Correct (75.6%)

IOWA PREDICTIONS

CHARITON 8

KEOKUK 16

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CENTRAL LEE 20

FORT MADISON 18

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ILLINOIS PREDICTIONS

QUINCY HIGH 24

ALTON 12

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ALLEMAN 28

QND 21

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MACOMB 12

CANTON 28

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WEST HANCOCK 28

MILLER CAREER 35

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BEARDSTOWN 31

CARROLLTON 18

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BROWN COUNTY 42

GREENFIELD/NW 13

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UNITY/PAYSON 18

WEST CENTRAL 7

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CALHOUN 39

ROUTT 18

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TRIOPIA 34

PH/W 22

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NORTH GREENE 12

CENTRAL 35

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ILLINI WEST 38

MERCER CO. 20

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BWP 30

UNITED 21

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FARMINGTON 40

R/I 13

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MAROA FORSYTH 49

PITTSFIELD 24

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MISSOURI PREDICTIONS

HANNIBAL 42

BOONVILLE 8

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SOUTH SHELBY 35

MONROE CITY 42

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CENTRALIA 52

LOUISIANA 6

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PALMYRA 38

HIGHLAND 13

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MARCELINE 32

BROOKFIELD 21

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MACON 20

CLARK CO. 18

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CLOPTON/ELSBERRY 18

BOWLING GREEN 21

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VAN-FAR 14

MONTGOMERY CO. 22

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MARK TWAIN 16

NORTH CALLAWAY 40

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PARIS 20

SCOTLAND CO. 30

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WESTRAN 27

KNOX COUNTY 24

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NORTH SHELBY 38

HARDIN CENTRAL 50

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RANDOM MUSINGS

Due to the Labor Day Holiday, this column will appear in abbreviated form next week. Apologies in advance.

From our Fantasy Football Challenge for Week Two of the High School Season on Facebook, it looks like Molly Hopper was the winner among all of you with her astute Illini West triple play and the big stat haul Nick Vorhies bought her. Next time, Molly would be wise however to lean on Jackson Porter to pad his own stats a little more. Just saying. That said, your humble author here actually won the week thanks to the sublime Peyton Plunkett play at running back. Not a single person picked Devin Tynan, who proved to be the fantasy stud of the season with his 5 TD performance. We will try again Friday.

Hannibal's own Dylan Powell was credited with his first official collegiate snap with the Stanford Cardinal this past weekend. The Redshirt Freshman Offensive Lineman, wearing #55, helped his team polish off Rice 62-7 in Sydney, Australia.

KHQA cameras took in the opening of the Tom Salley Era of Culver Stockton Football Program in Fayette Saturday Night and while the new Wildcat Skipper isn’t the kind of man who evens considers moral victories, the level of defense the Wildcats played against Central Methodist in a 31-0 loss was light year’s better than anything we’ve seen from the Cats in the last three years. And this is with a roster comprised predominantly of underclassmen as the new C-SC crew has cleaned house and pushed fresh new start. I realize that is a sad commentary on Culver Football the last few years but the Wildcats did compete on that side of the ball and fashioned an impressive goal line stand. The flip side of that coin is that this new-look offense looked a long ways away from being competitive in amassing just 102 yards of offense and just 39 rushing yards. Rome wasn’t built in a day, obviously. And you have to start somewhere.

You want to feel better about our kids and our community and the true value of football? Catch this post from a Calhoun Fan: https://twitter.com/coachbdixon/status/901564250883272704 The world needs more people like Reedo.

I am guessing after last weekend, Edwardsville Football is in a far different frame of “Week Two Football Mind” than it was after the Quincy High Series the last couple of years: http://www.stltoday.com/sports/high-school/football/edwardsville-suffers-stunning-loss-to-naperville-north-after-building-/article_f4be3ce6-8ac4-11e7-aaaf-7ba82b50d2cc.html

Paris Linebacker Breck Hancock needs five tackles this week at Scotland County to crack the All-Time Top Ten List in MSHSAA Career Tackles.

Shout out to Hannibal’s Cory Allensworth, who became Pirate Soccer’s All Time Career assists leader with his 43rd helper in a blowout win over Elsberry, passing Cory Scott on his way to program immortality. Don’t sleep on Eric Hill’s Pirates. I know It wasn’t the greatest of starts to this season, but this team has nice potential. Nathan DeStefane enjoyed a four goal effort while I was there on Friday and Adam Albright added a hat trick of his own.

Rock Island’s impressive showing in the QND Soccer Tournament, including a 5-2 title win over Maine South may signal a huge shift in the balance of power in Western Big Six Soccer this season.

The best ticket in Fall Sports in 2017 will be any Volleyball meeting between Payson Seymour and West Prairie. We took in the Lady Indians act for the first time during their undefeated run to a Macomb Tournament Title and I am telling you that it has been a long time since I have seen a Front Line that is as good across as Josie Stanford, Kamyrn Flesner and Riley Epperson. That’s as good a drawing card as you will find in Autumn sports. Don’t sleep on the Indians at the back though. Melina Tedrow, obviously but there is more there than just the versatile Senior. Junior Cassie Eidson had a nice weekend setting all those savage hitters up front. Paige Perrine and Hylee Schmiedeskamp broaden a deep roster too.

Iowa Volleyball joins the fray this week. Holy Trinity opens the season ranked 2nd in Class 1A. Fort Madison, which hits the Gem City this weekend for the Early Bird Tournament, is ranked 10th in Class 4A.

Holy Trinity product Mikaela Foecke has posted a team leading 31 kills in her first two matches for Nebraska this season. The powerhouse Husker Program has opened a surprising 0-2 on the year.

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