2018 Gridiron: Quincy Blue Devils
Colors: Blue and White
Total Returning Lettermen:
2017 Overall Record: 6-4, 4-1 in conference
Head Coach: Rick Little
Years at School: 11
Record at School: 61-47
Overall Record: 93-66
JIREHL BROCK IS QUITE GOOD AT FOOTBALLAND OTHER REVEALING BLUE DEVIL EPIPHANIES FOR THE 2018 SEASON
THE BURDEN OF (EXCEEDED) EXPECTATIONS: The degree to which Rick Little has shifted the paradigm on Quincy High Football, even a dozen years after his hire, remains staggering. 2017 marked the seventh Playoff appearance in Little’s Blue Devil tenure and fifth consecutive invite dating back to 2013. Not too shabby for program that amassed just four total playoff appearances and nary a single postseason victory in the entirety of its history prior to Little’s tenure. And maybe that’s Rick’s greatest accomplishment of all; that all of this previously unprecedented success at ”a Basketball/Soccer School” is taken so readily in stride now. That a program that regularly struggled to win three games every Autumn is now the cause of fan base hand-wringing precisely because the Blue Devils are now not winning enough beyond Week Nine. See also the 48-28 ouster QHS suffered at the hands of St Laurence last October; a contest in which the Blue Devil Defense surrendered 416 rushing yards to Vikings Running Back Tori Clinton. And suddenly a program that barely pinged “coffeeshop talk” radar a decade ago is the subject of armchair conjecture on how and what they can do better to make a deep playoff run. Proof positive that when the ceiling rises, the floor does as well. Still, on balance, what a nice boon it is to have the other half of the Quincy Community so deeply invigorated and excited about football
DO I EVEN HAVE TO SAY HIS NAME: Graduation hit the Blue Devils exceptionally hard, wiping out ten of eleven starters on defense and leaving Rick Little five full-timers on Offense. That hit list includes a slew of All Conference honorees who must now be replaced. Under normal circumstances, that might prove a bit of a program buzz kill. Jirehl Brock, however, isn’t here for your tempered expectations and muted positional concerns. The mania surrounding his generational Running Back talents is palpable, beguiling and as we saw from his “Viral Jirehl” helmet drop against Rock Island, a deservedly National Phenomenon. Entire College Football fan bases spent the summer hanging on his every tweet, hoping for some clue as to his future football destination; a Four Star recruit with potentially program elevating appeal. But that’s business for another day. For the time being, Jirehl Brock still belongs to the Gem City, first and foremost. And somehow through all of this, he’s managed to keep a level head about him and focus on the mission of ending his high school career by pushing Blue Devil Football to the highest echelon possible. His Junior Year Body of work was both prodigious (1600 yards and 22 touchdowns on just 210 carries) and a glimpse of greater personal evolution to come. He’s close to 200 pounds now, more durably built without surrendering any of his trademark explosion and direction changing ability. His cuts, now sharper than we saw earlier in his career, afford him the opportunity to turn any crowded patch of yardage into an exit strategy to the end zone. Rare is the player with this kind of home run burst who can be physical between the tackles and who pop an on-rushing defender onto his backside as a blocker. He’s the total package and most gifted athlete in Tri-State Sports right now. But with that mantle comes outlier responsibility as well. This is viewed as Jirehl’s team now and ultimately his legacy will be measured by how much he moves the meter forward for Quincy High Football as a collective, not as an individual stat generator. He’s a super competitive young man and I am sure that challenge has crossed his mind more than a few hundred times since that disappointing loss last October in Chicagoland. And he certainly can’t do it all on his own. Fortunately for Jirehl and the Blue Devil Faithful, he won’t lack for suitable and worthy companion piece.
CRIDER ON THE STORM: Adonte Crider’s first touch of the football in 2017 resulted in a Kick Off Return for Touchdown against Belleville West; a fitting metaphor that suggests, quite literally, that you can’t just beat the Blue Devils by simply kicking the ball away from Jirehl Brock. Crider runs with a fluid gait and almost unnoticeable acceleration. He doesn’t look like he’s gaining speed until you see him relative to the players on the field around him. But make no mistake about it, Crider is in his own way, a threat from every point on the field to take the ball to The House. And Rick Little and Brian Lewton are locked into the notion of finding new ways to attack with Adonte in concert with Jirehl, so as to enhance the profile of both. There’s a broad canvas of things you can do with Adonte as both decoy, complementary scat back, and out of the backfield pass catcher that stretch a defense matchup-wise. Do not be shocked if Crider emerges as an All-Conference level offensive threat in his own right this Fall.
FROM PILLAR TO PROST: Beyond their marquee backs, the Blue Devils have other cause for offensive optimism as well in replicating or bettering the 33 points per game they produced a year ago. Donovan Prost is poised to take over the Quarterback duties and as I wrote last Summer watching him in preseason workouts behind Logan Ross, he has a kind of a deceptive “it” factor when the snap goes off that would be very easy to rally around as his teammate. He’s certainly not cut from Central Casting for a Quarterback in terms of stature/profile, but Donovan plays mobile. He can sling it and actually delivers on the run with better accuracy than most quarterbacks do standing straight up in the pocket. And I think the “get it” factor with Prost is pretty high. You aren’t really going to shake his confidence in himself. The Devils have nifty depth behind him with strong armed Blayne Wilson in the mix and Quinn Rupert, Tate Meyer, and Brady Rupert hovering in the wings for their future shots.
Beyond the Quarterback spot, the assessment is a little rosier than it reads. Tight Ends Drake Tournear and Scott Sprick are unknown commodities outside Blue Devil circles but are highly prized within the ranks for their excellent physicality. Their blocking ability should help cement some things on the Offensive Line but I have been told not to sleep on either as potential breakout guys with their pass catching ability. Fullback could be a mystery late into camp as I am told the battle there is completely wide open.
The Devils do return three starters from last year’s Offensive Line, which is to my mind the other really positive indicator here. The nucleus is sound with AJ Miller, Blake Polling and the underrated Matt Dade all back and ready to reprise last year’s roles. I am told the coaching staff is also sky high on the potential of Senior Rees Treastor to step in and solidify the equation, though we might expect some “blending of ingredients” here as well in trying to get the right guy in to the right slot on the positional tree. That mix could well include fellow Seniors Parker Noble and Brendon Schutte as well as a deep well of Underclassmen trying to play their way up the depth chart. It might take some “landscaping” but the expectation is that Quincy High should have a fine array of bodyguards up front when all the small details get fleshed out.
THE JIGSAW PUZZLE: Quincy High School averaged 27 points per game against last season as a Defensive. That was framed at times through the various prisms of “the WB6 is really good offensively” and “we are better than the numbers.” Then the Tori Clinton Wake Up Call arrived.
It's not really Rocket Science. The Blue Devils have to get better making critical stops. There was a lot of individual talent on the field last season, but it just seemed like that group collectively could ever get off the field in 3rd and Game Changing situation. And will all defenses, extended exposure leads to issues.
Defensive Coordinator Jose Quintero will start essentially from scratch this season in rebuilding a stingier framework. The Blue Devils don’t enter this season with any proven Rainmaker in place and that’s a little weird given some of the outstanding Linebackers QHS has employed over this run dating to Brock Baird just his year. That said, I am told this group of Linebackers as a group has an encouraging ceiling. Senior Jacob Snyder and Juniors Nate Wilson, Xavious Benjamin, and Sander Whitfield appear to be at the top end of a deep, competitive well of guys that aren’t afraid to hit and pursue. You won’t find a lot of recognizable names fronting for them on the Defensive Line either. That said, this coaching staff has historically unearthed quality D-Linemen , even unconventional fits, who have turned into wildly productive players. Parker Stegeman and Brendon Schutte are must watch guys in this mix. Cole Parkhill is a good looking Junior Prospect. And Sophomore Tucker Crenshaw is already on everyone’s varsity radar going into camp with the work he has already done to this point.
The returns of Adonte Crider and Senior Rodd Rudd should lend plenty of confidence when it comes to positively assessing the Defensive Backfield’s prospects for improvement. That will be a strong, athletic group.
DON’T SLEEP ON: Incoming Junior Corey Haynes, a move-in from Burlington, Iowa who I am told has been most impressive and competitive as a legit contender to start in the Blue Devil Secondary from the jump. I’D also tell you that as good as Avery Wilson was kicking the football for QHS last season, the Devils still project his replacement Devin Neally to be a plus asset in the kicking game.
THE DUERR DIAGNOSIS: As the Blue Devil Defense rises, so does Quincy High’s prospect for a prosperous, goal-amassing campaign. You don’t need Phil Steele to tell you that a team with a better Jirehl Brock and a better Adonte Crider from a year ago is going score a plethora of points. Against all comers. If the Blue Devils make stops, that’s going to hold up really well. To the tune of seven or eight wins. If not, it could be a tricky dance to playoff eligibility and another rough First Round Playoff Draw on the road, ramping up the degree of difficulty in adding that ever-elusive second ever Postseason win to the resume. So as tempting as it will be to watch Jirehl do Jirehl things on the Barnstorm Tour this summer, my laser focus will be on that Defense and trying to get a handle on how all these new pieces connect and bring out the best in each other. It’s that simple. And if the Blue Devils bridge that gap, the Coffee Shop Talk has a chance of being historically positive come early November.