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Prep sports coordinator Fred Kroner has been covering area high schools since the 1970s. He chats at 12:30 p.m. Thursdays but don't wait til then to submit questions.
It's that time of the week again. Let's get right to the prep questions.
Fred, the Heart of Illinois Conference football standings have me all confused. Some teams have more league games on their schedule than others...some teams got an auto W if they were scheduled to play Blue Ridge...the top two teams played but it wasn't a league game...help! If both TV and Fieldcrest win out, who's the champ?
I can understand your confusion. That's a problem when you have a mega-conference like the Heart of Illinois, without two six-team divisions. OK, first things first. Each school will play eight conference games. In years past, I believe the Heart of Illinois was able to schedule one non-conference game against an opponent outside of the league. As some schools dropped varsity football, and as coops split up or dissolved around the area, not every school was able to find a true non-league game against an opponent from outside the Heart of Illinois. Thus what happened is they designated a game against a league opponent to be a non-conference game in order to keep the balance, that is each school will end the nine-game regular season with eight Heart of Illinois games. There has always been the possibility that two teams could go undefeated and not determine a true conference champion on the field since there will always be three schools a team doesn't play in a given year. This year, that is looking like a reality. The interesting piece for 2014 is that the schools, Tri-Valley and Fieldcrest, DID actually play in what was a non-conference game.Logically, that would help to determine the conference champion, but I suspect the policies previously in place in case of a tiebreaker are what will be used. It's a fascinating scenario and I don't yet have the exact criteria to know which school would get the "automatic" IHSA playoff berth as conference champion. It's kind of a moot point, since each will be going to the playoffs and will be high seeds, unless something unexpected happens these last two weeks. Thanks for raising an interesting point.
Fred,First I would like to apologize for what I had to say about Coach Nate Albaugh at Central before the season. I didn't feel he could handle the job at Central. He has proven doubters such as me he can get the job done. After a slow start he has brought his Coaches and Players together found the right mix,tried 4 QB's. and stuck with the basics of football running the ball,blocking and tackling and a good kicking game. Reminds me of days of old. From what I have seen him do this year he would be my Coach of the Year. He had an impossible situation that he proved he could handle. Possibly an outside Chance at the Playoffs.Congratulations to the Coaches and Players at Champaign Central.
Hi Tom. You make some terrific points. I don't want it to seem like I am now jumping on the bandwagon. If you remember, I said from Day 1 this was a good hire. Even though he came from a smaller program (Milford/Cissna Park), I've was impressed in the past with his knowledge of the game, his thoroughness and attention to detail. People who know, tell me he had Danville so well scouted last week that depending where certain players were positioned, he knew what the play would be before the ball was snapped. Of course, that is only half the battle. The players still need to make the plays and, for the most part, that happened. This week, Central goes into the Battle of Champaign rival game where anything truly can happen. Emotions play a huge role. If one team gets momentum early, that could be a factor. But, I will tell you this, in nearly 33 years of covering high school football for The News-Gazette, I don't think I have ever seen an area coach have a better-constructed game plan at a game I've personally seen than what Nate Albaugh did last week at Danville. Players make the plays, but a key part of that is coaches having them in position where they can make the plays. It will be interesting to see what happens these last two weeks. Regardless of these outcomes, the future looks bright at Central, especially with the number of younger players in the program. It's certainly not all the head coach, either. There's a quality staff in place there with a number of excellent football minds.
Fred,Just 1 more thing. I am going to the Cross Town Rivalry Game at Champaign. This will be the first Game I have went to live this year.Though I have watched many on IHIGH AND IHSA TV NETWORK. I am going to watch Champaign Central win. As you know my Son Rod and best friend Bill Pritchett Coached at Central Last year.I am going to recognize a great bunch of kids my Son and Bill loved and the Kids loved them. I know because Most of the Team and Coaches came to my Sons Passing and Celebration of Life at Stone Creek Church in Jan. this year. It was very Emotional for me and my Family to hear the stories they told. You know my passion for Football and even though Central was 0-9 last year they have proven what they are all about.I am sure Rod is looking down from above and is very proud of what the Kids have accomplished this year..
Hi Tom. What you have here is a classic example of something I've said for years. A particular team does well and those currently associated with the team get credit, as they should for a job well done. However, if you look deeper, success often goes back much further. Even though Central was 0-9 a year ago, the foundation was being put in place. I would say it was being laid even before last year. Things accumulate and sometimes the process is slower than what those associated with it would want. Occasionally, it happens even quicker than expectations. The only thing Central has really been missing the past few years is continuity at the head coaching position. I believe Nate Albaugh is the fourth head coach, or interim head coach, in the past five years. That is bound to slow progress somewhat as players adjust to new and different coaches and philosophies, but looking at the bigger picture, it's clear the varsity players now have been schooled in the fundamentals in the past and are executing well. Anyone associated with the program these past few years should feel proud of their contributions. A new coach this year couldn't come in, start from scratch, and get to this point without the benefits of what took place these past few years. I'm looking forward to this week's game, too. I think it should be an outstanding one.
That's a wrap for this week. We'll be back next week to tackle more prep questions.