Broncos heading for showdown
Something will happen Friday at Villa Grove that has not yet taken place this season: An unbeaten team will suffer its first loss. The Blue Devils host Cerro Gordo/DeLand-Weldon/Bement in a 7 p.m. game for supremacy in the Little Okaw Valley Conference. "Turnovers and limiting them could be the story of the game for one side or the other," CG/D-W/Bement coach Andy Kerley said. Cerro Gordo and DeLand-Weldon formed a co-op in the past. This is the first year for Bement's involvement. "We haven't done anything special to get the kids together that we haven't done in the past," Kerley said. "I think the thing that helped was the kids knew early on that they were all equal and that their effort and work ethic would be what got them starting positions, not reputations or past exploits." Steve Isbell, a tailback/safety from Bement, has been a nice fit. "He's explosive and elusive and can really hit the big play for us," Kerley said. Isbell has rushed for 664 yards. Jay Woods, who played basketball last year at D-W, switched from linebacker to the defensive line prior to Game 1 and has been a force. "We needed a tackle one day on scout team, and he lined up there for us and was unstoppable against our varsity offense," Kerley said. "Since then, that his been his position, and he's been very good at it." Fullback Dee Woods is "punishing as a blocker and runner," Kerley said. The foundation, he said, is the group up front. "Our line has done a fantastic job opening holes for those two," Kerley said. Fifteen players rotate on defense. Kerley said "they've evolved into a hard-hitting group with a lot of pride in what they've been able to accomplish up to this point."
Falcons stay in playoff hunt
A look at the season record — it's 1-4 — usually would indicate a school that has little hope for a playoff berth. However, for the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley team, the postseason is very much a reality. The Falcons enter Friday's home game against Heyworth knowing their four-game losing streak is against opponents with a combined 19-1 record. For coach Mike Allen, the playoffs are starting this week. "We have to win the next four games to give ourselves a chance," Allen said. "We're 1-4, but we're proud of what the kids have done and how they have improved." Two weeks ago against Ridgeview, GCMS allowed the Mustangs 5 third-quarter yards. Last week, the Falcons lost to PBL 7-6. "Our defense, especially the last two games, has been outstanding," Allen said. The biggest issue for GCMS is its size. Right tackle Wiley Hasty is the only 200-pounder in the starting lineup. "We're undersized, but you can't measure heart," Allen said, "and the kids are giving it their all. Our line is all juniors." Senior linebackers Chet McClure and Nick Retherford have played consistently, as has running back Jordyn Schultz, a fourth-year varsity member. Several younger players are making an impact. Freshman kicker Zach Johnson was 6 for 6 in extra points in his prep debut (against Lexington). "His brother (Jake) was our kicker, and it's nice to know we'll have that weapon the next three years," Allen said. Another ninth-grader, Nick Meunier, scored two TDs in his first varsity game. Down the stretch, GCMS faces four teams with a 4-16 record combined.
Equal footing for Maroons?
Champaign Central coach Brett Roberts is hoping this is a week for a reversal of fortunes. Two injured players, Tim Turner and Indy Whalen, returned to practice in preparation for the Maroons' sixth game. Turner was projected as one of the area's Nifty 50 in the preseason but was injured after six carries in a first-game loss to state-ranked Normal West. This will be the halfback's first game back. Whalen missed last week's game. Central and Marian Catholic match 0-5 records Friday in Chicago Heights. The Spartans have not yet scored more than one touchdown in a game this season. Roberts said he sees progress in his program. "Even though we have not won a game yet, we are getting better. Our kids practice hard every day, and they are coming together as a team. I have to tried to emphasize that you can learn a lot about yourself when you are facing adversity. We are starting to see some kids step up in the leadership department. We had players take ownership of their own mistakes, and I feel that is huge. They are holding themselves accountable." One Maroon who has emerged is junior linebacker Josh Musquez. "He does a great job running the defense," Roberts said. The coach sees similarities in the teams that will take the field for Friday's 7 p.m. game. "Marian Catholic is almost a mirror image of our team. They will have a good drive going and turn it over. Their defense will stop the other team and then give up a huge play. I think that this should be a pretty good game." The Maroons are trying to avoid their first winless season since 1896, when the school had one tie and four losses.
Ridgeview enjoys fast start
Ridgeview qualifies as one of the area's most improved teams. A year ago, the Mustangs were 2-7 and beat opponents that collectively won one game. This year, coach Mike Benton's squad is 5-0 entering a Friday showdown at another 5-0 team, 10th-ranked (Class 2A) Watseka. Ridgeview received votes this week in Class 1A. "Last season we had a lot of injuries by Week 5, and this season we have stayed healthy," Benton said. "The fact that we have not had many turnovers (two) and that we have played well on defense this season have been real factors." Ridgeview is ready for the challenge that awaits. "They are a much bigger school than we are, and their level of competition has been greater, so we will have to play our best game to have any chance to beat them," Benton said. "We have a lot to play for here. We are excited about this matchup because we want to see how good we are and whether we can compete with bigger schools." Halfback Josh Weier is in his third year as the Mustangs' leading rusher and receiver. "He is big, fast and very hard to tackle," Benton said. "He runs angry, and he can run by you or lower his shoulder and run over you." He is also the punter and one of the reasons Benton said "we have a good kicking game." Halfback Zach Walker is, according to Benton, "probably the best all-around player I have coached. He is a tough runner with great speed and quickness, a tenacious blocker, and he is a sure tackler." Quarterback Matt Barnes is the team leader on defense as a linebacker. Ridgeview will follow this week's game with two more 5-0 teams: LeRoy and Tri-Valley.
Bearcats ponder forfeit win
Milford/Cissna Park has a 3-2 record with guaranteed wins upcoming (forfeits from Schlarman and Hoopeston Area), but coach Nate Albaugh said even that is not a given. The Bearcats are looking for a Week 7 opponent rather than accept a forfeit from Schlarman. "We won't schedule someone we have no chance of beating, but we want to play another game," Albaugh said. "For the sake of our seniors, we want to give them the games they deserve. If you're good enough, you'll make the playoffs." MCP hosts Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman on Friday. The Bearcats' offense stayed effective even after Josh Marquez suffered a knee injury in Week 2 (after a 162-yard rushing effort) that limited him to three carries the following two games. In his place, sophomore fullback Devon Laubscher became the workhorse, carrying 26 times vs. Salt Fork and 28 vs. Westville. "He has proven very durable and is really coming to life," Albaugh said. A three-event individual track state champion as an eighth-grader (100, 200 and long jump), Albaugh originally didn't believe the quickness of the 5-foot-7, 145-pounder. "He clocked the fastest 40 (yard) time I've had, even at Alton," Albaugh said. "I didn't believe it, so I had him run it again." Laubscher improved his time (4.48 seconds) to 4.40. "He is a super special kid," Albaugh said. Receivers Beau Anderson and Alex Rabe are so solid the coach shifted a starting end (Tyson Rogers) to the tackle this week because "he is too good of an athlete not to be on the field," Albaugh said. "A year from now, he'll be our go-to receiver, but we have two good ones now who are seniors."