Trip’s over for Buffaloes
Week 7 marks the first home game for Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman, which hosts Salt Fork. The team’s homecoming game was lost (actually won) when Schlarman forfeited. On the trip home from Milford last week, the bus parked in front of the G-RF field, headlights illuminating the surface. “We said, ‘We’re gonna get to play here now,’ ” coach Josh Cavanaugh said. “It’s going to be crazy.” After a second-game loss to Tri-County, Cavanaugh simplified the offense. “Our team has morphed into do what you can do,” he said. “We have some young players at a lot of positions. We ask them to do what they do well.” For Evan Olson and Zyrone Petty, that is block. They are part of an offensive line that Cavanaugh said “has been the best part of our season thus far.” The coach created some unique sets, and the 240-pound Olson and 295-pound Petty aren’t always up front. They line up as fullbacks in a true power formation. “You have almost 540 pounds of fullback coming at you,” Cavanaugh said. Other times, he shifts two other linemen, Derek Shuman (205 pounds) and Gage Jurumbo (210), to the blocking back positions. Depending which unit is in the backfield, the Buffaloes call them “train” and “little train.” Sophomore Troy Rodriguez has back-to-back 100-yard rushing games, and quarterback Rylee Goodwin, another sophomore, hasn’t been intercepted. “We haven’t had kids who haven’t contributed,” Cavanaugh said. “Troy has been very dependable, beyond what we had hoped for.” Ryan Berry (receiver) has been drawing double teams or catching touchdown passes.
One game, many losses
A 58-8 on-field loss at Momence was hard enough for St. Thomas More, but that wasn’t the only loss in the Week 4 game. Nate Stringer left early with a broken collarbone. A.J. Young hurt a shoulder, Sean Sullivan went out with a torn hamstring and Zack Smith suffered a concussion. “Stringer, Young and Sullivan were all running backs,” Sabers coach Dan Hennessey said. “That one game put us on a tailspin.” None of the four have yet returned to action, and possible return dates are still indefinite. The injuries actually removed a fourth ball carrier, too. Purdue recruit John Strauser had been playing tight end and fullback, but he was needed at center in Smith’s absence. Guard Brett Roos was converted to fullback, with Nate Happ replacing him at guard though STM is no longer running a power-I. “We’re more spread and jet sweeps,” Hennessey said. “The passing game is our bread and butter.” Quarterback Storm Joop and receiver Kevin Carroll have made the aerial attack click. “Carroll makes things happen,” Hennessey said. “He is an elusive runner and gifted on his pass routes. He knows when to come back.” After hauling in six passes for 191 yards at St. Joseph-Ogden, Carroll has taken over the area lead for receiving yards with 569. Joop needs 144 yards to reach 1,000 this season for passing. For STM (2-4), the playoffs start this week at home against Paxton-Buckley-Loda. “It’s win or we’re done,” Hennessey said. “I look at us at 2-4 and I don’t think we’re a 2-4 team. The kids have not given up. Their spirits are high.”
Negangard back for Rockets
Senior fullback Mitch Negangard, injured in the third Unity game, was cleared to resume practicing Monday. “If things go well, we will move forward with him playing some,” Unity coach Scott Hamilton said. “It will be a conservative approach. It’s unrealistic for someone out three weeks to think he will play like he did before he left, after he’d prepared himself for a whole year.” The Rockets play Friday at Monticello in an Okaw Valley showdown matching two 5-1 teams. Unity moved forward, even with Negangard sidelined. “Connor (Grace) has played great, our offensive line has continued to improve and we’re starting to get a feel for our blocking assignments,” Hamilton said. Junior Justin Deters is the team’s top rusher and has completed more than half of his passes. “He is throwing the ball the way we hoped he would,” Hamilton said. “It’s hard to get a young guy in the groove of throwing when it rains, and we’ve had a couple of decent weeks to do what we want.” Defensive changes have been positive as Dalton Grimm stepped in at linebacker for tackling leader Negangard. Cody Snodgrass and Taylor White joined the lineup in the secondary. “Defense is a game of confidence and being able to play fast,” Hamilton said. “Many of our kids have stepped up. They are playing with more confidence. The main thing is to continue to improve.” One decision has been easy for Hamilton. “I don’t ever think what to do when we score,” he said. “We line them up to kick.” Senior Cody Payne (who also starts at safety) is a third-year varsity kicker. His conversions made the difference in a 7-6 win against Maroa-Forsyth and a 29-26 win against Argenta-Oreana when he hit 3 of 3 kicks. “He is a big key for us,” Hamilton said.
Changes necessary at Tuscola
What looked in the preseason to be a promising group of runners and receivers for Tuscola has transgressed into a collection of injured runners and receivers. Dan Yoakum was hurt against Monticello in the second game and has played sparingly since. Rushing leader Austin Sexson sprained a medial collateral ligament against St. Teresa in Week 4, the same game that fullback Cole Evans was sidelined. They have not yet returned to action and aren’t expected on the field Friday when the 3-3 Warriors play at 5-1 Maroa-Forsyth. “They were all two-way starters,” Tuscola coach Rick Reinhart said. “We’ve had to regroup. We won’t play someone who shouldn’t be out there. Young guys are getting a chance to play and have to make the best of it. We can’t look for excuses.” The Warriors’ losses are to opponents that are a combined 15-3. Tristan Williams and Zach Bates have assumed the slot positions that Sexson and Yoakum held on offense and Reinhart said they “are getting better every week.” Defensively, Austin Martin and Mike Rotramel were thrust into duty as linebackers. Rotramel “did a great job,” Reinhart said, but now Tuscola needs to find a replacement for a replacement. Rotramel suffered his second concussion against Central A&M and is sidelined for the season. Reinhart is confident his team will get a playoff berth if it can reach the five-win mark. “If we get in, there’s no doubt in my mind we can do well,” he said, “but we’ve got to get there.” Reinhart sees no signs of his team losing hope. “The nucleus of our team will compete and raise their game,” he said. “My staff will do everything possible to help them get there.”
Sherfield sparks Vikings’ attack
Junior quarterback Trent Sherfield continues to be the heart of the Vikings’ attack. The team’s offense has generated 27 touchdowns in six games. Sherfield has accounted for 25 with his running or passing. “We felt he’d be that type of player, and we’re excited to see it happen,” Vikings coach B.J. Luke said. “We’re asking a lot of a kid in his seventh game playing quarterback.” Sherfield had one start at the position as a sophomore when All-Area Player of the Year Dennis Hightower was hurt. Otherwise, he was one of Hightower’s receiving targets. “What makes his numbers on offense more impressive is that most quarterbacks are not one of your leading tacklers,” Luke said. Sherfield is second on Danville in tackling. Offensively, he has accounted for 1,934 yards, 1,120 by passing. The 3-3 Vikings play 0-6 Champaign Central at Tommy Stewart Field. “For Danville, especially us old-timers, that’s an important game,” Luke said. Steven Williams and Chris Collier are the only Vikings with receptions in every game. Williams had a team-high nine catches against Normal West and has had two-TD games twice in the past three weeks. “We had hopes he’d be a nice possession receiver, and he’s doing a good job,” Luke said. “Now, he’s playing defense (in the secondary) and helping us on both sides.” Sophomore linebacker Hoey Watson had a team-high 12 tackles against MacArthur and leads in overall tackles and sacks. “He’s someone we hoped to get special teams play out of,” Luke said. “He has responded and has improved every week. Next year, he’ll be a veteran.” Danville has scored and allowed 202 points.