Tuscola faces elimination game
Rick Reinhart isn’t going to worry about the chances of his Tuscola team making the playoffs with a 5-4 record. His concern is about salvaging a winning season. The 4-4 Warriors have that chance Friday in a 7 p.m. game at 5-3 Argenta-Oreana. “That’s better than the alternative of having nothing to play for,” Reinhart said. The Bombers also need a win to assure themselves of a postseason game. “We’ll remain positive,” Reinhart said. “We know we’ll be playing one of the best teams we’ve played all year.” The Warriors are coming off what Reinhart termed “one of our better games,” a 59-12 triumph against Meridian. The Warriors’ starting backfield features freshman quarterback Nick Bates — who was promoted after the sixth game when starter Eli Kauffman left the team — sophomore fullback Cole Evans and sophomore halfback Zach Bates. Nick Bates completed 9 of 14 passes against Meridian, with four completions going for touchdowns. “He brings a competitive spirit and toughness this team needs,” Reinhart said. “It’s amazing how the kids have gotten behind him. It certainly seems like the position will be in good hands the next three years. He could be really special.” Senior Austin Sexson, in his first game back from an injury, rushed for 76 yards against the Hawks. Evans had 61, Nick Bates 59 and junior Austin Martin 43. “Hats off to the kids who have stuck it out,” Reinhart said. “We’ve regrouped, and if we get the job done Friday have a very good chance
of getting in the playoffs.” The future looks bright. The freshman team finished with a 5-2 record, and the junior varsity carries a 6-2 mark into tonight’s finale.
Rivals soon to be teammates
Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley and Fisher will renew their rivalry Friday in a game that will conclude each team’s seasons. Seventeen days later, many of those athletes will become teammates when the schools continue their co-op in wrestling and start preseason practice. “It’s weird in that way,” GCMS coach Mike Allen said, “to be such fierce competitors and then turn around and be teammates. Both staffs get along really well.” GCMS carries a 3-5 record into the game at Fisher. The Bunnies are 2-6 but haven’t been beaten by a team with a losing record. One of GCMS’ standouts is senior Jesse Boma, who last year had an area-best 10 interceptions. This year, when Allen said, “we haven’t faced a lot of passing teams,” the safety still has picked off four passes to again rank among the area leaders. “He has a nose for the ball,” Allen said. Boma, the team’s quarterback, holds the school’s season and career records for interceptions. Allen expects no problems in getting his team mentally ready for the game. “Just because the playoffs are out of reach doesn’t mean the season is over,” he said. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.” When the schools played last year, it was in Week 6 and Fisher won 7-0. Next year’s meeting also will be in Week 9. Eight of GCMS’ football players are expected to participate in wrestling. They include senior Chet McClure along with juniors Michael Cler, Lane Dueringer, Lucas Hixson, Bryan Medler, Stan Rinehart, Austin Rosenbaum and Ryan Thorson. Among Fisher’s dual-sport athletes are junior heavyweight state placer Josh Wallick and freshman Aaron Carter, the son of wrestling coach Josh Carter.
It’s Coal Bucket time
The storyline is simple. One team (Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman) has a chance to qualify for the playoffs. The other team (Westville) has a chance to prevent it. Friday’s clash at Georgetown — the 91st between the neighboring rivals — features the 5-3 Buffaloes against the visiting 3-5 Tigers. Due to forfeits in the Vermilion Valley Conference this season, both schools are preparing for the seventh on-the-field game. For Westville, it will be just the second contest in the final four weeks and follows an off week. “It’s an advantage and a disadvantage,” Westville coach Guy Goodlove said. “We’ve had two weeks to focus on one opponent, but can you keep their full attention for two full weeks?” The Tigers’ streak of consecutive years in the playoffs has ended at eight. Goodlove said that means there won’t be just one team with motivation this week. “We’re not used to being done at this point,” he said. “Georgetown has some things to play for, and we do, too. Our season didn’t go the way we’d like, and winning the Coal Bucket would make everything so much better.” Junior Dalton Hilligoss has filled the void created offensively when Shane Overshiner suffered a season-ending knee injury. “It’s unfortunate we lost someone the caliber of Shane, but Dalton has done an excellent job,” Goodlove said. Hilligoss, who has rushed for 369 yards and scored four touchdowns, is one of 18 juniors on the Tigers’ roster. Westville has held the upper hand in the series in recent years, winning 12 of the last 13 games, but the Buffaloes lead the annual series 45-36-9. Since the Coal Bucket trophy was created, the G-RF lead is 24-23-2.
Sabers stay in playoff mode
Most schools consider Week 9 of the football season as the final one in the regular season. Not so at St. Thomas More. “We’re already in Week 3 of the playoffs,” coach Dan Hennessey said. His reference is to Week 7 and Week 8 games, where the Sabers faced a win-or-be-eliminated game. They won and now in Week 9, in their home finale against Rantoul (1-7), it’s win or be eliminated. “It’s do or die,” Hennessey said. “If we lose, we go home. If we win, hopefully we’ll go on.” Quarterback Storm Joop passed for a school-record 335 yards in last week’s 44-12 win against Iroquois West. A.J. Young had six receptions for 142 yards, Mike Plecki caught five balls for 80 yards and Kevin Carroll hauled in four passes for 72 yards. All three scored a touchdown. “Our receivers were coming back to the ball more and finding ways to get open,” Hennessey said. “We’ve been harping, ‘Keep moving. He will find you,’ and we cut down the route sizes.” Young was in his second game back from an injury. Carroll is pleased to have another option on the offense, which — in theory — will cut down the double teams he faces. “It has been huge,” Carroll said, “and has helped the team be more dynamic.” The Sabers will finish with between 40 and 42 playoff points (total wins by their nine opponents), which should be enough for selection. “We’ve played our hearts out and want to get to Week 10,” Carroll said. Joop (94 yards), Plecki (61 yards) and Young (58 yards) were the team’s top three rushers last week, helping STM generate 231 yards on the ground. St. Thomas More is attempting to reach the playoffs for the sixth year in a row.
Big 12 passers click
Three of the six area athletes who have passed for more than 1,000 yards in eight games are from the Big 12 Conference, including leader Trent Sherfield of Danville. He has 1,486 yards and a slender 4-yard lead over Prairie Central’s Addison Bounds. Urbana’s Cameron Mammen — whose team hosts Danville on Friday — stands fourth with 1,336 yards. The Tigers’ senior needs 71 yards to break the school single-season record he set as a junior. Centennial sophomore Jimmy Fitzgerald is sixth in the area in passing yards (1,053) with a total that places him 12th on the Chargers’ all-time season list. Fitzgerald needs 86 yards in his finale at home against Normal West (5-3) to move into the top 10 and with a 191-yard effort would climb to seventh. Centennial’s season passing record (2,258) belongs to Dustin Ward. Jason Fisher is second while the third- and fourth-place positions are held by Bryan Banks. This is the 46th year for football at Centennial. The marquee game for area Big 12 entries is the one at Urbana’s McKinley Field. The Tigers are trying to clinch their first 8-1 regular season in 21 years while the 4-4 Vikings need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. “We have a lot of young kids playing,” Danville coach B.J. Luke said, “and we’d like those kids to have a positive finish to the season. And we’d like to send the seniors out who’ve played some pretty big games the last three years.” Two-way lineman Aaron Hardimon and tackle Jon Lomax are senior three-year regulars. Danville’s freshmen have a 6-2 record going into tonight’s finale and, Luke said, “we have a good eighth-grade group coming in. We won’t be hurting for long.”