Things are pointing up for rejuvenated Cornjerkers.
HOOPESTON — A year ago, Hoopeston Area downgraded its program to junior varsity only and played an abbreviated schedule with 16 squad members.
Coach Michl Kearney’s program is now back to varsity status, and he’s working with 27 prospects. Just nine of those played for the JV team in 2012, however.
“We’re very young and inexperienced,” Kearney said. “Most haven’t seen the Friday Night lights. Over half of our team is first-year players.”
The lone senior who has played football all four years is lineman Connor Willis. Junior Trenton Lanter is the only Cornjerker who has started a varsity game. The lineman was pressed into duty part time as a freshman.
Senior Brant Ramos is the likely quarterback and will work with a familiar player under center. His sophomore brother, Kade, will handle that position.
“We still have a long ways to go, but we’re getting quality kids,” Kearney said. “We have to get the numbers up. We need to be around 40 or 50.”
Though the school has a thriving soccer program for boys in the fall, Kearney doesn’t find fault with that sport.
“I do not blame soccer,” he said. “I interviewed every one of them (in a previous year), and only two said they would have considered football. That’s not an excuse.”
Hoopeston Area is not only young on the field but also on the coaching staff. Logan Patton and Glenn Brewer are first-year coaches. Carroll Ray is in his first year working with a varsity program. He assisted Kearney last fall.
Hoopeston Area opens Friday at home against Arthur-Lovington/Atwood-Hammond. The Cornjerkers have open dates in weeks 2 and 5.