Prep sports coordinator FRED KRONER will chat at 12:30 p.m. Thursdays throughout the school year. Submit questions of any kind at any time and he'll do his best to respond.
Welcome to another year of high school sports chats. The plan is to go live every Thursday for a half-hour right around 12:30 p.m. We hope that's a good time for everyone, but we welcome questions any time. Let's get started.
Who are some teams to watch in the SVC football this year
How do you see SJO and St Thomas Moore doing? Some players to watch for both?
Will the "new" Okaw next year be adding more than the current 6 members they have? I believe they wanted to get to 8 if possible
Hi Brian. It should be a good year for teams in the Sangamon Valley. When we contacted coaches for their preseason predictions, three schools received first-place votes (St. Joseph-Ogden, Clifton Central and Momence) and when the state rankings came out this week, two SVC schools received mention in The Associated Press poll. SJ-O was 11th in Class 3A and Clifton Central was fifth in 2A. Going a step further, I think St. Thomas More has a very good returning nucleus, starting with quarterback Storm Joop. The Sabers lost their top receiver, Kevin Carroll (now a UI walk-on), but have depth at that position. SJ-O also has a quality QB returning in Dalton Walsh. The Spartans also have something very, very few schools in 3A or below can say, and that's enough linemen that they can come up with one platoon for offense and another for defense. Coach Dick Duval's team has 17 seniors on the roster and that is always a good thing. Clifton Central's Derrick Graham is a running back/linebacker who is regarded as among the league's best as well.
The "new" Okaw wants to reach eight teams, but they are prepared to move forward temporarily with six. I believe schedules are set, at least for football, for 2014-15 so I don't believe another school could be immediately worked into the mix. I know some people wonder about the addition of Rantoul to that group. The Eagles are rebuilding and could be good again very quickly. I believe they have a freshman group of 41 this year. That's a terrific turnout.
Where will you be heading this week Fred? Do you try to mix-up your coverage so you get to see most of the top teams at least once?
Keep up your great work! I am looking forward to the new webpages that debut tomorrow!
Hi Nate. I can't believe another high school football season is here again. It seems like I was just covering a state championship game! For the last four or five years, I've tried to spread my game coverage around as much as possible. It looks like this year, I will get to see 18 of our 34 area teams at least once. There are several Saturday games on the schedule, so that helps, too. The team I will see most in the regular season is Danville. I will have the Vikings' games against Centennial, Central and Urbana. I'll be heading out to Jamaica High School this Friday for the Arcola vs. Salt Fork game. Week 2 I will be heading to Tolono for the Tuscola at Unity game. With fewer staff members, I think it's imperative to try and cover a variety of teams so that a wide range of schools get some recognition. readers will probably notice that some schools have their games covered virtually every week. There's a reason for that. The News-Gazette, in recent years, has purchased a number of area community newspaper. We have an agreement where we can use their stories, and nice versa. So that person covering the Monticello, Rantoul, Paxton, Mahomet-Seymour teams, for example, will be at those games anyway and will file a story for us. The tradeoff is that we can't send them elsewhere to cover a different game. It's a system that seems to work pretty well. I am looking forward to checking out the web site, too. I've heard a lot about it, and know of the plans, but haven't actually seen much yet. I'm sure it will be terrific.
Fred,Cam Mammen has left the BLD'g. I plan on supporting St.Thomas Moore with Andrew Mammen On JV and Varsity. Could be Good with the Blood Lines in his Family.
Hi Tom. I have a funny story about that. I was out at St. Thomas More for Picture Day. The coach had sent a list of the athletes playing football so that I could do name cards in advance. That makes it a lot easier to make the process go quicker. About halfway through, this young man comes up and tells me we had his name spelled wrong. On the original list we had received, it was listed as Andrew Mammon. At that point, I hadn't heard he was enrolling at STM, so I didn't automatically make the change. I figured it was possible there was another family around with a similar name. Anyway, we gave him a new name card and I noticed on the official roster we received from the school, it was spelled correctly. Hope you have an enjoyable season. It's always fun following athletes whose families you know.
In your opinion "when was the best era for high school football?" By best, I don't necessarily mean best athletes/teams. I lean more towards community involvement, best played, competition and to an extent skills of players. The reason I posted this was I came across an old football program from the mid 80's and noticed that Freshman played a full nine game schedule...sophomores played a full nine game schedule....JV played a full nine game schedule. It seems that athletes had much more game experience prior to playing varsity ball...just wondering how or if that has affected the quality of play in your opinion.
Hi Rocky. I was going to get back to you on that question, wasn't I? That's one of the many tyhings on my ever-growing to-do list!! You make some good points that I think are universally true, regardless of sport. To diverse, when the Assembly Hall first opened and the IHSA state basketball games were held there, every session was a sellout of 16,000-plus. By the time the tourney left for Peoria, that wasn't the case. Now, in Peoria, I'm hearing the crowds are probably less than 8,000. No doubt, this pattern exists in football, but not just with the schedules and crowds, but also the related activities. I've noticed at various homecoming games I've been too, some schools don't even have floats any more. I couldn't even guess what percentage still do that, but I know it's not 100 percent. In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, I bet it was. I remember doing stories in the early 1980s on football teams Tom Stewart coached at Champaign Central. He was getting participation numbers around 160 every fall, from freshmen through seniors. The school also had close to 33 players starting every game, 11 on offense, 11 on defense and 11 on special teams. That's not to say they played every minute. I'm sure they didn't and several key players on offense received significant minutes on defense, but imagine the feeling of being a starter for a football team. Many schools now don't get those kinds of numbers. In fact, of the 17 schools I made a stop at this preseason, only one (Centennial with 111) told me they had more than 100 players, freshmen through seniors. This makes it hard to say which era was the best for high school football. Certainly, many of today's players are as good as there has ever been. There aren't as many of them. Sometimes, I feel like many of the top current players are not as fundamentally sound as those from 20-30 years ago. Perhaps you can trace that to the devlopment factor, players getting nine games with a freshman team, nine with the sophomore -- all the while practicing with those specific teams under their own coaches -- and then moving up to varsity and being well schooled. I understand many coaches need to run their programs together, but when a few coaches are trying to work with 50-plus athletes, many of the younger ones who need the individual time and training aren't getting as much as they need. I don't think I could put a specific era on which one was the best. I'll bet old-timers will tell you theirs was the best when people played ironman football. Each era has its own merits.
Any thoughts on areas top volleyball teams yet this year or too early?
I think there will be several potentially terrific teams in our area. In Champaign, at least on paper, I think Central is the team to beat. In fact, the Maroons will be ranked No. 1 when our first area volleyball rankings come out next week. Mahomet-Seymour has a wonderful nucleus of players back and will be right there, too. Don't discount Centennial. The Chargers haven't won fewer than 20 matches in the past 14 seasons and I don't think that streak is in deopardy. Among the smaller schools, Schlarman Academy in Danville has two of the top players around in Laura Gross and Jordan Marganski. St. Joseph-Ogden should be very strong again and don't overlook Unity, which has a new coach (ex-Illini Kylie McCulley) and also gained the transfer of a first-team All-Area selection, Lizzy Barnard (from Tri-County). The Rockets will surprise a lot of people this year. Two other schools I expect a lot from are both from the same conference as SJ-O (the SVC) and that's St. Thomas More and Watseka. Overall, I believe this will be an "up" year for area volleyball talent.
Fred,welcome back for another Great Year. I Liked some of the Big 12 picks for this year. I believe of course the top 4 are correct. No way Urbana beats Normal.I expect a Big Win for Normal. I believe Eisenhower at the bottom with Central above them in 8th. 5th, 6th and 7th could be close Games Centennial may have an edge with passing game. Macarthur could be the real darkhorse if they got their recruits from Eisenhower. Urbana probably 3 and 6.They have a new O-line,Kicking Game still not a factor. Defense ? They have only 35 Varsity Players. Beckman is just an average QB.Mostly just Passing. On a team who have 2 Top Running backs in Cobbs and Patton.Can' t lose either one.Back ups are not there. Very young Team but have 10 coaches. Can add Coaches every year but not Players.Back on the down hill climb. With 3 non conference games next year all teams in Big 12 will have a hard time.
Hi Tom. I think the jury is very much out on the teams that could potentailly finish in the middle of the Big 12. I'd put both Centennial and Urbana in that category. I think Central's program is on the upswing, but probably a year or two away from being competitive week in and week out. Maybe I'm wrong. For the Chargers and Tigers, I could see anything from 7-2 to 3-6. From my view, the top teams in the Big 12 aren't as clearly dominant as ones from the past decade or so that were going to state championship games or to the semifinals. That's why I say that a team like Centennial or Urbana could beat a very good team on "that given week." Not sure that can put it together enough to beat top teams week after week. Your point on depth is a very good one. I expect Urbana to put some very good players out on the field. Injuries or ineligibilities could have a devastating effect. I thought Kenny Patton was one of the harder runners I saw last year, Tanner Russell is as good as any receiver around. My only chance to see Alex Beckman in game action was near the end of a couple games in 2012. Any time you have a sophomore in the lineup, you will have great moments and some inconsistent moments. That's a given. All the reports I've heard on his throwign are good and I think the Tigers have a good collection of receivers to go with Russell. Centennial is in much the same position. Remember last year, Jimmy Fitzgerald was a sophomore quarterback. He had great moments. He had inconsistent moments. Now he has a scholarship offer from the UI. I truly believe the Chargers are a playoff team this year and I think Urbana could be, depending on how things play out. Both are going to have to work and probably exceed some expectations to get to the five- or six-win mark, but it can happen.
That's a wrap for this week. We'll be back next week on Thursday afternoon to attack more questions. Thanks to all who participated.