Conference play begins this week in the Vermilion Valley Conference with a marquee matchup between the league’s top offensive team to date (Westville, 73 points) playing at the league’s top defensive team to date (Salt Fork, 13 points).
Westville is ranked sixth in Class 2A this week and Salt Fork is rated fourth in Class 1A.
Friday’s 7 p.m. contest will be played at Jamaica High School, in rural Sidell.
Overall, Vermilion Valley teams were 9-7 during the preseason portion of their schedule. In the games matching teams from the VVC with opponents from the Little Okaw Valley Conference, the VVC teams held a 7-2 edge.
Beginning in 2010, those two leagues have entered into an agreement to provide the nonconference competition the first two weeks of the season.
Here’s a recap of Week 2 action and a look ahead to the games scheduled for Sept. 11.
SALT FORK (2-0)
The Storm built a 28-0 halftime lead en route to a 34-0 triumph over South Piatt. Forty seven of the team’s 54 non-punting plays on offense were running plays with nine different squad members getting carries.
Coach Brian Plotner said Salt Fork’s overall performance was better than in Week 1.
“We improved in all three areas, offense, defense and special teams,” Plotner said. “We were more balanced with our running attack and we got more passing.”
Quarterback Joe Pratt, who scored a touchdown, also passed to Sean Cox for a score.
The defense was led by Rileigh Darnell, Jordan Hallett and Jake Manning, each with eight tackles. Hallett — the team’s top tackler the first week — and Manning had sacks. Darnell intercepted a South Piatt pass.
“Rileigh has been very good at the cornerback position and also has been a big-time performer on special teams,” Plotner said.
Manning recovered two fumbles.
“Jake is a gamer-type kid and a strong foundation for this team,” Plotner said.
For the second week in a row, the Storm had a different rushing leader. Lance Hubbard was the Opening Game leader. Brandon Dixon (86 yards) led the charge last week.
Westville’s explosiveness in the backfield makes it difficult for the coach to think about totally containing the Tigers this week.
“There’s definitely going to be yardage they will gain,” he said. “What will be devastating to us is if they get home run plays. If they’re making 50 yards a play, we’ll be in trouble.”
Plotner is awaiting word on the status of junior halfback Drew York. He suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury 10 days ago in a junior varsity contest and could be sidelined for the remainder of the season.
Coach Guy Goodlove liked what he saw from his team in the first half of last week’s 34-28 triumph over Momence. The Tigers scored five TDs, with three coming during a 4:46 stretch of the second period, but then went scoreless after intermission.
The final two periods dimmed Goodlove’s overall thoughts about the game.
“We need to sustain that effort for two halves, and we didn’t do it,” he said. “We almost gave the game away. The first half, we did very well, but we need to put two halves together.
“The second half, they were able to shut us down because we weren’t making the blocks.”
Matt Maser and Brendon Severado were the Tigers’ leaders. Severado latched onto six of Maser’s completions, gaining 137 yards and reaching the end zone twice. Maser threw for 192 yards and rushed for an additional 188.
“Matt put us on his shoulders and carried us the first half,” Goodlove said. “He did a fantastic job of keeping us in the ball game.”
Severado did more than what showed up on offense. His interception in the end zone at the end of the game thwarted Momence’s comeback bid. Severado had a team-high 10 tackles, one more than Ryan Blue.
“Brendon had another outstanding game,” Goodlove said. “He was all over the field.”
In his postgame evaluation, Goodlove was surprised that Severado carried the ball just four times on running plays.
“As coaches, we need to do a better job of getting him the ball more often and letting him create,” Goodlove said. “When he gets in open space, he is hard to bring down.”
The Tigers will be without four unnamed players, three of whom were starters, for the next five games. The squad members were suspended for violating an undisclosed part of the school’s athletic policy.
After opening up a 15-0 first-quarter lead, the Blue Devils had to rally from a one-touchdown deficit in both the third and fourth quarters before settling for a 32-29 overtime victory at Villa Grove.
“There was a lot of intensity shown by our kids throughout the game,” B-H coach Mark Dodd said.
Bismarck-Henning scored the tying TD in the final 3 minutes of regulation. Sophomore Krystian Ingram, who received several isolated plays at quarterback in the game, tossed a 24-yard scoring strike to another sophomore, Adam Baker.
Ian Park’s conversion kick created the 29-29 deadlock. Park had a 43-yard field goal attempt tipped at game’s end, but was accurate on a 17-yard overtime kick.
“He’s a great competitor and a pressure-type of kid,” Dodd said.
The coach said there is no dissatisfaction with the way starting quarterback Michael Grant (who was 8 for 12) played, but that Ingram will continue to get occasional time behind center.
“I can’t say when or how many,” Dodd said, “but any chance to get him some experience will be good for him in the future. He goes in and makes plays. He’s definitely contributing.”
Villa Grove took the ball first in OT, but Dodd said “big plays,” kept the home team from the end zone. Cruz Robinson, filling in for the injured Branden Smith, had a key stop and Ross Darby broke up a fourth-down pass at the goal line.
Knowing Park’s capabilities, Dodd said he was “very conservative” with his overtime play calling.
“We didn’t take any chances, and it paid off,” he said.
Smith’s status for Friday’s VVC opener at Milford/Cissna Park has not been determined. Alex Hahne or Josh Kessler would be his likely replacement at guard.
“Luckily, we have a little depth this year,” Dodd said. “They’ve been practicing at those positions.”
Kyle Lamm was the Blue Devils’ top receiver, snaring four passes.
“He provided a spark for the whole team,” Dodd said.
Matt LeCleir was the top rusher. He gained 52 yards. Dakota Patton had 11 tackles and was the team’s defensive leader.
MILFORD/CISSNA PARK (2-0)
Kyle Evans’ workload went from 26 carries in Game 1 to 13 in last week’s 35-7 Saturday afternoon win at East Central. Coach Nate Albaugh emphasized that Evans will not be less of a factor on the field.
“The natural inclination is with less responsibility, a lot of kids would get down,” Albaugh said. “Kyle is such a great person, he understands how much it helps everyone to carry less of the load.
“He sees ‘W’s.’ He doesn’t see stats for himself. We’re lucky to have him.”
The same can be said of his talented teammates. Kyle Popham had a breakout game at East Central, rushing for 115 yards on seven carries.
“We knew he was good, but he opened our eyes and showed he was a playmaker,” Albaugh said.
Among Popham’s carries were ones for 55, 35, 13 and 10 yards.
“We opened up the playbook and got more use out of all our great athletes,” Albaugh said.
His focus this week, he said, is “eliminating glaring mistakes which have nothing to do with talent and everything to do with focus and making good decisions.”
Several Bearcats, including linebacker Alex Kaeb (knee), are questionable for this week’s home game.
“Half of our starters have bruises and bumps,” Albaugh said.
He said he didn’t need to study game film long to learn what kind of opponent is coming to town.
“We established very early they are the best team we’ve faced so far,” Albaugh said. “We see a very solid football team.”
The coach believes that will be true on both sidelines.
“Our kids are excited about the position they are in,” Albaugh said. “We don’t feel like underdogs. We feel like we’re in contention with everyone else. I feel anxious to get out and reach our potential.”
GEORGETOWN-RIDGE FARM/CHRISMAN (1-1)
Alex Pratt rebounded from a 16-yard rushing effort in the opener to gain 228 yards on the ground while scoring four touchdowns in the Buffaloes’ 31-14 conquest at Arthur-Lovington.
“He got it going in the second half (helping G-RF/C overcome a 14-6 halftime deficit),” coach Jason Baccadutre said. “He has enough speed and enough power to make him a good running back.”
For the second game in a row, a player stripping the ball and returning it for a touchdown set the tone. In Game 1, it was Villa Grove’s John Turner who did so, helping VG overcome a 15-12 fourth-period deficit.
Last week, it was the Buffaloes’ Brandon Herrin who raced 47 yards after pilfering the ball early in the second half.
From there, Baccadutre said, “we got stops when we needed to, but that was the turning point.”
G-RF/C hopes to start a winning streak, traveling to Hoopeston Area on Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
“If our offensive and defensive lines play like they did (in Game 2), we’ll be able to compete,” Baccadutre said. “We’re very excited about being 1-1, especially after the first-game loss.”
The offensive line was perhaps the most improved unit from Week 1, according to Baccadutre.
“They played much better,” he said. “We did a lot of subbing.”
Herrin, Zack Carter and Mike Puckett rotated at guards. James Dailey, Cody Seilhymer and Dylan Seilhymer were the main tackles with Kyle Greene manning the center slot.
“They all did extremely well,” Baccadutre said.
The Buffaloes had a balanced defensive showing against A-L. Nine players were in on at least five tackles, but none had more than six.
Finishing with six stops were Greene, Pratt and Tanner Kelley.
HOOPESTON AREA (0-2)
Coach Jeff Ohlemeyer changed his offensive philosophy last week after Watseka scored two first-quarter TDs in what would become a 41-7 victory for the Warriors.
“We had no desire to pass as much as we did, but it’s difficult to maintain a game plan when you get behind by two touchdowns early,” Ohlemeyer said.
The good news is, that forced to pass, the Cornjerkers enjoyed some success. Tate Compton, who threw the ball 12 times in the opener, completed 16 of 37 attempts vs. Watseka. His completions went for 179 yards.
Zach Drollinger, Cody Eells and Andrew Vaughn all had five receptions and combined for 176 yards through the air.
Compton scored the lone Hoopeston touchdown as the team averted the same fate from the two previous seasons when Watseka’s wins were by a combined 108-0 margin.
The Cornjerkers’ lineup will have some different looks this week. Jason Leigh, a tight end and defensive end who sat out the first two games with a shoulder injury, is expected to be in uniform.
However, Jeff Nolan (ankle) and David Staples (concussion), who were hurt last week, are not expected to play.
The team’s tackling leaders against Watseka were Reuben Martinez (nine), Vaughn (eight), Eells (six) and Matt Watson (six).
Ohlemeyer sees the VVC as more wide open this season than in recent falls.
“It’s a lot more balanced than it has been in the past,” he said. “We can be very competitive in the conference.”
The bottom line was clear for Comets coach Gary Denhart following a 42-13 loss at Clifton Central.
“We played somebody bigger and better,” Denhart said. “We ran into a better team.”
There were some bright spots, including fullback Arlen Kerst rushing for 113 yards on 14 carries.
“At times, parts of our offense worked pretty well,” Denhart said. “We moved the ball well at times, but we were inconsistent.”
Kerst’s yardage mostly came between the tackles.
“Those were grind-it-out, hard-felt yards,” Denhart said. “He felt it the next day. Hands down, Arlen had a great game.”
Despite falling behind 14-0 in the first period, O/A-P didn’t resort to an all-out aerial attack in its effort to catch up.
Quarterback Trace McClintock passed twice, completing one for 14 yards.
The number of attempts, Denhart said, is somewhat deceiving.
“It’s misleading because there were times we were trying to pass and there were a lot of sacks,” he said. “We wanted to throw more, but they wouldn’t let us. We couldn’t roll out. They’re as big as they are fast.”
When sacks were figured in, McClintock’s rushing totals for Week 2 were 24 yards on nine attempts. He gained 144 yards on 11 carries in Week 1.
O/A-P, which plays three of its first four games at home, will entertain Schlarman on Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
Denhart said his team won’t overlook the Hilltoppers (0-2).
“They’ve played two pretty good non-conference opponents,” Denhart said. “They’ll come in here saying the VVC is a lot easier than what they’ve played.”
After opening the year with two run-first teams, Denhart is preparing to face more of a passing assault this week.
“Our focus is on pass defense first and getting to the quarterback,” he said. “Our key is to slow down their passing game.”
Austin Buckley, who had the Comets’ lone reception at Clifton, suffered a sprained ankle and is not expected to be available this week.
The Hilltoppers didn’t take a step forward last week, losing 49-0 to a St. Thomas More program which hasn’t allowed a point entering its third game.
“I didn’t see a lot of improvement,” coach Mike High said.
David Schlecht and Lucas Spezia, who had pass receptions in the team’s opener, hauled in the attempts that Heath Goodwin completed against the Sabers. On the ground, however, Schlarman was limited to 77 yards on 27 carries.
Schlarman is still a week away from playing its home opener, a situation which has made the early season tougher for a team with just three seniors.
“With a veteran team, nothing makes a difference,” High said. “They can handle anything. With a young team, any adversity is hard to deal with.
“It would be nice to have a home game to change the routine and get the spirits up.”
High said he has been most impressed by the play of the Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac linemen.
“They will move you off the line (when on offense) and come into you on the defensive side and try to push you back,” he said. “They block and tackle well. I’m concerned with how strong they are on the offensive and defensive line.”
Sophomore cornerback Casey Hahne has been one of Schlarman’s consistent bright spots.
“He is one kid who has shown a lot of heart, no fear,” High said. “He has been our best tackler overall and is one kid I’ve been pleased with as far as not being afraid to go after people.”
High said the staff is still working on getting squad members in the positions where they will most help the team.
“The first year out, you’re trying to evaluate and figure out during games who can do certain things and put together the pieces of the puzzle,” he said.