Bulldogs' senior class seeks longer playoff stay

Bulldogs' senior class seeks longer playoff stay

MAHOMET — Keith Pogue's tenure leading the Mahomet-Seymour football team has been largely successful, with nine postseason appearances in his 10 years.

Recently, however, the postseason has proved a bit more challenging for the Bulldogs. They missed the playoffs in 2015 and were ousted in the first round of Class 5A action each of the last two campaigns.

Athlete turnout is below average as well, Pogue admits. He estimates his roster will sit in the 70s, "which is historically low for Mahomet-Seymour in the last 25 years or so."

The players under Pogue's charge aren't worried about the statistics, though. The News-Gazette's No. 5 team in its preseason top 10 teams wants to show it is more than an early out once the calendar hits late October.

"I know personally, losing in the first round of the playoffs is kind of annoying," senior Maurice Mendenhall II said. "We started (working to get better) right after the season stopped. I'd like to see more than one round of the playoffs this year. I'm pretty sure everyone else would."

Though M-S boasts just 11 to 12 seniors by Pogue's count, it returns plenty of crucial pieces from last year's 6-4 squad.

Priest, who checked in at 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds last year, and Mendenhall (6-1, 205) anchor both the offensive and defensive lines. Pogue is pleased with what he's seen from the big youngsters this summer.

"They've worked really hard in the offseason on their own," Pogue said. "They're guys that are a physical presence like we haven't had before that will hopefully help us shore up front."

Both Mendenhall and Priest acknowledged some friendly competition among the M-S linemen that has further motivated those particular Bulldogs. At the same time, the crew has used consistent preseason workouts to form a bond that should resonate on the gridiron.

"We work together and know what we're going to do," Priest said. "We don't even have to ask when we're going to do stuff because we already know what's going to happen. It's just really that camaraderie we all have that makes us strong."

The Bulldogs also will start a familiar face at quarterback in senior Dawson Finch, who threw for 893 yards and nine touchdowns in 2017.

And even with the graduation of last season's leading rusher, Lucas Morgan, Pogue feels comfortable with a backfield led by seniors Dylan Gates and Jordan Veldman, as well as sophomore Clay Hubble.

"(Gates and Veldman) both had a lot of yards for us and did a really nice job (last year)," Pogue said. "(Hubble is) a pretty dynamic runner, pretty explosive athlete. We're excited about what he can bring to us."

Pogue's key area of concern right now is at defensive back, as M-S is light on guys to fill that role. But above all else, Pogue's focus is having his players avoid the injury bug.

"If we can maintain our health and stay healthy, all together as a team, I think we'll be pretty formidable," Pogue said. "But we're an injury or two away from being pretty mediocre."

Mendenhall, Priest and their pals aren't about to settle for mediocre.

They feel they've got a better grip on what it means to be part of the Apollo Conference as the Bulldogs enter their second year in the league, and they're hopeful to see positive results against the likes of stronger conference foes like Taylorville and Effingham.

As Mendenhall puts it, the Bulldogs are ready for some "revenge on the teams that gave us a hard time last year." Acquire that, and M-S can make itself a daunting contender in the 5A playoffs.

"If everything comes together, we're really hoping to make it all the way down, all the way to state," Priest said.

"If we can get focused ... and just listen to what the coaches are telling us," Mendenhall added, "I feel like we can go as far as we want to go."

Tale of the tape

Coach: Keith Pogue (69-33 in 10 seasons at Mahomet-Seymour)

2018 schedule

DATE OPPONENT TIME

Aug. 24 at Washington 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 31 vs. Charleston 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 7 at Mascoutah 7 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Taylorville 7 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Mattoon 7 p.m.

Sept. 28 vs. Effingham 7 p.m.

Oct. 5 at Mt. Zion 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 at Lincoln 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 vs. Macomb 7 p.m.

Mahomet-Seymour's must-win game is ... at Mt. Zion, Oct. 5. After likely tough contests with Taylorville and Effingham two of the three prior weeks, the Bulldogs will have a great chance to determine their spot in the Apollo Conference with this challenging road tilt.

A look back

Last year's leading passer was ... Dawson Finch, who went 76 of 200 and threw for 893 yards and nine touchdowns in his junior season.

Last year's leading rusher was ... Lucas Morgan, who ran 87 times for 478 yards and four touchdowns in his senior season.

Last year's leading receiver was ... Josh Johnson, who hauled in 25 passes for 366 yards and four touchdowns during his senior season.

Last year's leading tackler was ... Lucas Morgan, who compiled 105 total stops as a senior.

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