A-O is going to be A-OK in 2018

A-O is going to be A-OK in 2018

ARGENTA — Josh Williams didn't just start as a sophomore. He shined as a sophomore quarterback.

The same sentiment held true for running back Skyler Peterson.

That's good news for Argenta-Oreana football fans.

And bad news for any of the Bombers' foes this season.

A-O is fresh off a 9-2 season that included a Little Okaw Valley Northwest championship and the program's first playoff win since 2013, culminating in a productive first season under Steve Kirk.

Kirk, a Rantoul graduate, is back on the sidelines again this fall for the Bombers — who open up at 7 p.m. on Friday at Robinson before playing their first game on A-O's new turf field at 7 p.m. on Aug. 31 against Meridian — as they try to improve upon last year's success.

"We've had a couple good weeks of practice here after a good summer and a good offseason," Kirk said. "We're really excited to get going Friday. We've got a lot of guys coming back."

Yes they do, led by the 5-foot-8, 190-pound Williams. He returns for his junior season after completing 61 percent of his passes (108 of 176) for 1,588 yards, 15 touchdowns and only three interceptions in 2017. He added 895 rushing yards on 131 carries and scored a team-high 17 rushing touchdowns to boot.

"He understands our system a lot better than he did last year," Kirk said. "He's a highly intelligent kid. We can throw a little bit more on his plate now. He gets it, he understands it and he runs with it. It's a big benefit."

So is having Peterson back. At 5 feet, 11 inches and 210 pounds, Peterson brings a bruising style to the field, evident by his 1,228 rushing yards on 190 carries and 14 touchdowns from a year ago.

"He was super for us last year," Kirk said.

And he's not the only experienced ballcarrier that returns for A-O. Senior Makail Stanley (334 rushing yards, six TDs) and junior Makhi Stanley (495 rushing yards, nine TDs) give the Bombers some elusiveness and speed out of their spread offense.

"They're both shifty kids," Kirk said, "and they give us a legitimate threat on every snap."

Last year's top receiver, Braxton Norman, graduated, but when Williams does step back to pass, seniors Gunnar Moore, Colton Robinson and Tim Thornton are likely his main options.

Paving the way for this potentially high-scoring offense that averaged 42.9 points per game last season are three returning starters on the offensive line — senior Michael Redpath at center, senior Kyle Rigsby at right guard and senior Zachary Harrington at right tackle.

A-O will miss the production of linebacker Trevor Webb (127 tackles) and key defensive end Garrett Morrison, who both graduated. Makail Stanley compiled 85 tackles in 2017 and will man an outside linebacker spot in 2018. Makhi Stanley will line up at defensive end, with Harrington and senior Evan Rodriguez anchoring the middle of the defensive line at the two defensive tackle spots. Robinson, Moore, senior Garrett Gloede and senior Dalton Shafer are among the Bombers expected to contribute in the secondary.

All of which adds up to veteran talent. Talent that A-O is banking on to play well into November.

"I don't know if last year sets the bar higher or if we have any higher expectations," Kirk said. "I certainly think the experience factor does nothing but help us. These guys have played in big games. They know what it takes to be successful."

Argenta-Oreana Schedule

DATE OPPONENT TIME

Aug. 24 at Robinson 7 p.m.

Aug. 31 vs. Meridian 7 p.m.

Sept. 7 at Oakwood 7 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Sangamon Valley 7 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Decatur Lutheran 7 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Cerro Gordo/Bement 7 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Arcola 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 at ALAH 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 vs. Oblong 7 p.m.

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