For Tamez and Arcola, slow start is a thing of the past
After an 0-2 start to the season, a beginning that featured no touchdowns in the first two weeks against opponents that are unbeaten entering Week 5, Arcola coach Gerald Temples had a message for his team: "We told them to put the nonconference games behind them. They control their own (playoff) destiny." With two successive wins, the Purple Riders are back on the winning road. This week, Arcola hosts Villa Grove's 4-0 team. "It has taken some time to get people in the right spots," Temples said. "Our team has matured considerably up front. Our backs have had enough reps, and their vision is a lot better." One switch Temples made was to move Ben Rodighiero from tight end to fullback, with Brook Van Gundy making the move the other way. The line, starting with tight end Van Gundy and including tackle Jared Peters, guard Quinton Risley, center Justin Kuhns, guard Andres Rojas and tackle Patrick Henry, is creating running room for tailbacks Zack Moutria and Omar Rojas. "Both (Moutria and Omar Rojas) are on defense, and we roll them in and out on offense," Temples said. "They complement each other, and both are doing well." Senior quarterback Jose Tamez has multiple options when he throws. In the Purple Riders' opener, his five completions went to different receivers.
Unheralded Spartans hit the spotlight
Neither Dalton Walsh nor Chase Patton was on the preseason list of the area's top 50 players. Both St. Joseph-Ogden athletes would rate a spot if a midseason list were compiled. Quarterback Walsh is averaging nearly 100 passing yards a game for the undefeated Spartans and has an excellent touchdown-to-turnover ratio (six TDs, one interception). Patton is among the area's top 10 rushers and is gaining an average of 8.1 yards per carry. "Dalton makes plays. He has the ability to get out of tight situations, scramble and get the ball to an open receiver," SJ-O coach Dick Duval said. "We talk a lot about living for another day and not throwing the ball up for grabs. He has done a great job so far playing to that motto." The Spartans have beaten previously undefeated and state-ranked teams the past two weeks (Momence and Clifton Central) and play Iroquois West on Friday in Gilman. Patton's running prowess is not all that impresses his coach. "He is playing like a senior should play, playing every play like it is his last," Duval said. "The thing I'm most pleased with Chase is the leadership he is showing. It is contagious. Our kids are following his lead. He has been showing great acceleration to the hole and has made extra yards in tough situations." Not to be overlooked is a defensive unit that has allowed two touchdowns the past two games. The Spartans are rated fourth this week in Class 3A.
Salt Fork takes a hit
The good news: Salt Fork's state-ranked team (No. 7 in Class 1A) is unbeaten after four games and has the area's longest regular-season winning streak, 19 games. The bad news: To stay undefeated, the Storm will need to compensate for the season-ending loss of area tackling leader Steven Meade, a junior linebacker who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the Week 3 win against Westville. "He is the best kid I've ever coached defensively," Salt Fork coach Brian Plotner said. "He's old-school. He's a throwback. The fortunate thing is that he's a junior and he will get another chance to go at it." Garron Fathauer will replace Meade, who tried unsuccessfully to play last week against Milford/Cissna Park, at linebacker. On offense, sophomore guards Clay Anderson and Nick Barr will rotate for him. The other guard, Hunter Tharp, was restricted to defense last week, and junior Mason Harding played on the line. "They are young, but they will be good players," Plotner said. "They are just thrust in a year ahead of schedule." The Storm plays Friday at 4-0 Bismarck-Henning, which cracked the Class 2A state rankings this week for the first time (No. 9). "Bismarck is a very big football team," Plotner said. "The biggest we will see. They have running backs that would do well up front. They present a huge challenge."
Watseka moving forward
Just because his football team started 4-0 last year wasn't an indication to Watseka coach Steve Lucas that a 4-0 start would be possible in 2012. "We had two different opponents to start this year," Lucas said. "I thought to myself, with those road games (three in a row to open the season), a 3-1 start would be more than acceptable." The Warriors, however, have duplicated their 4-0 beginning from last fall. "We're not very big," Lucas said, "but our biggest strength is our overall speed, and they don't quit. They go until the last play of the game." Alex Gocken has two interceptions while linebackers Austin Blair and Austin Kidwell along with lineman Brock Myers have excelled. "On the offensive side, Daulton DePatis has matured every game," Lucas said. "He is a threat to run all the time, and his passing game is starting to come around." Blair is the offensive workhorse, being called on to carry the ball nearly 22 times a game. "If a team is getting 300-plus yards a game (rushing), you have to give credit up front," Lucas said. "Our offensive line is doing the job." Myers, T.J. Eades and Logan Schippert are linemen who are playing regularly both ways. The Warriors will need all of their weapons available Friday for a home game against state-ranked Momence, which is tied for fifth in Class 2A.
For Tigers, there's help aplenty
Urbana quarterback Cameron Mammen has been an offensive force for Urbana during its 3-1 start, but coach Nathan Watson's team has had no shortage of other major contributors. "Every week, it seems like it has been someone different," Watson said. "The first week, it was Chris Lenear and Tanner Russell. The second week it was Dusty Lard and Anterio Jones. The third week it was Kenny Patton. Last week, it was James Cobbs." A junior, Cobbs became the third Tiger to eclipse the 100-yard mark for rushing in a game this season. Mammen has a high game of 175 rushing yards, Jones had a 148-yard performance and Cobbs gained 105 on the ground against Springfield Lanphier. Mammen's effectiveness is enhanced, Watson said, by the players who surround him. "Teams that focus on Mammen have to get through a line that's pretty good to get to him," Watson said. Mammen's strength goes beyond his ability to scramble or throw the ball. "It's his determination, that competitive spirit he has," Watson said. "He refuses to lose and to be held back. The more pressure that is put on him, the more he steps up. He has the ability to recognize what teams are trying to do to him." Urbana's homecoming opponent Friday is Centennial, which leads the all-time series 24-16.