Kroner's football tour: Villa Grove
VILLA GROVE — Last year, the co-op magic worked well for Arthur-Lovington, which added Atwood-Hammond athletes, and for Cerro Gordo/DeLand-Weldon, which added Bement players.
The Arthur-based football team went from one win the previous season to seven a year ago. The Broncos improved from six wins in 2011 to 10 last fall.
Now, it’s Villa Grove’s turn. The Blue Devils — who won nine football games last year — are in their first year of a co-op with Heritage.
“I was very leery of co-ops, but now that I’m in the middle of one, I can’t tell you anything negative,” Villa Grove/Heritage coach Chad Musselman said. “The kids have meshed well. There’s been no big dividing line.”
The Blue Devils feature five third-year starters: quarterback John Henderson; running backs Austin Hubbart and Terrion Price; receiver Noah Palmer; and lineman Cole Beesley.
Long before preseason practice began, Musselman addressed his players.
“I asked, ‘Are we going to let this (co-op) be a barrier or are we going to embrace it and let it turn into something really good?’ ” he said.
His seniors set the tone.
“I loaded all of them on a bus one day (last spring) at 6 a.m. to go to Heritage to lift,” he said. “My seniors were go-getters. They wanted things to happen now. This has been like a dream come true.”
Musselman is working with a squad of 54, an improvement of 12 from last year.
Among the players from Heritage who will contribute are backs Max Daly, Noah Danner and Cole Lemmon as well as linemen Jake Coffin and Brody Cole.
The Blue Devils open Friday at home against Westville. Musselman expects there will continue to be tweaking that needs to be done.
“It won’t be pretty to watch at first,” he said, “but when it finally clicks, we’ll be OK.”