Week 7 football preview

Week 7 football preview

Unity tries to regroup

TOLONO — With two losses in the last three weeks, the Unity team that was ranked No. 1 in Class 3A has fallen to 4-2 overall and a ranking outside the Top 10. It’s not so much a problem of what the Rockets are doing wrong as it is another factor. “Year in and year out, every week is a battle in the Okaw,” Unity coach Scott Hamilton said. “We’re going through growing pains trying to develop some kids. We seem to be making little mistakes at the wrong time.” Unity hosts unbeaten and eighth-ranked Monticello on Friday as it tries to avoid the school’s first two-game losing streak in 66 games dating back to Weeks 3 and 4 of the 2008 season. “It’s our job as a staff and the kids’ job as a team to pick up the pace and get it taken care of,” Hamilton said. “It all starts with me trying to get our kids to play at a better level. If the kids aren’t doing things the right way, it’s because we’re not giving them enough preparation to do those things.” The Rockets’ defensive starters have not intercepted a pass through six games. The play of defensive linemen Tyler Crowl, Anthony Vasquez and Christian Whicker has been, Hamilton said, “a bright spot.” The coach isn’t giving up on the season. “I still feel we can be a deep threat in the playoffs,” Hamilton said, “but it’s getting to the point we have to put up or shut up.” Unity’s offense features one of the area’s top rushers in senior Conner Grace.


Top offenses, defenses on display

MONTICELLO — The Sages are preparing for what looks to be a classic showdown. The top two scoring teams in the Okaw Valley Conference Black Division are also the best two defensive teams, and they will play one another Friday when Monticello travels to Unity. Coach Cully Welter’s Sages haven’t scored fewer than three touchdowns in any game and are allowing an average of 7.7 points per game. Welter projected his front seven as a defensive strength in the preseason. One of those players (Dylan Benson) has been restricted to offense by a torn anterior cruciate ligament that will require surgery when the season ends. Defensive mainstays include Josh Burton (one of the area leaders with five interceptions) and Carter Ness (team leader with three fumble recoveries). Ness shifted from the secondary to outside linebacker, Welter said, because “his skills matched that position better.” Since Welter took over as Monticello coach, the Sages have not beaten Unity. Though the Rockets are 4-2, Welter knows what to expect. “We’re not looking at them any differently than Unity from old,” he said. “We have to stop the running game. We felt like they outplayed St. Teresa (in last week’s 31-21 loss).” As for his team, Welter said, “For the most part, we’ve made progress weekly. We feel like we have a resilient team, and our defense embodies that. They don’t give up on plays, which is why we’ve done a pretty good job of eliminating opponents’ scoring.”


A season of firsts for Riders

ARCOLA — Zach Zehr has had a memorable first season as a high school head coach. Two of his first six games were never played to the full 48-minute limit. Zehr’s debut against Salt Fork at Jamaica High School was played during parts of two days due to weather issues, but the squads only got in about 28 total minutes before the outcome was declared final. Last Saturday, rain and lightning forced cancellation of the second half as Arcola reached a season’s high for scoring in a 42-0 decision against West Hancock. The 2-4 Purple Riders host Martinsville on Friday. “This will be the first week we’ve faced a team that throws more than they run,” Zehr said. “We’ll play pass defense the major portion of the game. Next week, we’ll play Arthur, which likes to throw, too.” The Purple Riders have three backs within 65 yards of each other for the team lead in rushing. “I anticipated that because they all bring something different,” Zehr said. “Zach Moutria is bigger and more of a power runner. Wyatt Fishel has more speed and is good in space. Clayton Strader adds another dimension as a quarterback who can run.” Linemen who have excelled include Drew Fultz, Patrick Henry and Justin Kuhn. The team still has playoff ambitions but needs to win out to have a chance for selection. “We’ve got to get one game at a time, but we’d like to at least put ourselves in that position,” Zehr said.


A season of firsts for Warriors, too

TUSCOLA — For the second time in six weeks, Tuscola will take the field on a Friday against an opponent ranked No. 1 in the state. “Another day in paradise,” coach Rick Reinhart said. In Week 2 the Warriors lost 35-26 to Class 3A Unity. Next up is a home game this week against unbeaten Class 2A Maroa-Forsyth. If Tuscola (4-2) can get to the five wins needed to become playoff eligible, Reinhart said, “If strength of schedule means anything, we’re in good shape.” The team is in good shape physically, too. Ten starters play both ways and, Reinhart said, “They’re also on special teams.” The Warriors dress 24 players for the varsity games. “Our goal is to get better, not just every week but every day,” Reinhart said. “I like the direction we’re going. We have great senior leadership, and those kids stay after it. They have fun and have an incredible ‘Warrior’ spirit. We like how our kids fight every Friday night. We’re playing teams with three times as many people.” Though the offense has managed points in every game thus far, Reinhart said, “We’ve played good defense, and I can’t say they’re better offensively or defensively. It’s the same guys.” Reinhart called linemen Austin Beniach and Ashton Hastings “what seniors should be,” and said senior receivers Austin Martin and Tristan Williams “have done a tremendous job catching the football.” Sophomore Nick Bates has passed for more than 1,100 yards.




Eisenhower at Urbana (HC)

Shelbyville at Sullivan/Okaw Valley (HC)

Central at Danville (HC)

Normal Univ. High at Rantoul (HC)

Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman at Salt Fork (Catlin HC)

Martinsville at Arcola

Argenta-Oreana at Meridian

Springfield at Centennial

Maroa-Forsyth at Tuscola

Arthur at Villa Grove

Hoopeston Area at Bismarck-Henning

Bloomington Central Catholic at Mahomet-Seymour

Iroquois West/Tri-Point at Clifton Central

Clinton at St. Teresa

El Paso-Gridley at Fisher

Prairie Central at Pontiac

GCMS at Fieldcrest

LeRoy at Ridgeview

Monticello at Unity

Watseka at St. Joseph-Ogden

Westville at oakwood/A-P

Eisenhower at Urbana

St. Thomas More at PBL

Seymour Trinity Lutheran, IN at Tri-County

Bloomington at Normal West

Warrensburg-Latham at Central A&M

Momence at Deer Creek-Mackinaw

Olympia at Eureka

Flanagan at Tremont

Tri-Valley at Heuwprth

Normal Community at MacArthir


Bunker Hill at Cerro Gordo/Bement, 1 p.m. (Bement)

Sevanna West Carrol at Lexington, 1 p.m.



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