Bulldogs face title test

Bulldogs face title test

MAHOMET — In the last half-century, only one Mahomet-Seymour football team has finished the regular season without a loss. It wasn’t the 1977 state championship team. It was the 2004 team with Keith Pogue as an assistant coach.

Now in his sixth season as head coach, Pogue’s Bulldogs can put themselves in position for a historic finish on Friday when they play at Normal University High for the undisputed Corn Belt Conference crown.

“It couldn’t have been planned any better,” Pogue said. “I told the guys, ‘You’re where you want to be, 7-0 playing 7-0 for the conference championship.’ ”

U-High’s home games are played at Illinois State University’s Hancock Stadium. The last time M-S played there, the Bulldogs won, 21-18.

That 2011 loss was the last for U-High in the regular season or in conference play. The Pioneers have streaks of 17 straight regular season wins and 14 Corn Belt wins in a row.

Pogue and U-High coach Dusty Burk — a former quarterback and All-Area Player of the Year from Tuscola — became head coaches the same year, 2008.

“Anybody who knows Dusty knew he’d get things turned around,” Pogue said. “He is an outstanding offensive mind, for sure, and has great rapport with the kids.

“They are super-explosive and have athletes at every position. They have a quarterback that’s a threat as a runner and passer. Like us, they have a lot of strengths.”

This year marked the fourth time for M-S to start a season 6-0 under Pogue, but the first to go 7-0.

“This game is an important game,” Pogue said. “It will be a great atmosphere, but it won’t completely define our season or our team.”

U-High is ranked seventh this week in Class 5A. M-S is rated fourth in Class 4A.

Before the 2004 M-S team ran the table in the regular season, the school’s last squad to not lose a regular season game was the 1961 unit, which played an eight-game schedule and did not have playoffs afterwards.

“These are the kinds of games you look forward to as a player and as a coach,” Burk said.

M-S has the area passing leader, Joe Kenney. Burk said that’s a tribute to more than a good quarterback with good receivers.

“It seems like he’s had lot of time to make decisions,” Burk said. “We know we’re playing the best team we’ve played all year.”