Blue Devils keep holding steady

Blue Devils keep holding steady

BISMARCK — Injuries to two key skill position players could deflate most small-school high school football programs.

Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin isn't like most small-school high school football programs, though.

The Blue Devils (3-1) have won three straight games going into Friday's 7 p.m. home kickoff against Vermilion Valley Conference opponent Hoopeston Area/Schlarman/Armstrong-Potomac (1-3).

BHRA lost its leading rusher from a year ago, senior Izaack Kitchens, for the season to a torn ACL in its 44-29 loss to Watseka/St. Anne in Week 1. Two weeks later, senior quarterback Wyatt Edwards broke his left thumb during the first quarter of the Blue' Devils eventual 28-13 win at Georgetown-Ridge Farm in Week 3.

Edwards played the rest of the game against the Buffaloes, but sat out last Friday's 46-26 win at previously unbeaten Oakwood and won't play on Friday against the Cornjerkers, BHRA coach Mark Dodd said.

"We're dealing with it the best we can," Dodd said. "It's one of those things where it's supposed to be hard. You're playing football. We really try and instill that in our kids all the time. Nothing in life is going to go your way all the time. It's how you handle the adversity and adjust to it. So far, so good for our players. I commend them for that."

A pair of sophomores in running back Caleb Lahey and quarterback Avery McConkey have stepped in and performed well with absence of Kitchens and Edwards. Especially Lahey.

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Lahey leads the area with 1,075 yards on 107 carries and 14 touchdowns. He is averaging 305.3 yards during BHRA's current three-game win streak.

"Physically, he's very capable," Dodd said. "Sometimes, you have to remember he's a sophomore and he's a young kid. That's the part we as coaches forget because he is so physically strong and fast. We keep telling him, 'You're not going to rush for 300 yards every week,' and the next week he does it again. He does quite a bit with his physical talent, and we also keep getting better and better up front doing our jobs."

Dodd credited the play of Lahey's backfield mates — Jacob Adkins and Travis Lappin — for making sure the Blue Devils' wing-T offense continues to operate at a high rate given McConkey made his first varsity start last Friday night.

Challenges still remain on BHRA's schedule, notably at Westville on Oct. 6 and at West Hancock on Oct. 21. Both teams are still undefeated.

But playing the quality of teams BHRA has faced early on — Watseka/St. Anne (4-0), Momence (2-2), G-RF (1-3) and Oakwood (3-1) — and not letting injuries derail the first half of the season could bode well for the Blue Devils, who are seeking their ninth consecutive playoff appearance.

"Our schedule this year is pretty darn impressive with who we've played and who we still have yet to play," Dodd said. "That's what kind of helps me gauge where we're at. If you play a bad team and win 50-0, you don't really learn about your team. The way our team has responded against these quality teams has been a really good sign for us now and hopefully the rest of the way."

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