One week to go.
Friday night marked the last before the 2009 prep football season kicks off, and area teams are tweaking and tuning in preparation for their season openers next week.
Northeast, which held a scrimmage Friday, has made two realizations this summer.
First, the Rebels still need to settle on starters in the trenches.
“That's our big question mark right now,” Northeast coach Jeremy Mosier said. “We only return two guys who started on the offensive line last year. So we’ve got to find three guys — three guys to step up. The defensive line is the same kind of thing, but that has come along much quicker than the offensive line.”
Second, senior newcomer Spencer Lueders could surprise a lot of people.
Lueders did not play in 2008 after suffering an ankle injury at a wrestling camp last summer. The Rebels will align the 6-foot-2, 195-pounder at wide receiver and middle linebacker.
“I cannot wait for other teams in the district to watch tape on him,” Mosier said. “I would love to be a fly on the wall. He's going to be an impact player. He wasn't anywhere near the program last year. It's almost like getting a good transfer student in here.
“He's going to be a dynamic player, and he's been elected a captain by his peers.”
A look at the other area schools as they head into the final week of preseason (Central DeWitt coach Kurt Kreiter and Erie-Prophetstown coach Chuck Milem were unavailable for comment):
In 35 years of coaching Rick Pogemiller has seen his share of hot, steamy August days, and he doesn’t mind that this summer’s weather has created more favorable conditions for the players. He’s not worried that it will turn them soft.
“Actually. I’m glad it’s the way it is,” he said. “We can work hard and don’t have to worry about that heat index.”
He likes what he has seen from his Bellevue team, too, as it tries to return to the playoff level after going 2-7 last fall.
“We’ve had a good two weeks,” he said. “I’m real happy. We’ve got good numbers — 57 out. We have a good senior group, and they’ve come in hungry.”
The Comets have had a fairly healthy preseason, although junior defensive back Jake Wagner suffered a knee injury and “won’t come back anytime soon,” according to Pogemiller.
Bellevue opens its season next Friday at North Cedar.
“We want to fine-tune some things on offense,” Pogemiller said. “We want to run a balanced attack. We’re pretty confident we’ll play good defense.”
Since November, Camanche has worked toward ending a losing streak that stretches to 2006.
The work, they say, has paid off, and they see improvement. But they're getting tired of seeing it against each other. They're ready to start hitting people from other schools.
“They've been itching since last season ended to get it going this season,” Camanche coach Steve Dougherty said. “They went into workouts in November. They're sick and tired of losing, and they're very inspired.”
The Indians play host to Northeast in next Friday’s opener.
Clinton opens a day earlier than everybody else in the area, taking on Davenport North next Thursday night at Brady Street Stadium in Davenport. The River Kings have nursed a few minor injuries, but coach Lee Camp has been pleased with most aspects of preseason practice.
“I think we’re sitting pretty good,” he said. “The weather sometimes has slowed us down. We’ve also got to shore up some special teams.”
Practices have given Camp a chance to see some new faces from the junior class, and his eyes have been opened a few times.
“Each time there are some surprises,” he said. “Some positions are being battled for, and some kids are stepping up. D.J. George is one on offense, and the same way on D-line with Wyatt Klooster and Eric Pruit, and that’s helped a lot. Some defensive backs, like Devan Ebensberger and Drew Lakin are giving us a good look, and Tyler Morehead has really come on.”
A year ago, East Central was preparing for its first season of eight-man football, and Dave Jenkins had been promoted to the head coaching position just days before the opening game. A year of experience has helped the comfort level of both the coach and team.
“We’re where we want to be,” Jenkins said. “The rain the last two nights hurt us.”
He said the Raiders were looking forward to next Friday’s season opener at rival Preston.
“We’re looking to fine-tune everything and go against Preston in a big rivalry game,” Jenkins said. “It was a lot of fun last year opening against a big rival, and I’m sure it be just as great and just as intense this time.”
The Steamers have speed, speed and more speed at their skill positions. Now they're finalizing an offensive line that graduated four of five starters.
Right guard Aaron Gooch returns to help pave the way for Fulton's up-tempo attack. But he will have new faces around him. The Steamers will start sophomore Aaron Gooch at center, Eric Wiersema at left guard and Zach Dick at left tackle. Coaches have not selected a starter at right tackle.
“We still have some work to do there,” Fulton coach Patrick Lower said. “We still have a little bit of time left, though.”
The Steamers open next Friday night against Sterling Newman at Sterling High School.
Coach Kevin Bowman saw his team in game conditions Friday night and said the Cardinals were where he wanted them to be a week before their regular-season home opener against visiting West Liberty.
“We had our scrimmage tonight, and everything went well,” Bowman said. “We had some kids we thought were projected starters, and some (other) kids played better. That’s an excellent problem to have.”
Another reason for optimism is the experience on the squad. After having senior classes with seven and eight players the past two years, Bowman welcomed back 22 seniors this year.
I’m excited about the fact that we have had 15 practices and 14 have been really, really good,” Bowman said.
The Cardinals are one of the unique teams in the area in that they use a spread offense and a 3-3-5 defense, which Bowman said suits his players the best but also gives them a better chance to adapt to the wide variety of offenses they face in their district.
A year ago, Morrison opened with four consecutive road games. This year it’s just the opposite, and coach Cory Bielema is hoping a strong start will lead to a sixth consecutive playoff berth for Morrison.
“We’ve been doing pretty good,” he said of the early practices. “I think we have made improvement from last year, and that’s what you expect. We have had a couple (of surprises) and have quite a few good kids coming along. Jobe House on the defensive line (for instance) hasn’t been out for football in high school but is a real good athlete.”
The first of the four consecutive home games is next Friday against Peru St. Bede
The Trojans begin their second season of eight-man football next Friday against rival East Central. Coach Kevin Behr said everything was coming together for his team.
“I do feel a little better than last year (at this time) with a year under the belt in eight man,” he said. “(But) that first game is always nerve-wracking. You don’t know what your opponents will bring.”
Behr said the Trojans had stayed away from injuries and were progressing steadily.
“Right now there are not really any surprises,” he said. “The kids are where I expected them to be. Now, we’ll just try to clean things up, play mistake free all week and fine-tune our offense, defense and special teams.”
The Thunder, who missed the postseason last season for the first time in their school's short history, have a roster packed with experience, size and strength
As for team speed, not so much. That has become evident in early-season practices.
“You can't coach big and you can't coach speed, and when you don't have it, you're struggling,” West Carroll coach Dave Baisden said. “We've gotten better, but we're not a team that's going to get people on the edges and fly by. And defensively, how are we going to disguise it?”
With one week left before the season opener, the Thunder continue to stress pursuit angles to help atone for a lack of make-up speed.
“We've talked about angles, angles, angles,” Thunder defensive coordinator Josh Knuth said. “Fortunately we have a smart group who are pretty good at math, and they can figure that out.”
West Carroll opens the season next Friday at Forreston.
Area coaches chime in entering preseason's final week
One week to go.
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