Only one player in the Sauk Valley area has more rushing yards than Erie-Prophetstown’s Zach Inskeep.
The 5-foot-10, 200-pound senior fullback has carried the load for the Panthers, who are playoff bound for the first time in a decade.
Inskeep, also second in the area in carries, has churned out 1,058 yards and 15 touchdowns in 182 carries.
“He’s been incredible,” Erie-Prophetstown coach Chuck Milem said. “He has put games on his shoulders. Against St. Bede last week, in the fourth quarter it was Zach Inskeep time. He’s done that so many times this year.”
Inskeep has run wild in the rugged Big Rivers Conference. He’s gone over 100 yards six times, including five straight games. In two such efforts, he eclipsed 200.
“This season has been everything I could ask for and more,” said Inskeep, also a linebacker, who led the team in tackles the past two seasons and is second this season. “You always hope to go out with a bang and make the playoffs. With it being my senior year, it means everything.”
He carried 26 times for 108 yards in Week 8 against Newman, the top-ranked team in Class 3A, who the Panthers will meet in the first round. He had 109 yards against Kewanee in Week 7.
He went for 121 yards in E-P’s Week 5 victory over defending champion Morrison, then perceived a hefty upset by most. Last week, he tallied 123 yards against St. Bede.
His best games came in Week 6, when he had 205 yards against Hall, and Week 2, when he piled up 212 yards against a quality Amboy team.
While some backs do a lot of dancing, Inskeep is no dancer.
“I don’t like to go horizontal,” he said. “I like to run north and south. As a fullback, I’m not worried about getting outside. I go ahead and get the yards I can get that way.”
Inskeep is quick to credit his offensive line for much of his success. The line includes left tackle Cody Beyer (5-11, 200), left guard Kenneth Cole (6-3, 215), center Ethan Oleson (6-2, 305), right guard Owen McConnell (6-3, 235), right tackle Caleb Scanlan (6-1, 205), and tight end Rhett Stover (6-1, 190).
“They’re absolutely amazing,” he said. “Every one of those guys got all-conference recognition. That’s a great accomplishment. It’s a great line to run behind. They do a tremendous job. They get to the backers. They do their assignments. They don’t make mistakes.”
As good as Inskeep is with the ball, he takes even more pride in his play on the defensive side.
“That’s probably my favorite part of the game,” said Inkeep, who Milem moved from middle to outside linebacker this season to lessen his physical toll. “I get down on myself for not making the right play. It’s about winning your one-on-one battles. When we do our jobs, we’re really good on defense.”
Erie-Prophetstown vs. Newman
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Roscoe Eades Stadium, Sterling
Radio: 102.7 FM
Twitter: Follow Christopher Heimerman (@CHeimerman_SVM) for live updates