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Football

3rd down belonged to Sterling

Comets can’t wait to see Orion again

Sterling’s defense came through when it mattered on Friday in a 42-7 win over Alleman, stopping the Pioneers time and time again on third down.

Alleman was 0-for-10 on third downs in the game, with Alleman quarterbacks tossing four incomplete passes and an interception on those downs.

“We’ve just got to get off the field,” Sterling’s Isaiah Ryan said. “We know if we stop them on first, that translates to third down, and so on.”

The Golden Warrior defense made things hard for Alleman on third down by making the Pioneers face third-and-long. In the first half, Alleman needed to gain 7, 5, 20, 9, 11 and 4 yards on third downs. The most it ever got was 2.

The Pioneers did convert a fourth down, scoring their lone touchdown of the game with a 36-yard pass on fourth-and-8, but that was late in the game and Sterling had things well in hand by that point.

Ready for a rematch: Following a 20-17 loss Saturday night to Orion, Newman players were already turning the page.

There is no time for the Comets to rest, as they’ll face TRAC Rock foes Morrison, Rockridge and Bureau Valley the next 3 weeks.

“In our huddle, the kids were saying how we were going to watch film this week and get ready for Morrison,” Newman coach Mike Papoccia said. “They saw how those little things cause big things to happen.”

Penalties cost the Comets against the Chargers, a team they plan on seeing come playoff time.

Last season, Newman beat Orion in Week 3, and the two perennial powers squared off 9 weeks later in the Class 2A quarterfinals.

“I walked by Chase Graham after the game, and I told him that I was sure we’d see him again later on down the line,” Orion coach Chip Filler explained. “He said, ‘I hope so.’”

For starters: The opening offensive drives of Friday’s Three Rivers Rock matchup between Fulton and Bureau Valley couldn’t have gone more differently.

The Steamers received the opening kickoff and set up shop at their own 35-yard line, seeking to establish a tone with that drive. They did that by running the ball on nine of ten plays and progressing steadily down the field in 4 minutes. The drive concluded with a 1-yard TD by Ethan Rash.

“You know we had some chances to get off the field, but just didn’t make the plays,” Bureau Valley coach Joe Schmitt said. “It was a tough way to start the game, but our kids didn’t stop fighting.”

It didn’t get much better for the Storm when they got their crack on offense. The first drive was three handoffs to James Macklin that went backward 2 yards.

Thirteen times total the Steamers tackled Bureau Valley for a loss in their 20-12 victory.

Mayhem in the middle: A big reason for Polo’s 2-1 start to the 2018 season has been senior Draven Wells.

Wells started the last 2 years on the Marcos’ varsity squad as a defensive lineman, but is now filling a crucial role at middle linebacker.

“It’s been quite an experience to change everything,” Wells said. “I think I’m adapting pretty well to it, and I think I’ll be just fine.”

“When we playing in 7-on-7’s, he was doing all right and reading things a little slow,” Polo coach Jeff Bumsted added, “but once we started playing games, he’s been right on the money. He’s been at the right spot in the right time with great effort all the time.”

Wells recorded two sacks and two tackles for loss Friday in a 49-12 win over Edwardsville Metro-East Lutheran. At 6-foot-2 and 165 pounds, he disguised late blitzes well, eventually racing through either A gap with a fearless mentality.

“We went through and watched film to see what was going on,” Wells said. “We saw our opportunities, and executed them on defense.”

No middle linebacker records sacks and tackles for loss without a strong defensive line. The Marcos are anchored in the trenches by 6-foot-3, 280-pound nose tackle AJ Williams, a prototypical run-stuffer.

“We tell AJ he has to demand a double-team,” Polo coach Jeff Bumsted said. “If he does that and one guard goes with him, then we send Draven on the opposite side.”

Practice jumble: Heavy rains over the past week made W.F. Massey Field in Savanna look like a Mississippi River wetland. West Carroll had to rotate practice sites throughout the week, which included a pair of practices at the West Carroll Middle School football field – the former home of the Mount Carroll Hawks, at which the Thunder played this past Friday. 

West Carroll was up early against Amboy, but lost 28-26 when Clippers quarterback Mitchell McLaughlin found Hunter Walzer in the end zone with 70 seconds remaining in the game. 

Whether the unusual practice situations played a role in the Thunder’s defeat was on the mind of quarterback Derek Tracy after the game.

“The thing we need to do is really start focusing in practice,” Tracy said. “We need to focus up at practices and at games, and don’t mess around. Once we come together as a team, we’re going to be a team to beat.”

Remember when: Friday’s trip to Mount Carroll was a better one than the last time Amboy coach Gary Jones played on the Hawks’ old field.

In 1971, Jones – then a senior in high school at Amboy – played the Hawks in the season opener; the two schools were members of the North Blackhawk Conference. Amboy departed the Blackhawk the following year for the Shark Conference for two seasons before the formation of the Three Rivers Conference. 

“There were no lights at that time,” Jones said. “It was a Saturday afternoon game in the North Blackhawk Conference. It was the first game of the year, too. I remember that … and we got beat.”

The score was 16-14 in favor of the Hawks.

Amboy finished 3-4-1 that year. The Hawks, under longtime coach Ed Knirlberger, finished 5-2-1.

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