The All-Western Illinois football team is captained by Riverdale defensive lineman Mitch Keppy.
A closer look at Keppy
Teams tried to run away from Keppy as best as they could, but the senior still finished with 63 total tackles and two sacks. On the offensive side of the ball, he was responsible for running back Wes DeClercq and quarterback Chuck Rocker combining for just shy of 1,600 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground.
Riverdale coach Nick Schroder said the best thing about Keppy is how team-oriented he is, so it's no surprise that lifting the Rams back into the state playoffs is something he'll cherish. Riverdale was 1-8 a season ago, but this year, the Rams started with a 4-0 mark and earned an automatic bid to the postseason, marking the first time Riverdale hit six wins since 2001.
"It's the fourth time we went to the playoffs in school history, and I've played in two of them," Keppy said. "This year, we knew we were going to be a tough team to beat, and we tried to stay together as much as possible. We had a pretty good season. It wasn't as good as we thought it would be, but we had our chances."
On paper, senior night didn't look like it would be much of a night for Riverdale with a game against a St. Bede team that would reach the 1A quarterfinals and came in with a 6-1 record. But the Rams turned the tables on the Bruins, spanking them 42-8 to clinch a six-win season and send Keppy and the other Riverdale seniors out with a win in their last home game.
"They were ranked and we came out and controlled the entire game. We weren't expected to win that game, but we felt we were ready. We knew we could beat them and played our best. We played all-around good Riverdale football, so that was pretty sweet, especially to do it on senior night."
Growing up a Hawkeye
With a father who used to wear the black and gold of Iowa, former defensive tackle Myron Keppy, it wasn't hard to guess where Mitch wanted to play college football.
"Since I was little, I've gone to Iowa games," Mitch Keppy said. "That helped me a lot with my decision. Iowa has had a big impact on my life, and I feel I belong perfectly with those guys."
Keppy thought he fit in so well that when Iowa officially offered him a scholarship on April 6, it took all of 2 hours for Keppy to call the Hawkeyes back and accept their offer.
"Following in my dad's footsteps was one of my big goals," Keppy said. "It's an honor to achieve that, and I can't wait to have some big years and go to some good bowls at Iowa."
Keppy knows he'll be playing for the Hawkeyes next season, but beyond that, his future is still yet to be determined. He plans to enter Iowa without declaring a major because he isn't sure exactly which direction he wants to go academically, although he has a few ideas."
"I'm looking at sports management or recreational sports business," he said. "I want to stay with athletics."
However, if the big lineman has his way, he'll have plenty of time before he has to put his classroom knowledge to good use.
"Your overall dream is always to go to the next level," Keppy said.
QB, Colton Schulenberg, Orion, 6-0, 190, Sr.: Led Chargers' high-octane offense to average of 48.3 points a game, threw for 38 TDs
RB, Tim Wilson, Sterling Newman, 6-4, 197, Sr.: Top ground threat for team that beat up nearly everyone it faced with a powerful rushing attack, also strong linebacker
RB, Connor Frakes, Rockridge, 6-0, 190, Sr.: All-state selection led Rockets to share of conference crown, scored 17 times and gained 1,344 yards
WR, Trent DeDecker, Orion, 6-3, 195, Sr.: Caught 54 balls for 907 yards, 19 of them for TDs and made 98 tackles for Chargers defense
WR, Ryan Matuszyk, Kewanee, 5-10, 175, Sr.: Over 1,100 all-purpose yards, scored on receptions, rushes, punt returns and kick returns
TE, Jeremy Wilson, Sterling Newman, 6-2, 195, Jr.: Large target stepped up in the playoffs when opponents forced Comets to throw the ball
OL, Jake Walls, Sterling Newman, 6-3, 280, Sr.: Allowed all three of Newman's powerful running backs to find open space and dash past opponents
OL, Logan Kuehl, Morrison, 6-0, 205, Sr.: Dominated in the trenches on either side of the football, captain for 2A state finalist
OL, Ryan Kazubowski, Annawan-Wethersfield, 5-10, 180, Sr.: Lineman was crucial in leading Titans to 1A playoffs, allowed A-W to rush for 230 yards a game
OL, Cody McKillip, Rockridge, 5-6, 220, Jr.: Top lineman on a team that overpowered most opponents on its way to an 8-1 campaign
OL, Caleb Seys, Orion, 5-10, 245, Sr.: Three-year starter was Chargers' best blocker, allowed offense enough time to flourish
K, Daltin Klavon, Riverdale, 5-11, 190, Sr.: Nailed 34 extra points and was first-team all-Big Rivers
DL, Mitch Keppy, Riverdale, 6-5, 285, Sr.: Iowa recruit was a crucial part of Rams' resurgence, led Riverdale to first automatic playoff bid since 2001.
DL, Eli Simmons, Rockridge, 6-2, 200, Sr.: Senior lineman was a large reason why the Rockets boasted the best defense in the West Central
DL, Cal Breedlove, Kewanee, 6-3, 245, Sr.: One of the strongest lineman in one of the toughest leagues, recorded six sacks, 16 TFLs
DL, RJ Troye, Sterling Newman, 6-1, 205, Sr.: Team leader with a motor that never quit, helped lead one of the area's strongest defenses
LB, Mark McDonnell, Morrison, 5-10, 175, Sr.: Strong piece of powerful Mustangs defense that held opponents to 11 points a game, one of Morrison's top running backs
LB, Caleb King, Mercer County, 5-8, 170, Jr.: Led stingy Golden Eagles defense with 86 tackles for a unit that posted four shutouts
LB, Alejandro Rivera, Sterling, 6-0, 180, Sr.: Punished Golden Warriors' opponents on either side of the ball, with 1,102 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns and 110 tackles
LB, Zach Foster, Rockridge, 5-8, 160, Jr.: Only played in seven games, but was dynamite in all of them with 84 tackles for Rockets
DB, Wes DeClerq, Riverdale, 5-10, 175, Sr.: Rams' ground threat was also a pain for opposing offenses, with 53 tackles and two picks
DB, Bryce Skiles, Mercer County, 5-8, 155, Jr.: Picked off three passes and tackled well in the secondary
DB, Danny Dennehey, Morrison, 6-2, 185, Sr.: Capably directed passing attack, ably manned safety position in state semifinal win
P, Andy Schaver, Morrison, 6-1, 190, Sr.: Reliable punter, fierce linebacker and tough runner was vital player for Morrison
QB: Tanner Matlick, Mercer County, 6-3, 190, Jr.
RB: Dontae Pryor, Kewanee, 5-9, 170, Sr.
RB: Zach Kahley, Orion, 5-10, 195, Sr.
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WR: Payton Holmes, Mercer County, 5-10, 165, Jr.
WR: Dylan Schultz, Orion, 6-0, 185, Jr.
TE: Alex Johnson, Rockridge, 6-2, 200, Sr.
OL: Logan Douglas, Monmouth United, 5-10, 225, Sr.
OL: Seth Daniels, Geneseo, 5-11, 230, Sr.
OL: Connor Sisson, Sterling, 6-3, 360, Sr.
OL: Caleb Wheeler, Mercer County, 5-10, 245, Sr.
OL: Tim Downie, Sterling Newman, 5-10, 190, Sr.
K: Mikey Dierikx, Orion, 5-5, 140, Fr.
DL: Matt McDonnell, Morrison, 6-0, 220, Sr.
DL: Christopher Hedrick, Mercer County, 6-2, 265, Sr.
DL: Nate Ackert, Sterling Newman, 5-11, 205, Sr.
DL: Ean Bush, Riverdale, 6-2, 205, Sr.
LB: Payton Nimrick, Riverdale, 5-8, 175, Sr.
LB: Brian Bahrs, Sterling Newman, 5-8, 175, Jr.
LB: Calvin Harridge, Morrison, 6-2, 195, Jr.
LB: Derrick Morford, Mercer County, 5-8, 145, Sr.
DB: Eric Renkes, Fulton, 6-1, 150, Sr.
DB: Tanner Morse, Sterling, 5-9, 160, Jr.
DB: Maison Bittner, Sterling Newman, 5-10, 160, Jr.
P: J.J. Rivera, Geneseo, 6-3, 210, Sr.
Quarterbacks: Chuck Rocker, Riverdale, Jake Friichtenict, Sherrard. Running backs: Treyvon Solis, Sterling, Matt Hartman, Fulton. Wide receivers: Brandon Belt, Morrison, Caleb Maraden, Riverdale, Cory Stiles, Orion. Tight end: Kyle Wexell, Mid-County. Offensive linemen: Trever Zinke, Sterling, Trey Longnecker, Orion, Taelor Hufford, Rockridge, Michael Hartman, West Carroll. Defensive linemen: Jacob Baker, Erie/Prophetstown, Alphonso Inocencio, Kewanee Linebackers: Alex Main, Ridgewood, Marcus Robinson, Sterling, T.J. Huizenga, Fulton, Kyle Meurs, Morrison, Kegan Jacobson, Annawan-Wethersfield. Defensive backs: Danny Willis, Morrison, Matt Rowley, Geneseo, Christian Schrader, Monmouth United. Kicker: Salomon Ocampo, Sterling.