A week ago, only Rock Island and Galesburg opened with wins in non-conference games giving the Western Big Six a 2-4 mark overall. Locally, it was 1-3. It could be 1-3 again this week as Rock Island takes on Edwardsville, ranked No. 5 in Illinois in the Associated Press poll. This time it’s on the road, and last year the Rocks lost 30-10 at home to the Tigers.
Then, Alleman deals not just with another very good team in No. 8 ranked Metamora in Class 5A, but also with a unique situation. Coach Todd Depoorter’s father, who was 83, died Monday afternoon. Depoorter has been at the first three practices this week and says he plans to coach Friday night, after his father’s funeral takes place Friday morning.
Assistant coach Mike Ebner says Metamora is a senior-dominated team and could be every bit as tough as Peoria Notre Dame, which thumped the Pioneers 62-28 last week at Charles D. Lindberg Stadium. The Pioneers lost to Metamora a year ago at home, 21-15. And that Metamora team reached the playoffs and finished with a 7-3 record. Now the Pioneers travel there Friday.
The Alleman community has a strong history of rallying around one of its own in a situation like this Friday. Perhaps something special can happen Friday night, but the task is plenty tall.
Moline has a tough task, too, as it takes on an Antioch team that scored 59 points in its opener a week ago. They run the triple option and are boosted by the return of a senior running back who scored 6 touchdowns last week. A key will be the Maroons’ offense. Can it keep the Sequoits off the field? A week ago Antioch did give up 33 points in its win over Kenosha Tremper, a Wisconsin high school.
United Township looks to have a pretty decent shot at winning. In its home opener at Soule Bowl, coach Joe Morrissey’s club takes on an 0-1 East Peoria unit that lost at home to Streator 17-6 a week ago. The Panthers are excited to take the field at home themselves. A quick view of practice Tuesday showed a team working hard and getting after it. Morrissey could be smiling Friday with his first W.
Last Friday, of course, was opening night, and that means all coaches want to clean up lots of mistakes, and see just how much improvement they can make this week. Some of us sportswriters feel the same way about our own in-game tasks. That game sure moves fast when you are keeping a plethora of stats and tweeting in between them.
Before this week’s games are played, I did want to chat about what I saw last Friday at Rock Island Public Schools Stadium in the Rocks’ 38-13 win over Alton. Alton had size and speed.
It’s hard to believe that Alton’s top running back Darrell Smith, a 5-10, 165-pounder who rushed for 190 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns, is just a junior. He commanded the field. He was plenty strong, plenty fast and could shed a tackler in the open field. Honestly, he’s one of the best at the prep level I have seen. I hope he has the grades because he really could go a long way. He also appeared to be a much bigger back than his listing in the program of 165 pounds. More like 180 — at least.
Now, as for the Rocks with their Rock Island Arsenal of weapons as I like to call it, they are a fun team to watch. Really, this team should draw over 7,000 fans a game with the show they put on offensively. If you are a longtime Rocky fan, you should get to the stadium sometime this fall, regardless of what happens this week at Edwardsville. The next time the Rocks are in town, though, is at Charles D. Lindberg Stadium against Alleman on Sept. 16. And their next home game is against Moline Sept. 30.
Nonetheless, offensively they can put on quite a show, and I would expect a few more between now and the next actual home game.
Quarterback Alek Jacobs not only has the strong arm but the quick feet, which I consider to be the hallmark of many a great college quarterback. He also can run with the ball, and has a big-time target in Jacob Ellis.
Jacobs seemed to open the game with a little too much adrenaline, possibly accounting for a couple overthrows early. But once he settled down, it’s clear he’s the guy you want running a high-powered offense like the Rocks have.
Plus, coach Bryan Stortz is clearly not afraid to go for the jugular. In the second half, after the Rocks recovered a fumble near midfield, he dialed up a bomb down the right side to Ellis, who it turned out was decently covered and the pass fell incomplete.
Still, it was interesting to watch a Big Six Quad-City team go for it like that on the first play from scrimmage after a big turnover. I thought for a moment I was watching a high-powered college team with that kind of go-for-it attitude.
The Rocks clearly put pressure on all 11 defenders on the field to be ready at all times. And it’s with a variety of passes, not just short ones.
Did we mention the rushing attack just yet? Tavion Brooks was the closer, carrying the ball six straight times to help run out the clock in the fourth quarter, while adding to his team-high rushing totals of 129 yards on 13 carries.
He also took his first carry to the house on a 63-yarder where he got past the line on some good blocks and shook off a tackler or two, righted himself and flashed speed that has to scare the rest of the Big Six considering he’s just a junior.
DeAngelo Horne had a solid night, too, with 86 yards. And when you add in 80 for QB Jacobs, it tells you not only that the Rocks have talent in the backfield but some on the offensive line, too.
The defense was not perfect, but it won’t be running into a Smith every week, either. And to cause five fumbles -- some with some hard hits, some simply due to good coverages on ill-timed pitches by the Redbirds -- something was working there.
Now, as for the other three Big Six teams in the Quad-Cities, Moline, Alleman and UT, improvement is definitely the name of the game this week. Coaches may not be all that concerned about wins two weeks in.