It may not seem that way in practice, but the calm voice after some tough openers in the Western Big Six for Moline, Alleman and United Township was actually provided by the teams’ coaches.
While Rock Island opened with an impressive 38-13 win over Alton at home, the closest the Maroons, Pioneers or Panthers came to their opponents was Moline in a 40-12 loss at DeKalb.
Veteran Moline coach Mike Tracey, though, was far from pressing the panic button.
“We are going to be OK,” he said after lauding the Barbs’ skill. “We are a good team. DeKalb is very good and put everything together.”
The Maroons play their home opener at Browning Field on Friday against Antioch, which beat Kenosha (Wisconsin) Tremper 59-33 last week. A year ago, Antioch beat Moline 30-6.
Week 1 to Week 2 is said to be the week football coaches see the most improvement in their teams.
The Maroons are concentrating on technique, fundamentals, effort and eliminating mental mistakes, Tracey said.
The Sequoits run the triple option, an offense Tracey is plenty familiar with.
“We understand what they are doing. The main battle is getting the kids to understand it and stop it,” he said. Antioch is very smart in the way they run it, he added.
With only three starters back from last year for the Maroons, don’t expect major lineup changes in Week 2.
“We were very inexperienced,” Tracey said. “Now we have a game under our belts and it’s time to execute.”
He saw some positives last week, including his offensive line as it got over its nervousness as the game progressed.
“I’ve seen us do some good things. The key is having the kids believe it," Tracey said. "It’s a different team. Last year was a senior-dominated team. It’s kind of an adjustment period.”
For UT, its only score in a 42-6 loss against LaSalle-Peru came on the game’s last play. But as the Panthers practiced for East Peoria, first-year coach Joe Morrissey was plenty upbeat.
“We always preach it,” he said. “You win or you learn.”
A close examination of 20 to 22 plays can be “a great learning experience for our kids to see that if we don’t lack the mental discipline on things, and we take care of our job and execute, there were some real positives and things we can fix.”
Playing disciplined and fundamental ball is where that improvement will start, he indicated.
Meanwhile, the Panthers are excited about their home opener Friday at Soule Bow, against East Peoria, which lost 17-6 to Streator last Friday.
“I think they’re ready to get another chance to go out there and play UT football,” Morrissey said.
For Alleman, it’s another tough foe on the heels of a tough break. Coach Todd Depoorter’s father died Monday. Depoorter believes his dad would want him to coach Friday night at Class 5A No. 8 Metamora, just a few hours after his funeral, so he plans to be on the sidelines.
Assistant coach Mike Ebner said the Pioneers are working on the basics.
“We’ve got to get off the blocks and tackle better,” Ebner said. “That’s what we didn’t do (in last week’s 62-28 loss to Peoria Notre Dame). If we are going to get better on defense, that’s what we have to do.” They also need to block better, he said.
The Pioneers lost to Metamora at home last year 21-15. This year it is a senior-dominated team, Ebner said.
“Metamora looks every bit as talented as (Peoria Notre Dame),” he noted.
Rock Island, the lone winner of the four Quad-City Big Six schools in Week 1, still has room for improvement. The Rocks need to do a better job taking care of the ball, besides nuances found on film regarding the offensive line, coach Bryan Stortz said.
Rocky will be facing the state’s fifth-ranked Class 8A team in Edwardsville, which is led by 6-foot-5, 255-pound defensive end and Iowa commit A.J. Epenesa, the No. 27-ranked player in the country, according to Rivals.com. A week ago, Epenesa blocked a field goal and an extra point while helping the Tigers hand Quincy (35-6) its first regular-season home loss in four years at Flinn Stadium.