Area football teams look for postseason berths in
MACOUPIN COUNTY (Aug. 23, 2018) – It’s been nine years since Southwestern last made the football playoffs.
Staunton and Gillespie last made it in 2013. Greenfield/Northwestern and North Mac both missed the playoffs last year after appearances in 2016. South Mac made the playoffs last year in its first year as a co-op program.
So the 2018 football season starts Friday night, and for some teams, there are higher expectations than last year.
Here’s a look at some of the area team football previews for 2018:
Staunton (4-5 in 2017)
The Bulldogs made tremendous strides last season, narrowly missing a chance at being playoff eligible.
Staunton under second-year coach Zach Ferguson will look to assistants Troy Redfern, Larry Caldieraro, Kinney Myles, Sr., Nick Mellenthin, Austin Scherfy, Mark Sievers and Bob Semanik.
“We return 18 starters from the previous season,” said Ferguson. “We have a lot of experience in growth.”
Key returners for Staunton include quarterback Griffin Bianco, who threw for 1,516 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago, while rushing for 616 yards.
Ryan Best returns at senior linebacker, Drew Mullenix is a senior running back; David Deweese a senior lineman; Cody Castaldi a senior wide receiver; Tyler Grandidier a senior wide receiver; Bryan Parker a senior lineman; Daniel Jarden a senior lineman; Blake Reathaford a senior lineman; Lucas Sievers, a senior defensive back/wide receiver and Kyle McCalla, a junior wide receiver/defensive back.
Top newcomers for the Bulldogs include junior running back Devin Ray, sophomore wide receiver Kyle Favre, lineman Robert Buffington; and seniors Jadon Ritnour and Tony Dittmaier.
Ferguson expects a tough regular season within the South Central Conference. “Everyone is competitive,” Ferguson said.
Southwestern (3-6 in 2017)
The Birds have never won a playoff game in 10 tries. They last made it 2009.
What happens this year will start with a fresh head coach.
Pat Keith, formerly of Roxana, heads to Piasa to try and get the Birds on the track to the postseason.
Assisting Keith will be Jason Darr, Matt Hasquin, Jordan Bureggeman, Nic Beilsmith and Mike Fisher.
“This year’s team will be looking to replace a graduating class of 17 seniors,” said Keith. “There is a mixture of youth and experience. We will look to improve daily and compete every Friday night. Kids are working hard to learn a new system and developing good team chemistry.
There are 10 seniors on the roster this year, including Jared Dunnagan (running back/linebacker, Hayden Trimm (lineman), Tyson Oertel (wide receiver); Kobi Williams, Jack Barkley, Collin Albert, Brendan Bockstruck and John Bockstruck (all lineman); Zac Wolff (running back/defensive back and Jacob Bellitto (lineman).
The nine juniors include quarterback Dylan Grizzle, wide receivers Adam Bates, Trevor Seets, Jack Davis and Trevor Smith; running back Bobby Smith and linemen Logan Anderson and Payne Hubbs.
Top newcomers include sophomore lineman Ethan Trimm, sophomore running back Pauly Garrett and sophomore tight end Sam Wolff.
“Each week will be a challenge,” Keith said. “SCC is a good high school football conference.”
South Mac (5-5 in 2017)
The Chargers opened a new era for Mt. Olive and Bunker Hill football with a playoff season.
Second-year coach Brian Borkowski is assisted this year by Nick Simmons, Mike Reinhardt, Zach Stawar and Nathan Gray.
“We graduated 14 seniors,” Borkowski said. “We are a young team but energetic and ready to learn. Good senior leadership.”
Returning for the Charges include senior quarterback Braden Morris, senior lineman Max Schwab, Wide receiver/defensive back Quinton Kosowski and sophomore running back/linebacker Evan Morris.
Top newcomers include freshman quarterback Garrett Oxford, freshman running back Ty Zimmer and freshman wide receiver Cole Brown.
Borkowski expects Marquette and East Alton-Wood River to be among the top competition in the Prairie State Conference this season.
Gillespie (2-7 in 2017)
The Miners return a ton of young talent from last year’s 2-7 squad.
Under second year head coach Jake Bilbruck, the Miners hope to continue its upward ascent.
Assistant coaches include Casey Sholtis, Jack Burns, Jarrod Herron, Don Dobrino, Matt Brown, Logan Knoche, Nate Henrichs, Eric Lancaster and Randy Redmon.
“Our goal is to be better than we were the day before and improve weekly,” said Bilbruck. “We have some great senior leaders.”
Among the returners include senior quarterback Joe Carter, who threw for nearly 800 yards last year, and senior running back Dominic Maykopet, who rushed for nearly 400 yards.
“The South Central Conference has proven it is one of the premier football conferences in the state,” Bilbruck said. “Every year it sends multiple teams past the first round of the playoffs. Every team provides challenges each week.”