‘Pretty relaxed’: Dwight hosts Streator for informal, rain-soaked 7-on-7

Trojans, Bulldogs keep things simple for scrimmage

Dwight receiver Joey Starks (left) and Streator cornerback LA Moton battle at the line of scrimmage Tuesday, July 9, 2024, during a 7-on-7 at Dwight High School.

DWIGHT – Despite a pushed-up start time because of the wet forecast and increasing rainfall throughout, the mood was light, informal and fun Tuesday evening as the Streator Bulldogs visited the Dwight Trojans for a scrimmage-like 7-on-7.

“Yeah, it’s pretty relaxed,” new Bulldogs coach Matt Cloe said. “It’s different than the other 7-on-7s we’ve been playing in, because we’re not really moving the ball. It’s just making plays, making completions, executing. And that’s kind of game-like itself.”

Instead of advancing up and down the field, the teams took turns running a predetermined number of plays from a set yard line against the opposing defense, alternating between varsity and JV. Both teams expect to have more structured 7-on-7s – or, new to Illinois high school football this year, 11-on-11 summer scrimmages – later this summer leading up to the Aug. 12 opening day of official preseason practices and Aug. 30 regular-season openers.

To Dwight team captain Dylan Crouch, intersquad scrimmages such as Tuesday’s with Streator are about getting in tune with teammates.

“If we can do that, get those reps in, I think we’ll be about the same as last year,” said Crouch, referring to the Trojan’s surprising 5-5 season and spot in the Class 2A playoffs, the program’s first postseason appearance since 2018. “Maybe better.”

Dwight quarterback Collin Bachand drops back Tuesday, July 9, 2024, during a 7-on-7 scrimmage against Streator at Dwight High School.

It being early in the summer schedule, especially for Dwight which only opened its summer practices the day before hosting the Bulldogs, both head coaches felt there was plenty of work to do.

“We give the month of June to baseball and basketball, so we haven’t really done much as far as football goes,” seventh-year Dwight coach Luke Standiford said. “But we’ve had a really good turnout in the weight room. There was a lot of consistency and a lot of guys working hard.

“[Monday] was actually our first practice, and this is our second day out here. It’s just getting the younger guys familiar with what we’re doing, keeping things simple and just flying around, learning and having fun right now. ... [Today we want to] just work on the very basics, especially on defense. Get fundamentally sound and then progress as we go.”

The same holds true for Streator, which entered the offseason coming off its second consecutive 2-7 campaign and fifth straight losing season since last making the Class 5A playoffs in 2017. The Bulldogs not only have a new head coach but a new starting quarterback in Isaiah Weibel after the graduation of all-stater Christian Benning.

“To be honest with you, we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Cloe said. “Any time you come in and implement a new system [that’s the case], and we’d like to run the ball a little more this year than we have in the past. My goal is more of a 50/50 type offense. In my experience, that’s been the most productive of any teams I’ve ever coached.

“As far as the things we need to do, I think just the understanding of the schemes that we run. It’s a simple-type offense, but it does have its complexities.”

Weibel does have a proven go-to target in wide receiver and fellow senior Matt Williamson, who hauled in 44 receptions for 681 yards and 10 touchdowns last fall.

“I don’t think we’re where we need to be for the season yet, but I think we’re starting to get there,” said Williamson, who caught a number of big-play passes and was obviously Weibel’s favorite target Tuesday. “Day by day, we come into practice and we work hard, and we’re starting to get there.”

Streator quarterback Isaiah Weibel surveys the field Tuesday, July 9, 2024, during a 7-on-7 scrimmage in Dwight.