Four area high schools are again combining their efforts into two programs and keeping football alive in their communities as members of the Illinois 8-Man Football Association (I8FA).
Here is a look at this spring’s Lowpoint-Washburn/Henry-Senachwine Wildcats and Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland Falcons:
“We want to remain competitive and continue to improve. I think we share the opinion of everyone that we are just happy for the chance to play football this year.”— L-W/H-S football coach Tony Davis
Head coach Tony Davis leads the Wildcats into their second season playing the 8-man game after a 4-5 debut in the I8FA, including a playoff victory.
“It’s only our second year of existence,” Davis said. “With all the challenges this year, hopefully we continue to grow as a program. We want to remain competitive and continue to improve. I think we share the opinion of everyone that we are just happy for the chance to play football this year.”
The co-op has reason to believe it will do well with a handful of proven players returning. That list includes seniors RB/CB Britton Barnes and OL/DL Noah Gebel, as well as juniors QB/LB Braden Grebner, RB/LB Alex Whirrell, FB/LB Jesse Knecht and OL/DL Tyree Addo.
Davis also cites some key newcomers to the team, many of them seniors. Expected to make an impact are the likes of QB/LB Brady Neuhalfen, RB/LB Bradan Frawley, RB/NG Gavin Fitton, RB/DL Kyler Beltramea and OL/DL Will Strauch.
As of press time, L-W/H-S is scheduled to open in Flanagan on Saturday, March 20, vs. Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland with a 1 p.m. kickoff. From there the Wildcats host River Ridge, go on a three-game road trip to South Beloit, West Central and Peoria Heights (the lone Friday night game), and finish the season back home against Alden-Hebron.
“I am really excited about our upcoming spring season,” Reed said. “We have several new faces in our program this year, and I’m excited to get to work with them and watch them grow as football players.”— FCW football coach Todd Reed
The 2019 season was a great one for the Falcons under head coach Todd Reed.
FCW posted an 8-4 record and advanced all the way to the I8FA state playoff semifinals.
“Last year’s team members bought into a total program rebuild that I and my assistant coaches knew could be done,” said Reed. “We had a great group of 10 senior leaders that came in together, and half of them never played football before. I might add there was some uncertainty at first, and they had to put their trust into me and the coaching staff.
“After our second game of the season last year when we beat Pawnee in a nail-biter, they knew we had something special going on. That group laid the foundation for our program and reignited the excitement and gained some respect.”
Key returnees include I8FA All-State OL/LB/K Kyle Uhl, OL/LBs Will Weber and Chris Stasko, RB/DBs JD Ruddy and Jesse Simpson, and QB/DB Dallas Hamilton, a receiver on last year’s squad.
Some newcomers on the overall young roster Reed is excited about adding include Phoenix Cooper, Tyler Pfaff, Sam Jones, Keegan Boldt, Gavin Winners, Michael Gamble, Ethan Schumm and Jace Torrez.
“I am really excited about our upcoming spring season,” Reed said. “We have several new faces in our program this year, and I’m excited to get to work with them and watch them grow as football players.”
FCW opens at home Saturday, March 20, against Lowpoint-Washburn/Henry-Senachwine with a 1 p.m. kickoff in Flanagan. After that, the Falcons host St. Thomas More at Woodland for a Friday night contest, are back in Flanagan vs. Peoria Heights on April 1, visit North Fulton and Milford-Cissna Park, then close April 23 in Flanagan against West Central.