2021 fall preview: Scouting the Northwest Upstate Illini Conference


2021 spring record: 0-2

Coach: Joe Free

Worth noting: Dakota never had much of a chance to get going in the spring, starting late to give the basketball players more of a season, then having to shut things down again just two games in. Nevertheless, the Indians did have a pair of honorable mention all-conference picks who are returning in strong safety Adam Thompson and running back/linebacker Cam Foesch. ..... Dakota returns eight starters on offense, with quarterback Kaidyn Niedermeier coming back along with receiving targets Tyler Kauffman and Tug Dornink, as well as four-fifths of the offensive line in Aidan Grey, Jake Taylor, Connor Matthews and Lucas Pineda. ...... Adrian Arellano broke the school record in the 40 and is ready to bring that speed to the field as a running back and linebacker. Free sees in Arellano a player who “plays with absolutely no fear.” He was averaging more than 10 yards per carry at the fresh/soph level. ..... The Indians have a lot of speed to burn, with 14 players running a sub-5 40.


2021 spring record: 4-2

Coach: Tyler Hoffman

Worth noting: Senior quarterback Hunter Hoffman comes off a spring in which he was named NUIC North MVP after throwing for 1,495 yards and 21 touchdowns with just one interception. ... Du-Pec is looking to reload on the offensive line. In front of Hoffman in the spring were Nick Upmann, Carson Leman and Austin Dodd, all of them all-conference picks, and all of them have now graduated. .... On the defensive line in the spring, Jake Anderson was a second-team all-conference pick as an edge rusher and Trent Hetland was an honorable mention pick at the same position. Both were juniors.


2021 spring record: 1-5

Coach: Joe Edler

Worth noting: Running backs Dawson Feyen and Sam Huntington return for their senior seasons after a spring which saw Feyen carry 50 times for 279 yards and four touchdowns while Huntington carried 63 times for 267 yards and four touchdowns. ... Gabe Hilby was second team all-conference in the spring as an edge rusher. .... Sam Bowman was 21 for 54 in the spring for 270 yards and two touchdowns and returns for his senior year.


2021 spring record: 2-4

Coach: Jared McNutt

Worth noting: Quarterback Kellen Henze is back for his second season of football after spending his falls on the golf course prior to the pandemic. The awkward nature of the pandemic offseason meant McNutt didn’t have offseason camps or 7-on-7s in 2020 to work with Henze, but has had that chance this summer. “With footwork and timing and the routes, he’s been getting a lot better,” McNutt said. “I think when we head into the season with pads on, he’s going to be a runner for us and do a lot of things with his feet.” ..... The strength of the Wildcatz could be in the trenches. McNutt feels EPC’s defensive line will rank among the best in the conference, returning Gavin Sigel and Christian Fischer who are both around the 300-pound mark, and brining back Mason Brenner who saw playing time at linebacker and on the defensive line. Riley Schauer is back, having been a starter at defensive end since he was a sophomore.


2021 spring record: 3-2

Coach: Keynon Janicke

Worth noting: Janicke is a 2012 Forreston graduate who began teaching at Forreston soon after graduating from the University of Dubuque in 2016. This will be his first head coaching job. ...... The Cardinals rushing attack will feature a trio of seniors in Jacob Fiorello, Devonte King-Black and Carter Daws. King-Black had 29 carries for 176 yards in the spring while battling for playing time behind then-senior Jordan Neuschwander. The rushing attack will be augmented by senior Tommy Appel and junior Quinten Frederick. ..... The Cardinals bring back plenty of experience in the trenches with senior Mason Fox and juniors Casey DeVries and Johnny Kobler playing both offensive and defensive line and senior Cole Becker playing offensive line and tight end.


2021 spring record: 4-1

Coach: Patrick Lower

Worth noting: This is Fulton’s first year in the NUIC after leaving the Three Rivers following the spring 2021 season. ... Fulton has four three-year starters with Brock Mason at wide receiver and defensive back, Joey Huizenga on the offensive line, Jake Jones at running back and linebacker and Keegan Vankampen at linebacker. Huizenga is joined on the offensive line by seniors Zach Dykstra and Kole Schipper. .... The Steamers are in search of a new quarterback following the graduation of Connor Barnett, who threw for over 900 yards in the five-game schedule in the spring, completing 68% of his passes.


2021 spring record: 5-1

Coach: Ed Freed

Worth noting: In the spring season, Galena’s defense had a senior all-conference first teamer at edge rusher, defensive line and linebacker in Khalid Newton, Clay Folks and Peyton Bauer. But the Pirates also had a junior get all-conference honors at each position group, with Brady Schemehorn an honorable mention at edge, Gabe Garcia an honorable mention at defensive line and Jarrett Basten a second-team linebacker.


2021 spring record: 4-1

Coach: Ric Arand

Worth noting: With no postseason in the spring, the Panthers are still technically the reigning Class 1A state champion, but just three starters remain from the 2019 team which went 14-0; Marey Roby, Madex Sargent and Luke Benson. ..... Benson was 13-for-33 passing in the spring for 169 yards. ..... After a season-opening loss to Princeton in the spring, in which Roby was injured, the Panthers won their remaining four games, outscoring foes 92-52.


2021 spring record: 3-3

Coach: Matt Leitzen

Worth noting: The Blackhawks finished off the spring campaign on a strong note, winning three of their last four games with the sole loss being a 14-6 setback to Galena. “We kind of got some things straightened out after that and finished the season with a big win on the road against Winnebago,” Leitzen said. “I think our kids look to that as that was as well as we played all year, which is what you want. You want to play your best at the end of the year.” .... Stockton’s strength will be in the trenches, where there is a lot of experience. Jaime Stocks started on the offensive line last year and will be asked to play both offense and defense this fall. Austin Eisfeller started last year at center and on the defensive line. Michael Haas took over the starting job Week 2 in the spring as a freshman. Now in his sophomore year, he has some experience. ...... That depth and experience allowed the coaching staff to move Drew Mensendike from left tackle to tight end. ..... Stockton’s quarterback is Caleb Mammoser, who came into camp a bit late in the spring due to basketball, but Leitzen has had a full offseason to work with him now.


  • Hunter Hoffman, Durand-Pecatonica, Sr., QB: The ink was not yet dry on Aquin quarterback William Gustafson’s diploma when a new elite QB in the NUIC had emerged. Hoffman’s 110-for-170 passing for 1,495 yards in the spring is impressive enough, but he also took care of the ball, throwing just one interception.
  • Drew Mensendike, Stockton, Sr., TE/DE: The 6-3, 220-pound senior is moving from left tackle to tight end for the Blackhawks this fall. Stockton head coach Matt Leitzen sees in Mensendike a player who moves really well.
  • Devonte King-Black, Forreston, Sr., RB: The man asked to fill the very large shoes of the now-graduated Jordan Neuschwander. He still averaged 6.1 yards per carry in the spring.
  • Dawson Feyen, East Dubuque, Sr., RB: He had 50 carries for 279 yards in the spring as part of East Dubuque’s two-headed rushing attack alongside Sam Huntington.
  • Kellen Henze, Eastland-Pearl City, Sr., QB: Henze has now had a full offseason to get more used to the Wildcatz offense, and has had a summer to get some rest after a 2020-21 school year in which he played four sports; golf, basketball, football and baseball.


DakotaDurandEast DubuqueEastland-Pearl CityForreston
Week 1at Ottawa Marquette; 7 p.m., Aug. 27at East Dubuque; 7 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Durand; 7 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Lena-Winslow; 7 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Stockton; 7 p.m., Aug. 27
Week 2at Lena-Winslow; 7 p.m., Sept. 3vs. Forreston; 7 p.m., Sept. 3at Fulton; 7 p.m., Sept. 3at Stockton; 7 p.m., Sept. 3at Durand; 7 p.m., Sept. 3
Week 3vs. Stockton; 7 p.m., Sept. 10at Fulton; 7 p.m., Sept. 10Openvs. Forreston; 7 p.m., Sept. 10at Eastland-Pearl City; 7 p.m., Sept. 10
Week 4at Forreston; 7 p.m., Sept. 17at Eastland-Pearl City; 7 p.m., Sept. 17at Lena-Winslow; 7 p.m., Sept. 17vs. Durand; 7 p.m., Sept. 17vs. Dakota; 7 p.m., Sept. 17
Week 5vs. Eastland-Pearl City; 7 p.m., Sept. 24vs. Urbana; 1 p.m., Sept. 25vs. Stockton; 7 p.m., Sept. 24at Dakota; 7 p.m., Sept. 24at Galena; 7 p.m., Sept. 24
Week 6at Durand; 7 p.m., Oct. 1vs. Dakota; 7 p.m., Oct. 1at Forreston; 7 p.m., Oct. 1vs. Galena; 7 p.m., Oct. 1vs. East Dubuque; 7 p.m., Oct. 1
Week 7at Galena; 7 p.m., Oct. 8at Lena-Winslow; 7 p.m., Oct. 8vs. Eastland-Pearl City; 7 p.m., Oct. 8at East Dubuque; 7 p.m., Oct. 8at Fulton; 7 p.m., Oct. 8
Week 8vs. East Dubuque; 7 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Galena; 7 p.m., Oct. 15at Dakota; 7 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Fulton; 7 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley; 3 p.m., Oct. 16
Week 9at Fulton; 7 p.m., Oct. 22at Stockton; 7 p.m., Oct. 22vs. Galena; 7 p.m., Oct. 22at Walther Christian; 1 p.m., Oct. 23at Lena-Winslow; 7 p.m., Oct. 22
Week 1at Galena; 7 p.m., Aug. 27vs. Fulton; 7 p.m., Aug. 27at Eastland-Pearl City; 7 p.m., Aug. 27at Forreston; 7 p.m., Aug. 27
Week 2vs. East Dubuque; 7 p.m., Sept. 3at Madison; 3 p.m., Sept. 4vs. Dakota; 7 p.m., Sept. 3vs. Eastland-Pearl City; 7 p.m., Sept. 3
Week 3vs. Durand; 7 p.m., Sept. 10vs. Lena-Winslow; 7 p.m., Sept. 10at Galena; 7 p.m., Sept. 10at Dakota; 7 p.m., Sept. 10
Week 4at Madison; 2 p.m., Sept. 18at Stockton; 7 p.m., Sept. 24vs. East Dubuque; 7 p.m., Sept. 17vs. Galena; 7 p.m., Sept. 24
Week 5vs. Lena-Winslow; 7 p.m., Sept. 24vs. Forreston; 7 p.m., Sept. 24at Fulton; 7 p.m., Sept. 24at East Dubuque; 7 p.m., Sept. 24
Week 6at Stockton; 7 p.m., Oct. 1at Eastland-Pearl City; 7 p.m., Oct. 1at Chicago DePaul; 7 p.m., Oct. 1vs. Fulton; 7 p.m., Oct. 1
Week 7vs. Forreston; 7 p.m., Oct. 8vs. Dakota; 7 p.m., Oct. 8vs. Durand; 7 p.m., Oct. 8at Fieldcrest; 2 p.m., Oct. 9
Week 8at Eastland-Pearl City; 7 p.m., Oct. 15at Durand; 7 p.m., Oct. 15at Stockton; 7 p.m., Oct. 15vs. Lena-Winslow; 7 p.m., Oct. 15
Week 9vs. Dakota; 7 p.m., Oct. 22at East Dubuque; 7 p.m., Oct. 22vs. Forreston; 7 p.m., Oct. 22vs. Durand; 7 p.m., Oct. 22


Week 1 — Fulton at Galena. The Steamers make their NUIC debut, and get a rough way to kick things off in the new conference, facing a Pirates squad which went 5-1 in the spring. Fulton also had a one-loss season in the spring, capping off its Three Rivers tenure.

Week 1 - Stockton at Forreston. The Cardinals and Blackhawks have been in opposite divisions in the NUIC for years, and were not frequent cross-over opponents. But with the NUIC playing as a single division this year, the two meet up.

Week 5 - Eastland-Pearl City at Dakota. They didn’t meet in the spring, but when they last met in the fall of 2019, it was a close, defensive struggle with Dakota winning 7-0 on a third-quarter Josh Clark QB sneak. Dakota’s defense did the rest, getting an interception in the red zone.

Week 7 - Durand-Pecatonica at Lena-Winslow. The Panthers bring in one of the best teams in the state in Class 1A. Du-Pec brings in one of the best players in quarterback Hunter Hoffman.

Week 8 - Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley at Forreston. NUIC teams rarely get regular season non-conference games, but they appeared on some schedules in the spring and are on everyone’s schedule for the fall, with both seasons giving us clashes of state powers. In the spring it was Le-Win and Princeton, in the fall it’s GCMS and Forreston. The teams have five state titles in the past seven years between them, two for GCMS, three for the Cardinals.


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