Illinois High School Football News

2022 DeKalb County Football Previews: Hiawatha Hawks

Hiawatha's Cole Brantley (right) looks for receiver Lucas Norvell Wednesday, Aug.10, 2022, during practice at the school in Kirkland.

Hiawatha at a glance

Conference: 8-Man Football North 1

Coach: Nick Doolittle (4-6, second season)

2021 record: 4-6, lost to Orangeville in first round of Illinois 8-Man Football Association playoffs

Meet the players

Keep an eye on: Cole Brantley, sr., RB/LB

An all-state linebacker last year in addition to being the main weapon on offense, Brantley is back, and Doolittle is expecting bigger things. With a more experienced defense around Brantley, Doolittle said some of the weight is off him this year.

Also: Chris Korb, sr., QB/LB/DE; Lucas Norvell, jr., WR/CB; Cooper Fisher, sr., RB/MLB; Zach Edwards, jr., OL; Jack Keating, sr., OL; Blake Wiegartz, jr., CB

Hiawatha in photos

The Big Idea: 8-man becoming old hat

The Hawks are entering Year 3 of being an eight-man program. Doolittle pointed out the seniors have played more eight-man than 11-man in their high school careers, and the juniors have only played eight-man at the high school level.

Here’s what Doolittle and the players say that level of experience does for the team:

“I think they’re more comfortable with it. You hear less about 11-man around here and more about eight-man. I think they’re starting to take more pride in that, which is nice. It’s still football when it comes down to it.”

—  Doolittle

“We feel pretty comfortable with the eight-man season. We know what to do, what to expect. We know how to adjust and everything. I’d say we’re pretty comfortable.”

—  Brantley

“The conditioning. There’s a lot more running than 11-man.”

—  Korb on the the biggest surprise of eight-man

What else they’re saying

* Doolittle on how the team is shaping up so far:

“We should be older this year with better experience. That’s going to help us out a lot. Last year we were pretty young, and it showed at times, especially in closer games. But this year we have a lot of returning players that know the offense and know the defense already.”

* Brantley on the defense:

“I think our defense will get there. We’re adjusting a few kinks. We’ll be all right for the season and ready for the first game.”

* Korb on the passing game:

“I think it’s going to be a lot better. I’m going to make a lot better decisions, and the O-line is going to give me a lot of time.”

* Doolittle on the expectations for the season:

“Our expectations are to make playoffs again. I think that’s a realistic goal this year. Hopefully, we’ll have more success in the playoffs this year. Our first game was against Orangeville, and I think we played them much better that second time around, so to carry some of that momentum, some of that experience into this season is going to help a lot. I think we’re going to have a lot of success. ... We’re not relying on sophomores and juniors anymore. We’re relying on juniors and seniors, so it’s going to help a lot with the maturity.”

The schedule

All games at 7 p.m. unless noted; an asterisk denotes conference games

August 26vs. Rockford Christian Life*
September 2at Ashton-Franklin Center*
September 9vs. Parkview Christian*
September 16vs. Orangeville
September 23vs. Polo
September 30at Amboy
October 7vs. South Beloit*
October 15at Harvest Christian, noon*
October 21at Alden-Hebron*

The lowdown

Doolittle said the team is poised to make a jump in his second year at the helm of the program. Not only is the defense around Brantley improved, but he said he thinks Korb will be able to throw a lot more efficiently this year, with Brantley and Norvell top targets. Norvell in particular has come a long a lot, Doolittle said.

The coach also added that he likes the depth in the program. There are 25 players out this year, more than in some years when the team was an 11-man program. This will allow a JV team for the first time in four years. There also are 11 junior high players co-oping with Genoa-Kingston this year.

More information