Today, we continue our area league football previews in the North Central Activities Association.
In our immediate area, the Beloit Trojans begin their second season under head coach Brad Gober this Friday night. In year one, Gober’s Trojans went 6-3 and 5-1 in the NCAA. Beloit brings back a lot of experience from that squad with nine starters back on offense and ten on defense. Hudson Gray is back at QB after throwing for just under 1,000 yards, 19 TD and just six interceptions a season ago. Zach Meier and Tate Ahlvers both return in the backfield as well. Meier ran for 912 yards and 11 TD, while Ahlvers had 815 yards and 5 scores. Hudson Smith is the top receiver that returns after hauling in 424 yards and 10 TD receiving. Virtually all of the defense is back as well, led by Carson Cox who had 80 tackles with 17 for loss in 2017. With all of the experience back, Gober feels like his team is much stronger all-around than they were a season ago.
As you heard, Beloit opens their season on Friday night against Fairbury (NE). Fans can hear the game on Z 96.3 “The Lake” and also watch the online video stream on the Beloit Trojan channel at nckssports.com. Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 with kickoff at 7:00.
With the new classification system, Beloit stays in 3A and the only other team in the NCAA that does the same is Russell. The Broncos have a new leader in Jordan Echer, who takes over for Jeff Brull after he spent four seasons at the helm. Russell went 4-5 last season, but will return just four starters on offense and five on defense. They will rely heavily on the arm and legs of returning starting QB Austin Price.
Last year’s top team in the league according to their 5-0 record was Ellsworth. The Bearcats went 6-3 overall in their first season under head coach Josh Homolka. To keep their momentum going this year as they move to 2A, they will need to replace many skill players including QB Zac Schneider who threw for over 950 yards and ran for 900 more. They also lost his top target in Remington Cravens who had over 600 yards receiving. In all, only four starters return on either side of the ball for the Bearcats.
Also in 2A, Southeast of Saline hopes to improve on a tough 4-5 campaign last season. The heart and soul of their offense Hunter White is gone after rushing for just under 1,500 yards and 30 TD and throwing for over 1,300 yards. The top two receivers are gone as well for the Trojans. Eight starters are back on offense and seven on defense. The top offensive returnee is Kyler Berry who compiled 889 all-purpose yards last year.
Finally in 2A, Minneapolis hopes to improve in 2018. They have gone just 3-24 over the past three seasons after a bit of a surprising 8-4 campaign in John Haehn’s first year as head coach in 2014. Minneapolis will be looking for contributions from younger players if they are to see improvement this season, as their top players from last year, RB Evan Keating and QB Trent Brubaker both graduated.
In class 1A in Belleville, the Republic County Buffaloes have a new coach again. Faron Kraft is the third coach in three years for the Buffs. He last coached Highland Park in Topeka, who struggled to 34 straight losses in the tough Centennial League. The good news for Republic County is that nine starters are back on each side of the ball. The bad news is, Nick Allsman, who ran for 958 yards, which accounted for 78% of the rushing yards for the team is gone to graduation. The Buffs will look for improvement from many of their underclassmen after an 0-9 2017 season.
Finally in the NCAA, Sacred Heart starts their second season under head coach Garrett Galanski. The Knights went just 2-7 last year, but bring back seven starters on offense and eight on defense. QB David Anderson is the top returner after throwing for over 1,600 yards last season. His top target Charlie Skidmore also returns after reeling in 512 receiving yards a season ago.