Football Preview Week Seven: Trenton vs. Illini West
The Trenton Bulldogs will meet Illini West for the second and almost assuredly final time on Friday night in week seven of the 2013 high school football season.
Trenton made the long drive to Carthage, IL last year, only to be defeated 48-0 by the Chargers. It’s a new year, however, and this time it will be Illini West making the three-plus-hour bus trip.
“It’s a challenge, but they have probably dealt with it before,” Trenton Head Coach Wes Croy said of the lengthy bus ride. “They have enough tradition and success throughout their school history. When you make it very far in the state playoffs you are bound to have some long trips. We went to Blair Oaks that one year and I am sure they have made some long trips as well.
“That being said, it’s always a challenge when you are making long trips to a place you have never been before. That was our biggest issue with it last year. There are no landmarks you recognize and you’re not sure how much further it is and they will have to deal with the same thing this year.”
The distance is what will kill the series after just two seasons. Trenton replaces Illini West with South Harrison on next season’s schedule. The Bulldogs from Bethany are practically next door neighbors to Trenton compared to Carthage’s distance.
“I think if either of us had our druthers, we would rather be closer to each other,” Croy said. “But that’s not the situation. We dealt with the trip last year and probably didn’t deal with it as well as we should have because we didn’t play well there. They will have the same challenge this year. It’s definitely different, but they are a good program and they are going to come out ready to play on Friday.”
There is still one game to be played between the Chargers and Bulldogs, though, and it’s Friday night at C.F. Russell Stadium. Croy knows it will be a challenge to knock off the traditional power from the east, but also knows exactly what it will take for his team to do just that.
“We have to keep doing what we started to do a week ago,” Croy said. “That’s playing well up front. Offensive line-wise we have to get off the ball and we have to have a good pad level. We were able to do that more successfully last week against Lincoln Prep and because of that we were able to move the ball and put points on the board.
“Then defensively we have to tackle. In our two losses this year we were far below an average tackling team, especially in the open field. With their offense, the way it’s set up with all the mis-direction and the ball fakes, there will be times when we have to make open field tackles and being able to do that is the difference in giving up an eight- or 10-yard run every once in a while and giving up a 30- or 40-yard touchdown run. That’s what we didn’t do well in the Higginsville and Pembroke Hill games. We did a better job of it last week and hopefully we continue to improve in that area.”
Trenton is coming off its best offensive showing of the season. The Bulldogs ran for over 300 yards last week at Lincoln Prep and rushed for five touchdowns. Sophomore running backs Colton Neff and Travis Leeper did the majority of the damage as Neff went for 196 yards and four touchdowns on 31 carries and Leeper added 103 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
Stopping the run will be a must for both teams in Friday night’s match-up. While Trenton’s run attack is well known, Illini West prefers to move the ball on the ground as well. The Chargers have thrown the ball just 19 times in six games. Last year against Trenton, Illini West went for 339 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns on 48 carries. This year’s team has both similarities and differences from last year’s Illini West squad.
“It’s hard to gauge how good Illini West is this year because we don’t know the teams they are playing against on tape,” Croy said. “That’s one of the most difficult things when you are playing a team that’s not a traditional opponent. Not only are they different, but the teams they play against are unfamiliar to you, too. (Illini West) does a lot of the same things, though. They have a new coach, but it’s a coach who has been in the system a long time. They are not different from what they have done – they are still double wing, they are still going to run the football and they are still going to play the 5-2 on defense. As far as how they compare to last year, they have different people in different places, but they are still going to give you the same results. We expect them to be every bit as good as they were last year and they took it to us a year ago. It’s our job to make sure we have improved enough to stay in the football game and give ourselves a chance to win in the end.”
The Bulldogs and Chargers will kick off an hour early this week due to the long travel time, just as they did a year ago. Gates will open at C.F. Russell Stadium at 4:30 p.m. Trenton’s fifth and sixth grade football teams will be announced at 5:20. Team introductions will be made at 5:51 and kick off is scheduled for 6 o’clock.
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