The Fieldcrest football coaching staff, including second-year head coach Mike Freeman, and the program itself is in a unique situation from anytime in the recent past.
The Knights, who finished a perfect 4-0 in the spring after a 12-1 mark in 2019 that included a Class 2A semifinal playoff appearance (the sixth postseason berth in eight seasons) come into the 2021 fall campaign looking to replace the entire starting 11 on offense and all but one on defense.
However, even with a younger, inexperienced roster made up of six seniors, eight juniors, six sophomores and 11 freshmen, Freeman feels the group is ahead of where he thought they might be.
“Every team in the eight years I’ve been with the program, we’ve always had at least three to five solid starters on each side of the ball,” said Freeman. “The coaching staff has been so impressed with how much the younger kids have learned so quickly. Now that being said, we’ve had to water down our offense from the past few seasons to get things started, but we are already starting to add back in some of that stuff, which is exciting. It also helped with the quick turnaround from the spring for the kids that were on the team … they didn’t have the downtime or time to forget the things we do.
“We have 31 kids on the roster, and 18 haven’t played a snap of high school football. I’m lucky to have seven outstanding assistant coaches that are working so hard with the kids to get them ready to go. We’ve come a long way in the last four weeks.”
Freeman said with so many starting spots to fill, the competition has been as good as it gets.
Senior linebacker/fullback Ethan Stoeger is the lone returning starter, and Freeman hopes he can be a player who provides leadership on both sides of the ball. Sophomore Brady Ruestman was the backup quarterback this spring and has been splitting reps equally with classmate Koltin Kearfott and freshman Jackson Hakes.
“I’m being as open as possible when I say we have no idea who is going to be our quarterback for our first game,” said Freeman. “I may not know who it is until right before kickoff. But I do know whichever of them fill the role, they are going to do the best they can.”
Senior Logan Halley, who went to grade school at Fieldcrest but is a transfer back from Normal Community, along with freshman Eddie Lorton will see time in the backfield, with Stoeger penciled in at fullback.
Freeman said there are eight players working towards five spots for starting offensive and defensive live, including juniors Carter Stimpert, Aiden Harsted, Coltin Perry and sophomore Aydin Stimpert. On the defensive side, Freeman said other than Stoeger at LB, nothing is settled as of yet.
Rounding out the roster for the Knights will be: seniors Toby Chromchak (WR/LB), Dylan Crank (OL/DL), Elliott Rowland (OL/DL); juniors Dylan Baker (OL/DL), Carson Mahan (RB/DB), Landon Modro (WR/LB), Dalton Mrazek (OL/LB), Trenton Topolski (WR/DB); sophomores Loren Gensler (FB/LB), Jozia Johnson (WR/DB), Auden Meierhofer (OL/DL); and freshmen Jordan Carey (OL/DL), Levi Harlan (OL/DL), Cooper Haugens (OL/DL), Ejay Johnson (RB/LB), Kade Kearfott (RB/LB), Maddux Modro (WR/DB), Brenden Pita (OL/DL), Kameron Widmer (WR/DB) and Landin Wright (WR/DB).
Fieldcrest — which has won 10 consecutive Heart of Illinois Conference games — just late last week added a Week 1 opponent, visiting Aurora Christian in Week 1 and then El Paso-Gridley on September 3. The Knights host Fisher in the home opener and Eureka the following week, then go to LeRoy in Week 5. The next three weeks are home games against Tri-Valley, Stockton and Dee-Mack before a Week 9 trip to Tremont.
“We are no different than any other coaching staff in the sense we’ve looked at our schedule in the past seasons, and no disrespect to anyone, but we’ve said to ourselves, ‘OK, these are games we should win, these are some borderline games, and these are going to be really hard.’
“This season isn’t really that way. We are just going to try and put our best team on the field every week. We are just concentrating on ourselves, that is all that matters right now.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle