Rock Island wants to get back to old ways; Moline must rely on youth
The Rock Island football team isn't used to ending the season without a conference title.
Last year, Quincy took some of the grit out of the Rocks, though, upending them 52-37 and claiming the championship.
And although Rock Island again made it to the Illinois High School Association's state quarterfinals, they took a beating from Sacred Heart-Griffin, 56-13. The team ended with a 4-1 record in the Western Big Six Conference and a 9-3 record overall.
This year, the Rocks are looking to keep from getting thrown down again. They benefit from a heavy upperclassmen roster -- but so do most of the 60-man rosters this season.
They also have a new head coach, with Ben Hammer taking over for longtime coach Bryan Stortz.
Originally from Peoria, Hammer was a history teacher and the head football coach at East Montgomery in North Carolina after graduating from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2009.
Hammer will rely on senior quarterback Jordan Vesey to lead his team. Junior Bryce Trask will step into the role of starting wide receiver and will be joined by Michael Ndabunganie and Ben Ellis.
Ndabunganie will also double as a strong safety for the Rocks, while Ellis will also play cornerback.
Ian Purvis and Nickolas Roessir will back up Vesey at quarterback and also play safety and kicker, respectively.
Sophomore running backs Nshimirimana Wilson and Davion Wilson will be led by senior starter De’Angelo Horne.
Senior Delon Stewart-Parks and junior Calin Nevarez will add depth at cornerback. Bahti Oliver will take his spot as a nose guard and will be accompanied by defensive ends Michael Elston and Romar Cantu. Tackles Justin Tice and Trayvonte Richardson will also take to the defensive line along with outside linebacker Miguel Vega and middle linebacker Morrio Rogers.
Rock Island has a tough schedule, starting with a visit to Peoria Notre Dame on Aug. 25.
Speaking of tough schedules, Moline certainly knows the feeling. The Maroons went 2-7 last year, and this year might be even tougher, as they have to rely on some inexperienced players taking on key roles.
The Maroons will test their young team early by opening against DeKalb, which defeated them 40-12 last season.
Treyton Lamphier will get his start at quarterback and rely on running backs Carthon Booker and Clovis Kenese, as well as wide receivers Nojan Griffin and Jabari Rogers.
Senior Luke Melton will be a triple threat, playing tight end, defensive end and outside linebacker. Nico Castro Jr. and Donovan Hill will help hold the defensive line as middle linebackers, while Kheeghan Woods and Collin Farr will position at guard. Mitchell Butcher will switch between guard duties and defensive tackle, and Alex Siperly will be a two-way player, as a tackle and defensive tackle.
Eli Suastegui and Nate Johnson will be Moline’s cornerbacks.