Thursday, September 5, 2019

Two dimensional Eagles will test SJO tenacity

The Spartans take their ground pounding touchdown scoring machine to Rantoul tomorrow for their week 2 of IHSA football.

The Eagles have yet to beat a St. Joseph-Ogden football team. If the pigskin rolls their way, and they are hoping to do so, it will make their homecoming weekend hootenanny just a bit merrier.

In their Illini Prairie Conference opener last Friday, the Eagles fell 42-20 on the road at Prairie Central. The Hawks pulled away in the third quarter, scoring three times to hand Rantoul their first loss of the season.

SJO defense stops STM run
The Spartan defense held St. Thomas More under 125 yards in their Illini Prairie Conference opener. SJO will likely face a much more physical group as they look for win number 2 this season. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)


The Spartans, who put up 278 all-purposes yards on St. Thomas More on their way to a 36-8 win, will have their strength and conditioning tested, both in the trenches and in the secondary with the Eagles.

Rantoul Township amassed 213 yards, a healthy number, against by some accounts a postseason ready Prairie Central squad.

Up front on defense, Jaden Miller led the Spartans with nine tackles, one for a loss, against the Sabers. Brayden Weaver and Sam Wesley had nine tackles apiece to assist in holding the St. Thomas More total offense to less than 120 yards.

No doubt the trio will have their work cut out for themselves. Their leadership on the field and on the sidelines with the less experienced players could be a pivotal factor in the outcome.

The Eagles' primary receivers who include Colin Wilkerson, Bryant Shaw and Terhune, combined for six catches for 137 yards against the Hawks. Wilkerson, the number one passing threat, had four catches for 68 yards. Terhune caught two passes, one for a touchdown, and finished the opener with 25 yard. The receiving corps was good for 140 yards.

Utilizing their passing game sparingly last week, in comparison St. Joseph-Ogden passed for just 29 yards.

"Our assessment is we have to be better," said SJO head coach Shawn Skinner after their home game against STM. "The offensive line has to block better. Receivers have to run better routes."

He added: "Crayton (Burnett) is a good quarterback and we have to utilize him."

Burnett knows there are some details he needs to work on to put the ball in the hands of his receivers.

"Me personally I need to make better decision with the passing game," he said. "Once that happens everything will be fine. I'm going to work hard and work had on my reads."

Weaver isn't letting Burnett or the offensive line shoulder all of the blame for their passing game against the Sabers. In his mind it is a team effort to bring the passing game up to its potential, especially when you have a quarterback of Burnett's caliber calling for the snap.

"Obviously, we can clean up some things on the passing game but that's on the backs, too. That's on everybody," he said in his postgame interview. "That's not on the line. You can't really blame them for anything. They did a great job responding to everything that came their way."

In their previous five meetings, the Spartans have outscored the Eagles, 176-52. As members of both the Okaw Valley Conference and now the Illini Prairie, Rantoul has never posted more than 20 points against a St. Joseph-Ogden football squad.

SJO has averaged 35.2 points per game against RTHS.

Game time is slated for 7 p.m. at Rantoul Township High School.


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