Photo by Jeff Helmkamp
Civic Memorial quarterback Adam Hill had 285 yards passing but it wasn't enough as the Eagles fall to MVC champ Triad Knights.
Sometimes improvement comes in measured increments. It’s one small step at a time rather than an immediate giant leap.
Take it from the Civic Memorial football team, relishing its best record in 10 years. The Eagles have made gradual improvement in hopes of consistently getting better. CM, playoff-bound for the first time since 2010, closes out its regular season Friday at home against Mount Zion.
Thus far, the Eagles own a 6-2 record, their best mark since going 9-3 in 2005. The 2010 team won the Mississippi Valley Conference championship but finished 5-5 overall.
This year’s team finished 3-2 in the Valley, bowing to conference runner-up Highland and outright champion Triad. The Eagles started 5-0 and aim to finish with a flourish. They will likely be cast in the Class 4A IHSA playoffs. The postseason pairings will be announced Saturday.
“We finished last in the conference last year, but this year we were right there in two games that were really hard-fought,” fifth-year head coach Justin Winslow said of the competitive MVC. “It’s really a credit to our kids and our seniors, who have set a good example.
“They turned it around for us.”
The Eagles went 3-6 in 2014 and really didn’t have much to play for toward the end of the season. That all changed this fall when they tangled with Highland and Triad in championship-game situations. The Eagles lost both of those games but gave notice that they were a legitimate Valley player.
“I hope what we have done this year are the expectations for us in the future,” Winslow said, looking to the future. “Our goal now is to get to seven wins and get ready for the playoffs. If we can get No. 7, we’ll feel good about it.”
With seven wins, CM might land a home game in its playoff opener and that would be a delight for fans at Hauser Field. The Eagles haven’t played a home postseason game in 10 years.
“We want to play in front of our fans at home,” Winslow said. “They have given us great support. So having a playoff game at home would be awesome. It’d be a great thing for our kids to experience.”
A potent offense has put the Eagles in a “feel-good” mood most of this season. They tallied 41 or more points in their first five games during that unbeaten start.
Highland outscored them, 35-27, and then they outpointed Waterloo, 31-28. CM then was tied with Triad, 7-7, at halftime in Troy, but the Knights broke it open with a 28-point second half for a 35-13 victory.
“We will be fine. We’ll regroup,” Winslow said afterward.
Senior quarterback Adam Hill and running back John Whitworth have kept the Eagles fine-tuned. Hill has completed 100 of 174 passes for 1,464 yards and 18 touchdowns, including one to receiver Dylan Sutton against Triad. Running back Corey Price scored the other one, his eighth touchdown of the season.
Whitworth was held in check with just 29 yards rushing against Triad. Nevertheless, he’s enjoying a banner season that includes 15 touchdowns and 1,117 yards on the ground. He’s the first CM running back to amass more than 1,000 yards rushing in nearly 20 years. Joe Odom was the last to do it, running for 1,188 yards in 1997.
Brothers Brett and David Lane have combined for 43 receptions, covering 688 yards and account for 11 TDs. Teammate Tim Klocke also had snared 22 passes.
Rikki Lafferty, Sutton, Zach Williams and Nick Newell are among the leaders in tackles. David Lane owns three interceptions and Lafferty has two fumble recoveries, including one at Triad that set up Price’s 1-yard score.
The growing process continues for the Eagles. Doubling their win output in just one season is a good way to approach it. Contending for the conference championship is another positive sign, Winslow indicated.
“You want to win conference games. That’s a big goal,” he said. “We’re working to make football a priority.”
It’s Job No. 1 for him.
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