Photo by Bill Roseberry
The Eagles get set at the line of scrimmage against Mattoon in Week 2 at home. They delve into Mississippi Valley Conference action this week, playing host to Triad for Week 4.
BETHALTO — The football season restarts anew Friday for the Civic Memorial Eagles. Phase 2 of their schedule is poised to begin.
The welcome mat is out for league play. The six-team Mississippi Valley Conference kicks off with competition this weekend and the Eagles will dive head first into it.
CM, 2-1 overall, entertains 3-0 Triad in one of two or three Valley games. Waterloo, another 3-0 squad, plays host to 2-1 Mascoutah, while 2-1 Jersey is slated to play at 2-1 Highland.
However, the Panthers’ home game against the defending MVC champs could be derailed. Highland teachers went on strike last week and the Bulldogs had to forfeit Game 3 against Mattoon, now 1-2. So we will see what happens.
One thing is certain – it’s not going to be an easy ride for any squad through the Valley schedule. The MVC teams are 14-4 in nonconference competition thus far and all six of them have winning records.
“You can assume that it’s going to be a close game every week in the conference,” CM coach Justin Winslow. “From what they did last year, Highland has to be the favorite, but everybody we play has a good team.”
You can include the Eagles in that conversation. They own nonconference wins over Marquette Catholic, 49-7, and Mattoon 48-16. Last week, they started slowly and fell to Effingham, 41-22.
“Our goal is to continue to get better every day,” Winslow said. “We were a little disappointed in the way we played last Friday night against Effingham, but we are a young team.
“We need to take care of the football better.”
Seven turnovers, including four interceptions, hampered CM’s comeback against Effingham.
“We got down by three touchdowns, but we did come back and got within 28-14,” Winslow said. “Then we had the ball inside the Effingham 10, but we turned it over again.”
He added, “Effingham is a good team, but we made a lot of mistakes and some of them were unforced errors.”
Nevertheless, CM’s offense has been potent enough to average nearly 40 points per game one-third of the way into the regular season. Triad, which has defeated Mattoon, Collinsville and Mount Vernon, is averaging 41 ppg. The Knights and the Eagles are the two highest-scoring teams in the conference. The Knights have an impressive 27-7 victory over Collinsville of the Southwestern Conference.
“Triad is similar to Effingham in that they like to run the ball,” Winslow said. “The difference is that Triad runs the triple option and Effingham is more of a power team.”
Quarterback Adam Hill has completed 38 of 55 passes for 499 yards and seven touchdowns to stir the CM attack. Running back Zach Klocke has rushed for 182 yards and four TDs. And three receivers are working closely with Hill.
Brett Lane has snared nine passes for 173 yards and one score. Caleb Buhs has six catches for 140 yards and three touchdowns. Brendon Ricci has grabbed 10 aerials for 78 yards and two scores.
Buhs, a 6-foot-6, 185-pound senior, could emerge as Hill’s top target.
“He (Buhs) has played pretty well and is solid,” Winslow said. “He’s a big kid with good hands and he can run very well.”
Winslow figures it’s going to take everything in the Eagles’ arsenal to play their best in the Valley. CM is angling for its first playoff berth since 2010. The Eagles have gone to the postseason just twice since registering a 7-3 record in 2001. They were 9-3 in 2005.
“The thing about our conference is that every team is well-coached,” Winslow said. “Every team plays hard and everyone runs a good scheme. That makes it a challenge and a battle every week.”