First row, from left, Cliff Burris, Joe Moran, Austin Yeager, Cody Keough and Jovandre Cotton; second row, from left, Stephen Goodrich, Andrew Grote, Malek Lee and Ronnie Middleton; third row, from left, Alex Cornett, Shawn Markovic, Dmitry Espinoza, Ricky Gordon and Evan Miller; fourth row, from left, Joe Carnahan, Vincent Clark, Brad Anderson and Corey Stegemeier.
The Granite City Warriors fielded a fairly young team in 2013 and it led to them taking their lumps in the stacked Southwestern Conference.
Head coach Carl Luehmann thinks the experience gained in a 2-7 season, 1-6 in the SWC, will lead to better play on the gridiron in 2014.
“They got thrown into the fire last year in the Southwestern Conference and they got a rude awakening for what it is to play in the Southwestern Conference,” Luehmann said. “That year of experience should help them going into the season this year. We’ve got 18 seniors back, so that’s always good to have a good number of seniors going into the next season.”
The Warriors did lose leading receiver and scorer Quinton Jackson to graduation. Jackson scored 11 touchdowns for GCHS a year ago.
Junior Gabe Jarman will be returning at quarterback, though. As a sophomore Jarman had a 50 percent completion percentage and threw for 1,303 yards, while tossing 10 TDs and 16 interceptions.
With Jarman’s work ethic, Luehmann thinks he will show progression this in ‘14.
“Gabe is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached,” Luehmann said. “He’s a great kid and that’s what you need at quarterback at this level. He’s a good leader and he got great experience last year. He’s improved to where we want him to be this year.”
At running back Luehmann is still figuring it all out, but he foresees a few different guys hauling the rock for the Warriors.
“At running back we’re going to be doing it by committee,” Luehmann said. “We’ve got three running backs we’re going to be working in. We’ve got Malek Lee, Shawn Markovic and maybe an underclass kid.”
Wide receiver will see a group of weapons with senior Stephen Goodrich at the top of the list. He, along with fellow seniors Clifford Burris, Jovondre Cotton and Ricky Gordon, as well as juniors Darrion Flemons and James Huskamp, should be looking to make receptions for Granite City.
Luehmann believes his offensive line should be a strong point. GCHS returns some experience there and looks for seniors Alex Cornett, Ronnie Middleton and Corey Stegemeier and junior Caleb Venne to be contributors.
Defensively, Luehmann thinks the Warriors should be good, too. After allowing a league-high 365 points in 2013, he sees things trending in a better direction for the 2014 campaign.
“Defensively I think we’ll be better this year,” Luehmann said. “We’ve got a good linebacker corps, a good defensive line and some good senior leadership. We’ve got some kids that have really learned the defensive scheme for this year.”
Lee should anchor that linebacking corps. He was second on the squad with 49 total tackles, as well as having two sacks and a fumble recovery in 2013.
The Warriors open the season with Jerseyville of the Mississippi Valley Conference at 7 p.m. Friday on the road. The home opener is 7 p.m. Sept. 5 vs. Riverview Gardens. Luehmann knows how crucial those non-conference games will be with the rugged SWC and perennial powers like Edwardsville, East St. Louis and O’Fallon waiting on the league slate.
“I think our schedule is a good schedule for us,” Luehmann said. “Our top echelon in our conference, we’ve got three or four of the top 10 teams in the whole St. Louis area already, one and two in Edwardsville and East St. Louis. Then there’s Belleville West, O’Fallon; those schools year in and year out are tough. We’re a ways from getting up in that top echelon right now.”
GRANITE CITY ROSTER
72 Brad Anderson
1 Cliff Burris
42 Joey Carnahan
50 Vincent Clark
65 Alex Cornett
11 JoVandre Cotton
68 Dmitry Espinoza
80 Stephen Goodrich
3 Ricky Gordon
18 Drew Grote
81 Cody Keough
21 Malek Lee
25 Shawn Markovic
73 Ronnie Middleton
15 Evan Miller
33 Joe Moran
61 Corey Stegemeir
16 Austin Yeager
55 Jonathan Buckingham
24 Brant Bushue
5 Darrion Flemons
10 Gabe Jarman
20 Jordan Martin
52 Caleb Venne
7 Rheem Beckwith
26 Brandon Bettag
60 Jonathan Bloomquist
35 Trevor Corey
54 Hayden Day
22 Torrey Deal
56 Ryan Earney
62 Chase Gansner
51 Tyler Heath
78 TaMojia Johnson
70 Trevor Nolan
47 Jon Smelser
32 Kyle Thompson
23 Kendrick Williaba
GRANITE CITY FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Aug. 29, 7 p.m. at Jerseyville
Sept. 5, 7 p.m. vs. Riverview Gardens
Sept. 12, 7 p.m. at Belleville West*
Sept. 19, 7 p.m. vs. Collinsville*
Sept. 26, 7 p.m. at Alton*
Oct. 3, 7 p.m. vs. East St. Louis*
Oct. 10, 7 p.m. at Belleville East*
Oct. 17, 7 p.m. vs. Edwardsville*
Oct. 24, 7 p.m. vs. O’Fallon*
*denotes Southwestern Conference game