Scouting Interstate Eight Small football
By David Oberhelman
Interstate Eight Conference Small Division
Teams: Herscher, Lisle, Peotone, Reed-Custer, Wilmington.
Key games: Wilmington at Lisle, Sept. 7; Lisle at Peotone, Sept. 14; Lisle at Herscher, Sept. 21; Peotone at Wilmington, Sept. 21; Herscher at Wilmington, Sept. 28.
Top players: Branden Bias, RB-LB, Peotone; Ryan Brewer, RB-LB, Peotone; Jesse Cox, OL-LB, Wilmington; Conner Dempsay, RB-DB, Wilmington; Matt Dorsey, RB-DB, Herscher; Caleb LaGrange, OL-DL, Reed-Custer; Josh Loomis, QB, Reed-Custer; Kyler Masching, LB, Herscher; Jay McGrath, QB, Lisle; Blake Ohrt, OL-DL, Herscher; Kevin Paz, OL-DL, Lisle; Jake Rodawold, RB-DB, Wilmington; Ryan Shepherd, LB, Reed-Custer; Mark Uthe, OL-DL, Peotone; Charlie Waldusky, OL-DL, Lisle; Zach Zikuda, OL-DL, Lisle.
Outlook: Wilmington's incredible stranglehold on the Interstate Eight Conference Small Division extends 10 straight unbeaten seasons, with 52 consecutive victories against divisional opponents. Owning a lifetime record of 216-55 plus the 2014 Class 3A title, Wildcats coach Jeff Reents is entering his 25th season, the minimum needed for his slam-dunk induction into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. In this final season of the current Interstate Eight lineup before Plano and Sandwich look elsewhere (Seneca and Westmont left after last school year, Westmont going independent this term), can "Wilmo" be had? Possibly. Peotone led the Wildcats 21-6 last season before allowing 21 unanswered fourth-quarter points. Lisle's margin of defeat has gone from 14 to 6 to 3 the last three seasons. Herscher, led by all-conference returner Matt Dorsey, comes over from the IEC Large. The Tigers have avoided Wilmington in crossovers the last two seasons while compiling records of 11-1 and 10-2. New Reed-Custer coach Gavin Johnston seeks a fresh start after a 2-7 season. Until beaten, Wilmington remains the favorite. The Wildcats, who've had the misfortune to meet IC Catholic in the playoffs the last two seasons, return all-stater Connor Dempsay, who scored 21 touchdowns, ran for 1,284 yards, and made 58 tackles in 2017. When not playing wingback he lined up at quarterback, where Wilmington also returns junior Kenton Hopwood. Peotone will retool up front after graduating five all-conference linemen, but Brewer and Bias affect both sides of the ball. Herscher likewise reloads after graduating nearly all of its offensive skill players. Where Peotone lost a lot of heft up front, Lisle returns four starting offensive linemen plus tight end Nick Martich, all in front of two-year starting quarterback Jay McGrath. If there is an edge against the reigning champs it may be this -- Lisle hosts the Wildcats while both Herscher and Peotone play at Wilmington, whose hog-wild pregame festivities may be worth a 3-point swing before kickoff.
Quotable: "As far as our schedule, we've got a very competitive schedule," said Lisle coach Paul Parpet Sr., an IHSFCA hall of famer. "We're playing every single team in the (IEC) Large but Plano. That's pretty tough. The conference is all up in the air."
-- Dave Oberhelman