Big 6 football coaches expect improvement

Originally Posted Online: Sept. 04, 2014, 9:14 pm
Last Updated: Sept. 04, 2014, 11:33 pm
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By Steve Tappa,

Everyone from job seekers to a girlfriend's parents swear there's only one chance to make a first impression.

However, Dave DeJaegher knows first hand, a season-opener in high school football is merely the starting point of a season-long journey full of learning experiences. After all, the Alleman head coach's first of three state runner-up finishes came after debuting the 2005 campaign with a loss. Same with last year, when the Pioneers reached Class 4A's state semifinals against eventual champion Rochester despite falling in the opener at Peoria High.

So even though those same Lions sent scribes to the record books to put into context a lopsided 50-7 decision over Alleman last weekend, DeJaegher is hardly pushing the panic button.

"No question, they exposed that we have an awful lot to work on," said DeJaegher, the dean of the Western Big 6 Conference coaches with 108 victories in 14 seasons at the Alleman helm. "It's tough to lose an opener because you feel like you're fighting uphill after that. The pros get four preseason games to correct things, but unfortunately, we have to learn under fire. Everybody wants to start well, but when you don't, that just means you have to stay committed to getting better."

The Pioneers are far from alone, with local Big 6 teams going 1-3 in last weekend's debuts, and that one winner, Rock Island, also knowing improvements are necessary.

Football coaches forever have pointed to Week 2 for hopefully seeing dramatic, seven-day growth in their team, and this season is no exception locally.

— Last week:
Lost to state-ranked Peoria High, 50-7 for the Pioneers' biggest loss since Dave DeJaegher's first season as head coach in 2001. That's when a 4-5 team was blanked by Moline (49-0), Geneseo (42-0), United Township (41-0) and Rock Island (24-0).
— Tonight: At Galesburg (1-0) for the debut of completely renovated VanDyke Field. Alleman last started 0-2 in a winless 1993 campaign.
— Bright spot: "I'm not sure there was one," DeJaegher said. "It was a rough night. Peoria surprised us with an expanded offense and a new defensive scheme, but that can happen in openers when you really don't know what to expect."
— Biggest concern: Alleman was outgained 583-71.
— Practice focus: "Blocking, tackling and (defensive) pursuit to the ball," DeJaegher said.
— DeJaegher: "We came out of the opener believing we made a mistake by not hitting a lot more in the preseason. We were trying to stay healthy and avoid injuries, but we made that adjustment in practice this week, feeling we need to get in more work."

— Last week:
Surrendered a pair of fourth-quarter scores and a nine-point lead to allow Galesburg to escape, 26-22, in a Western Big 6 Conference clash.
— Tonight: At state-rated Peoria High (1-0).
— Bright spot: "The (offensive) line got off the ball, the backs were blocking for each other, and our runners hit the holes a little harder," said Moline coach Matt Woods, pointing to 105 yards and two TDs by newcomer Shaquon Davis. "The defense also had a goal-line stand at the end to give us a shot to win. So we saw tremendous growth."
— Biggest concern: Moline, a minus-17 in turnover margin last season, fumbled twice and suffered an interception.
— Practice focus: "We're still doing what we did on Day 1," Woods said. "Fundamentals. Being aggressive. Being physical. We're on the right track."
— Woods: "Attitude is everything. We have to stay positive and hope we stay as healthy as we can. We've got a bunch of young guys playing in new spots working hard and learning and getting better every week. We play a schedule that doesn't allow for a week off, so our effort has to continue."

Rock Island
— Last week:
Won at Peoria Manual, 19-12, to extend a 25-game losing streak for the Rams.
— Tonight: Hosts four-time state finalist Peoria Richwoods, which fell 42-0 last week to state-rated Peoria Notre Dame.
— Bright spot: Rocky overcame road adversity including a key injury, 123 yards in penalties and two lightning delays. The new quarterback, sophomore Alek Jacobs, hit on 4 of 8 passes for 102 yards and a TD in his varsity debut.
— Biggest concern: The health of running back/linebacker Prince Gbeddeh, who suffered a dislocated knee last week, and lays in a Peoria hospital with the rare complication of a severed artery from what's normally a minor injury. Season-ending surgery looms.
— Practice focus: Improving a pass defense that benefited from Manual dropping three potential touchdown passes.
— Stortz: "We are a young team, trying to learn and grow as fast as we possibly can. We did lose some focus on the ability to do our jobs at a high level. We have to work on and get better at that."

United Township
— Last week: Lost 37-14 at Big 6 favorite Quincy.
— Tonight: Hosts Peoria Manual (0-1).
— Bright spot: The Panthers' new read-option attack produced a pair of second-half scoring drives to rally from a 24-0 third-quarter deficit and get UT within 24-14. Dakari Mars led the way with 117 yards and a TD.
— Biggest concern: The Panthers were their own worst enemy, with 92 yards on 11 penalties, an interception returned for a score and the defense surrendering 251 yards on the ground and 363 total.
— Practice focus: Cleaning up the little mistakes and tackling better on defense.
— Kirby: "I hate that we lost. I love that I know we were in the game, fought and played physical."


Local events heading

  Today is Monday, Oct. 20, the 293rd day of 2014. There are 72 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The store of Devoe and Crampton was entered and robbed of about $500 worth of gold pens and pocket cutlery last night.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Michael Malloy was named president of the Tri-City Stone Cutters Union.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Dewitte C. Poole, former Moline newspaperman serving as vice consul general for the United States government in Paris, declared in a letter to friends that the once gay Paris is a city of sadness and desolation.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Plans for the construction of an $80,000 wholesale bakery at 2011 4th Ave. were announced by Harry and Nick Coin, of Rock Island. It is to be known as the Banquet Bakery.
1964 -- 50 years ago: An application has been filed for a state permit to organize a savings and loan association in Moline, it was announced. The applicants are Ben Butterworth, A.B. Lundahl, C. Richard Evans, John Harris, George Crampton and William Getz, all of Moline, Charles Roberts, Rock Island, and Charles Johnson, of Hampton.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Indian summer is quickly disappearing as temperatures slide into the 40s and 50s this week. Last week, highs were in the 80s.

(More History)