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 Friday, Sept. 19, the 262nd day of 2014. There are 103 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: Charles M. Osborn of this city, a lawyer of prominence, who voted for Lincoln in 1860 is now out strong for McClellan and will take the stump for him.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The George Fleming company had begun its dried fruit packing in a branch plant on 16th Street, Rock Island, employing nearly a hundred workers.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The cornerstone of the new Eagles home was laid. Building committee members were John Kobeman, Fred Ehmke and Frank Wich.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Former Kaiser Wilhelm, in exile, is sad as the Nazis march with communists.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Ninety-two members of the acappella choir at Davenport's West High School today accepted an invitation to perform at the New York World's Fair on June 13, 1965.
1989 -- 25 years ago: A Rock Island woman is one of 50 winners of $10,000 in cash in the Illinois State Lottery's "Celebration "89" instant ticket game. Dawn Loeffler was the third winner to be chosen through daily drawings that began Aug. 28 and will run 50 consecutive days.

(More History)