By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
Illini West gets physical
Illini West football coach Lyle Klein thought the Chargers played too soft during the two weeks preceding their 22-7 win over Macomb last Friday. A new approach assured that wouldn't happen again.
"What we did last week was we hit on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday," Klein said. "If it hadn't stormed last week, we would have hit the night before the game too. ... We took time and focused on ourselves. We were the ones making the mistakes and turning the ball over."
Senior offensive lineman Braxton Squier thought it made an impact.
"After the Quincy Notre Dame game, Coach told us we're going to watch film on Monday and hit every day," Squier said. "That's what we did. It made us more motivated for the game and to work hard all week. We showed that hard work on the field."
The Chargers (4-2, 2-2 West Central Conference) were led by Leighton Johnson, who powered his way for 142 yards on 22 carries. While Illini West still made mistakes -- the Chargers first two possessions ended in lost fumbles -- Klein thought the team was more physical.
"I felt like there were some players that really benefitted from it," Klein said. "It changed our mindset as far as the intensity of practice. We usually have a fast-paced intense practice. Our intention was fully on the task at hand. There were no distractions. Hopefully, the same thing happens this week. We're going to stick to that form of practice since it worked. We're making sure we're not over-hitting them, but hitting them enough."
Knox County gets back on track
When Knox County football coach Alex Van Delft looked at the Eagles' 1-4 record, he knew things needed to change. So Van Delft shifted Nat Harder from tackle to guard and Brandon Schrag from guard to tackle.
While the Eagles struggled in the first half in their 24-12 win over Putnam County last Friday, they found some rhythm in the second half. Knox County returned two interceptions for touchdowns to score 24 unanswered points.
"I talked all season long about getting better," Van Delft said. "I was getting frustrated because I felt like some of the younger guys hadn't gotten it. The freshmen and sophomores started to play like juniors last week, and if they continue to do that, we can be a pretty good football team."
Knox County senior quarterback/defensive back Donovan Edwards returned an interception for a touchdown and rushed for 136 yards even though Van Delft wasn't sure Edwards was going to play until game day.
"Donovan's been banged up since Week 3," Van Delft said. "I asked him last week if he wanted to sit out and get healthy the next few weeks. He didn't want to. He wanted to be out there with his teammates. When he's out there, even if he's not 100 percent, if he's at 80 percent, Donovan is good enough to get us in the win column."
Highland gets first win
Once the schedule finally lightened up, Highland responded with a 35-14 Clarence Cannon Conference vicotry over Mark Twain. Prior to last week, the Cougars (1-5, 1-5 CCC) played the top five teams in the league, were outscored 184-35 and were shutout twice.
Against winless Mark Twain, the Cougars found some rhythm to their offense. Austin Richmiller tossed a pair of touchdown passes, and Dalton Sparks scored on a run. Highland coach Kenny Grubb said winning gave the Cougars a big boost heading into the last three weeks.
The Cougars will also benefit from their schedule as Highland's last three opponents -- South Shelby, Monroe City and Louisiana -- have a combined record of 4-14.
"A win gives you confidence," Grubb said. "I think that's something our kids were lacking at times. Obviously, winning breeds confidence.
"You don't get a week off in this conference, it doesn't matter if you're playing a winless team or a team that hasn't lost. You have to bring the intensity every week."