Mat Mikesell

What to watch for in Week 1 of prep football

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 23, 2018 12:01 am Updated: Aug. 24, 2018 12:20 am

High school football is back, and we're treated with a full slate of games from the opening week.

In the past, the Missouri State High School Activities Association started its season one week prior to the Illinois High School Association. This year, the schedules start on the same day.

That gives us a look at both sides of the river from the start. Here are the things to watch for as the 2018 season kicks off:

Who ‘replaces' ?Pennewell?

Cole Pennewell was the foundation of the Monroe City football team from the fullback and linebacker positions last season.

The biggest task coach David Kirby has is finding a replacement, if one is possible for the Clarence Cannon Conference Offensive Player of the Year, and the opener against Centralia will be the first look.

Keenan Batsell saw time last season at starting fullback during the early rounds of district play when Pennewell was out with an illness. During that time, Batsell impressed and continued to get touches throughout the playoffs even when Pennewell returned. Perhaps his biggest play touchdown came against East Buchanan in the Class 1 state semifinals a year ago.

Defensively, Pennewell's younger brother Nolan played well late in the season -- his Ric Flair impression is solid, too -- and Hunter Lilly could fill in, too.

Central's opener ?has history

The Central football team had a thriller of an opening game last season on the road at Hardin Calhoun, losing 16-14 on the final play of the game. Central, however, got revenge in the opening round of the playoffs with a convincing 30-12 victory at home.

Calhoun returns to Camp Point Friday for what should be an intriguing matchup -- it seems like there's always an interesting matchup whenever the two schools meet -- and count on the Warriors wanting some revenge this time.

On paper, Central should be one of the top teams in the Western Illinois Valley Conference North Division with a boatload of returners, led by all-state back Cole Williams. This first game will be a true test at how dangerous Central can be this season.

Dezi giving football a try

Dezi Jones awed fans on the basketball court last season by scoring the most points in Hannibal program history.

Now, he's trying to replicate that on the football field.

Jones, now a senior, joins Mark St. Clair's team for the first time and is expected to play wide receiver and defensive back for the Pirates. Given Jones' athleticism, it isn't crazy to suggest he can help the Pirates out in some capacity, whether that's catching passes from quarterback Gabe Worthington or helping the secondary.

The Pirates went 6-5 last season -- an uncharacteristic year for the program -- and having an athletic weapon like Jones could give Hannibal a boost.

We'll see what Jones is capable of so far when Hannibal hosts Jefferson City Helias, a team the Pirates have won five straight games against.

Early POY candidates

Jirehl Brock, Quincy High School: Last year's Herald-Whig Player of the Year had a record-breaking season. Look for the Iowa State commit to do more of the same this year as he will break the program record for rushing yards in a career.

Cole Williams, Central: He's coming off an all-state season in the Panther's backfield and will be the anchor there once again. The Panthers have other backs at their disposal, but Williams may be the one that gets the ball in crunch time.

Caleb Lapsley, Clark County: He had a stellar season after he moved to the backfield midway through the season, and also led the Indians in tackling. Imagine the numbers he could have in the backfield in a full season.

Brock Wood, South Shelby: The running back is now seeing time at quarterback as the Cardinals move to a run-pass option offense this season. Wood ran for more than 1,000 yards last season, and looks to replicate that as he will have the ball in his hands nearly every snap.