Raiders prep for challenge of slowing Lions' offense

Quincy Notre Dame linebacker Jack Marth, right, puts pressure on Lexington quarterback Johnathan Taylor (2) during the RaidersŐ season opener on Aug. 30. The QND defense will face its toughest task of the young season on Friday when the potent Peoria Central offense comes to Advance Therapy Field. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 12, 2019 12:40 am

QUINCY -- The game film was illuminating, not intimidating.

Watching how Peoria Central dismantled its first two opponents, scoring 152 combined points in victories over Champaign Centennial and Peoria Notre Dame, reminded the Quincy Notre Dame football players how dynamic, aggressive and explosive the Lions can be.

"I think most of the guys were like, ‘Oh, well, we've got to play them. We've got to play hard and play fast,'" QND junior linebacker Lake Bergman said. "Everyone just wanted to get ready to play."

There aren't any other options.

The juggernaut Lions visit Advance Physical Therapy Field at 7 p.m. Friday looking to showcase the state's highest scoring offense. The 96 points scored in Week 1 tied the single-game school record, and Peoria Central is well beyond the state-record scoring average of 57.5 points it established in 2016 at 76 points per game,

Such gaudy numbers are what the Raiders expected to see.

"We know they are a pretty good scoring team and we have to come out with all of our fire and come out hot," QND junior linebacker Ben Kasparie said. "When you watch, you see a lot of passing and a lot of good players. That's what we're up against."

There's nothing surprising about that.

"We tried to instill it in their heads early in the summer just how good this team is just so there are no secrets," QND coach Jack Cornell said. "When you have a team as talented as they are, guys are going to show respect."

Peoria Central has earned it.

The Lions won the Class 5A state championship in 2016 and have been an offensive dynamo since Tim Thornton took over as head coach in 2010. The explosive nature of his teams is a trademark he carried with him from Peoria Woodruff, although his teams never enjoyed much success against QND.

The Raiders won all four matchups with Woodruff from 2006-09 and are 7-0 against Thornton-coached teams all-time. QND went 11-1 against Peoria Central from 2001-12.

Knowing that adds to the Raiders' growing swagger.

"I think we're pretty confident," Kasparie said. "We have a lot of weapons we haven't used yet."

Peoria Central is very much the same, needing more than three-star recruit Kaevion Mack at wide receiver to be as efficient as it has been.

"There are a lot of weapons that they have, so we have to be disciplined and understand who each guy has in the equation and not try to do too much," Cornell said.

That's where on-field chatter becomes essential.

"We've got to make sure we're in the right coverage and we have to communicate," Bergman said.

Above all else, the Raiders have to tackle.

"We've been able to tackle well and rally to the ball on defense these first couple of weeks. That's what we're going to attempt to do," Cornell said. "You're not going to stop them from scoring, but the hope is you can slow them down. We'll try to control the ball a little more on offense and keep our defense off the field. That's going to be our best defensive strategy."