Center & Guard: Don't Expect Round Two To Be A Repeat

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It’s Saturday. You are dressed head to toe in red and black. You’ve been humming the Nokomis fight song in your head since Tuesday and anytime someone says “All it takes...” you scream/reply “All you got.” back at them. You’re ready and so are the Redskins.

But what do you need to know about Central A&M? First off, they’re good, but you probably know that if you saw them beat Nokomis in week two 45-14 in Assumption. But don’t make an assumption (see what I did there) that this game is going to be a blowout for the Raiders. A lot has happened since then.

After starting the season with wins against LeRoy and Nokomis, the Raiders ran into a buzzsaw in the form of 9-0 Decatur St. Teresa, who won 34-0. That was actually one of the Bulldogs’ closer games as their average margin of victory was 40 points this year.

Following a forfeit win over Clinton, Central A&M then lost to Tuscola 20-14. While Tuscola finished the season just 4-3, they’re typically a Class 1A power and held Central A&M to just 151 yards of offense.

The Raiders would win the next game 29-6 over Warrensburg-Latham, they would lose senior quarterback James Paradee to injury in the first half.  Sophomore Drew Damery stepped in for the Central A&M standout and got the start the next week, throwing for 155 yards in a 43-0 win over Meridian.

Week eight would yield Central A&M’s third loss of the season as they fell to 8-1 Camp Point Central by a 44-14 final score. The Raiders were down 24-14 at halftime, with the Panthers scoring three touchdowns in the second half to turn it into a rout.

Paradee would be back in that game, but Damery remained at quarterback for the Raiders.

A&M closed out the regular season with a 22-7 victory over a Shelbyville team that is also in the playoffs. Damery threw for 142 yards, all but five of which went to Paradee, who also rushed for 86 yards on 11 carries.

Junior running back Brody Barnes also had 135 yards on the ground, surpassing his previous season-best of 122, which came against Nokomis.

The Redskins don’t have to stop Barnes (Tuscola came the closest with 38 yards on 10 carries), but keeping him from breaking free would go a long ways toward slowing the Raider offense.

The same goes for Paradee, who is one of the most dangerous players in Class 1A when healthy. He had 129 yards rushing and four touchdowns, plus 145 yards passing, against Nokomis in round one. If Paradee does that again, the Redskins might have trouble catching up.

Throw in junior Will Thompson (455 yards rushing on 56 carries) and Damery (368 yards passing) and Central A&M has a pretty potent offense.

But so do the Redskins. Their only losses have come against the Raiders and undefeated Pana, and they held the Panthers to their lowest scoring total of the season.

With the return of Landon Engelman last week, Nokomis has four runners with at least 450 yards this season. Coach Paul Watson has made sure that Matt Hill (806 yards, 10 TDs), Jake Watson (774 yards, 12 TDs), Jake Johnson (652 yards, 9 TDs) and Engelman (464 yards, 7 TDs) have all been busy, rotating through the running backs in what seems like a never ending cycle of senior standouts capable of taking it to the house at a moment’s notice.

Throw in quarterback Connor Overby (274 passing yards, 174 rushing yards), and receivers Cooper Bertolino (102 yards receiving) and Isaac Satterlee (46 yards receiving) and Nokomis has the ability to pass a little if they want to.

All seven of the aforementioned players are seniors and along with fellow 12th graders Nolan Ernst, Kaden Cook, Tanner Woolard, Kaleb Kuhn and Wyatt Dooley, they make up the heart and soul of the Redskins.

When they lost to Central A&M the first time, they didn’t hang their heads, they just got ready for next week. When Engelman broke his arm in the very next game, they rallied around their fallen star and gutted out a win over East Alton-Wood River. And when Pana came calling, they didn’t shy away from the undefeated Panthers, but rather gave the South Central Conference power everything they wanted and more.

When the biggest moments arrived, they answered the call. All it takes, is all you got and undoubtedly, they’ll give it their all.

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