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Rod Rutledge Jersey Retro

On Thanksgiving Day 2000, with 4:13 left in the fourth quarter, Detroit led New England 34-9. Drew Bledsoe had just thrown a pick-six. Ballgame over. Most of the 77,923 in the old Silverdome headed to the exits, if they already weren’t in cars headed home.

(Gary Moeller 34, Bill Belichick 9, by the way.)

On the verge of being 3-9, the Patriots yanked franchise QB Bledsoe and sent in a skinny sixth-round rookie for his first NFL snaps, playing out the string in a nothing game. Tom Brady was the fourth quarterback used by Belichick that season, following Bledsoe, Michael Bishop and John Friesz; the coach was just trying to see who he had for the future.

“All I remember,” said New England’s second-year center, Damien Woody, “is we’re getting our teeth kicked in at the Silverdome. Lotta fights in the stands that day. Very rowdy.”

Brady’s first pass: off the hands of running back J.R. Redmond; incomplete. Second pass: an out route to the right, incomplete for the late Terry Glenn. Third pass: a completion to Redmond, negated by a Patriot penalty.

Brady’s third official pass: complete to tight end Rod Rutledge in the right flat for six yards. That was the lone completion of Brady’s rookie season.

“I get this question all time,” Rutledge said the other day. “ ‘What do you remember about the play?’ My answer is always the same: Not very much. The moment was insignificant. Nothing to look at. I remember Tom being calm and cool in the huddle, but it was just a regular football play. I caught it, and onto the next play.”

The next season, Brady’s determination and work ethic kept catching Belichick’s eyes, and he earned the backup job to Bledsoe. “Bill was purging the roster, and adding guys, and Tom kept leapfrogging guys,” Woody said. “He leapfrogged Friesz, and Bishop. He was just methodical. Every day he kept playing and doing things right.”

My call to Rutledge was only the 4,000th reminder about this one moment that seemed so insignificant at the time, in one game that was a lost cause, in one season that was a trial for the future.
Rod Rutledge Jersey Retro

“People see on my Wikipedia page I caught the first completion of Tom’s career,” Rutledge said from Alabama, where he is in real estate. “So it’s a conversation-starter. Then they’ll say, ‘Do you still have the ball? Did you keep the ball?’ Did I keep the ball? Are you kidding? It was just a play.”

Swede Erickson Jersey Retro

CASPER, Wyo. — There is plenty of basketball skill in the Robertson family.

Kate Robertson is a senior member of the Natrona County High School Fillies basketball team. She has decided to play for the Casper College Lady Thunderbirds next year.

Her two older sisters and parents were at the Swede Erickson Gymnasium on Wednesday, Dec. 11 as Kate signed her commitment to play in front of a Casper crowd when she goes to college.

Kelly Walsh came so close last season that the stinging quarterfinal loss to Cheyenne East has followed the Trojans from Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym all the way to their home court. That 44-42 loss ended hope of clearing the hurdle and advancing to the semifinals.
Swede Erickson Jersey Retro

Instead, that hope has been passed along to this season with even more urgency.

The Trojans return three of their top five scorers from last season, including Danilynn Schell (12.0 per game) and Corin Carruth (8.8). They also have seniors Sarah Strube and Isabel Lyons, who played significant roles on the three-time state championship volleyball team in the fall. Add the big-minute potential of Rachel Schmucker, Jayla Johnson and Barrett Lloyd, and the stars may be aligning for the Trojans this season.

On paper, Kelly Walsh checks a lot of boxes. There’s strength in the paint between Carruth, Johnson and Schmucker, as well as athleticism on the outside with Schell, Strube, Lyons and Lloyd. Their offense struggled for consistency at times — shooting just 34.2 percent and averaging a middle-of-the-road 43.7 points — but their defense always came through.

Kelly Walsh led 4A last season by allowing just 36.0 points per game and holding opponents to under 30 percent (29.5) from the floor.

One of the Trojans’ glaring weaknesses last year came on the boards, finishing the year in the negative rebounding margins. Another bulletin board item this year is likely possession after the Trojans averaged 17.5 turnovers last season.

More than statistics, however, there’s that souring feeling from the quarterfinal loss. That final-moment loss kept Kelly Walsh from its first semifinal berth since 2009. A full decade later and the Trojans take the court with a full, talented senior class and the ambition of a first-round win.

John Baker Jersey Retro

ORLANDO, Fla. — Update: The Orlando Police Department said John Baker was located.

The Orlando Police Department is searching for a missing 15-year-old boy.

Officials said John Baker was last seen in the area of Colonial Plaza Mall in the 2400 block of East Colonial Drive.

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Officers said he was last seen wearing an Ohio State Buckeyes T-shirt.

They said he is autistic and has the mental capacity of a 6-year-old.

Baker stands 5-feet, 11 inches tall and is 150 pounds.

Anyone with information regarding Baker’s location is urged to call law enforcement.

The Tulsa Press Club will honor Cherokee Nation Businesses Executive Chairman and former Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker as the Tulsa Press Club’s 2019 Headliner of the Year on Saturday, Nov. 23.

The 2019 Headliner of the Year Award will take place in the Sky Room on the 18th floor of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. An honoree reception for sponsors begins at 6 p.m. The dinner and program begin at 7 p.m.

Tulsa Press Club & Benevolent Society annually recognizes Tulsa-area civic, business and professional leaders that made headlines over the past year for their unselfish contributions to the growth, prosperity, people and culture of Tulsa and the surrounding areas.

In August of this year, Baker completed two terms in office, serving the largest tribal nation in the United States. He leaves a lasting impact on the health and economic prosperity of the Cherokee people.

“We could not think of an individual who has better embodied the traits of a Headliner over the past several years than Chief Baker,” Claire Johnson, president of the Tulsa Press Club, said. “With his signature achievement, the new Cherokee Nation Outpatient Health Center opening this fall, it’s also a timely way to honor Chief Baker’s service to the Cherokee people and to all of Oklahoma.”

Baker will join a prestigious list of Headliners of the Year, including honorees, such as W.K. Warren (1956), W.G. Skelly (1957), Dan P. Holmes (1973), John C. Leake (1983), Peggy Helmerich (1987), Henry Zarrow (1991), Maxine Horner (1995), Roxana Lorton (1997), Jack Zarrow (1999), Robert Lorton (2000), Kathy Taylor (2004), Henry Bellmon (2006), Bill and Kathy LaFortune (2017) and Wilma Mankiller, who was honored in 2007, along with many other Oklahomans who have made the lives of their fellow statesmen better through civic duty and dedication to service above self.
John Baker Jersey Retro

Baker will also be presented with an original caricature drawn by Tulsa World cartoonist Bruce Plante.

Cowboy Hill Jersey Retro

The Cowboys rebounded from a crushing loss in week 10 with a nice road win in week 11. Dak Prescott, again, balled out and carried the offense to another stellar offensive day, throwing for 444 yards and three touchdowns en route to putting up 35 points on the scoreboard. Prescott has performed like an MVP candidate this season, ranking at or near the top of nearly every single quarterback statistic available.

There is no denying that the passing game has been the biggest factor for the Cowboys this season — and the reason why the Cowboys rank first in the NFL in total offense. That said, Ezekiel Elliott reached the end zone twice: once on the ground and another on a screen pass. Zeke was held to just 2.8 yards per carry on 16 rushes though, as well as losing a fumble on the second offensive play of the game.

The Cowboys have given more opportunities to the only rookie that is making any kind of real impact this season: fourth-round rookie running back Tony Pollard. The Memphis Tigers product has shown flashes of being a factor as both a receiver and as a runner. Sunday was no different.

With Kellen Moore and Co. putting more on his plate, the rookie responded in a major way. Pollard only carried the rock twice for a total of 12 yards, but the Cowboys utilized the back through the passing game: four catches for 44 yards and one touchdown.

Blogging The Boys

@BloggingTheBoys
RT if you’ve been screaming for the Cowboys to use Tony Pollard like this all season

(via @dallascowboys)

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The Cowboys lined Pollard out wide as a receiver on a third-and-5 play early in the second quarter. Dak Prescott was able to find Pollard wide open on a crossing route over the middle, and the rookie did the rest as he hit paydirt and put the Cowboys in the lead.

Pollard’s usage in the game plan has been inconsistent from week-to-week, but it is clear that he has been a factor in Cowboys wins. As Jeff Cavanaugh tweeted out on Monday, the Cowboys are a perfect 6-0 when Pollard sees the field for at least 13 snaps. On the flip side, Dallas is 0-4 when Pollard plays less than that:

Jeff Cavanaugh

@JC1053
When Tony Pollard had snap counts of 22, 16, 23, 19, 13, 13 Cowboys win.

When Tony Pollard had snap counts of 2, 5, 7, 3 Cowboys lose.#math

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Pollard has seen his role change from being a runner (13 carries, 103 yards, one touchdowns versus the Miami Dolphins) to being a receiver out of the backfield (like his performance versus the Lions this past week). It is easy to see that Pollard offers versatility and adds another dimension to this offense.

Furthermore, the Cowboys go on the road to play the New England Patriots this week. It is no secret just how good the Patriots’ defense is, but there are some areas of weakness to attack — such as using two running back sets against their linebackers. Zeke should see the field a lot on Sunday, but there also needs to be a role for Pollard.

Sigmund Bloom
@SigmundBloom
ATTN Garrett and Moore: https://twitter.com/Marcus_Mosher/status/1196287340370694145 …

View image on Twitter
Marcus Mosher

@Marcus_Mosher
Please give me more Tony Pollard touches.

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The others:
The fact of the matter is that the Cowboys 2019 draft class has been very underwhelming, especially when looking at the members outside of Pollard. For that reason, we are grouping the rest of the rookie class together.
Cowboy Hill Jersey Retro

Trysten Hill: The second-round selection has been a healthy scratch for the majority of his rookie campaign. That did not change versus Detroit.
Connor McGovern: The third-round offensive lineman was shut down for injury prior to the regular season.
Joe Jackson: The fifth-rounder out of Miami has made the active roster this season, but he was inactive on Sunday.
Donovan Wilson: The rookie safety out of Texas A&M saw some action versus the Lions with Jeff Heath sidelined with an injury. Wilson impressed during the preseason, but only saw the field for one defensive play versus the Lions. Detroit scored on that play.

Tomur Barnes Jersey Retro

Illustrious basketballer Robert Horry has more NBA titles than Michael Jordan. But if Jordan was His Airness, Horry, in lifestyle terms, was His Groundedness. Being frugal helped the winner of seven NBA championships maintain his bank balance in a culture notorious for reckless spending. According to a survey by an American sports magazine in 2009, almost 60 per cent of basketballers went broke within five years of retiring, despite an average salary of $5 million a year.

“I did not have a dog with a diamond collar,” Horry, 48, says during his visit to Mumbai recently. “I was never flashy. I would see guys [basketball peers] with the shades on, the suits on, $1,000 bags. I had a teammate whose motto was, ‘If I make a million dollars, I must spend a million dollars’.

I was like, ‘If I make a million dollars I’m hoping I can keep a million dollars’.” Nicknamed ‘Big Shot Bob’ for his ability to score at key moments, the 6’9″ Horry now does commentary and runs sports and rehab centres in Houston. But he admits some of his financial moves failed.

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In 2011, he was sued by a business partner, Tomur Barnes, for defrauding him of his investment in Horry’s enterprise. According to a report, Horry said then that their contract was not enforceable.

“Sometimes, as an athlete, you think everything you touch can turn into gold. [But] Some things don’t turn into gold,” Horry says. “I had a couple of investments that didn’t go my way. That’s why I laugh at guys who say, ‘Oh, I’m going to open a clothing line, I’m going to start a restaurant’.
Tomur Barnes Jersey Retro

You think with brands like Chanel or whatever around they are going to go to your store? It [the business idea] has to be realistic.” There were times Horry loosened his purse strings and enjoyed his success. “I bought my mum a big house, my dad a big house and myself a big house,” he says. “I owned two Ferraris when I was playing [he retired in 2008 and now drives a Toyota Tundra pickup truck]. I also liked watches but have sold many of them. That’s where my frugal part kicks in.”

Nate Dingle Jersey Retro

In spite of the damage he’s caused, Nate Robinson (Jurrell Carter) is determined to get to know his family in Emmerdale — a fact which has caused plenty of conflict among the Dingle clan — but, as he receives a last minute invite to celebrate the festive season with the family he never knew he had, will Cain Dingle (Jeff Hordley) lose control? Nate has caused plenty of chaos since showing up in the village earlier this year.

Of course, his biggest sin remains the steamy affair he had with Moira (Natalie J Robb), and it later came to light that his motives in sleeping with the farmer was to antagonise Cain — who was revealed to be none other than Nate’s biological dad. After realising all of the anger he had for Cain was built on lies, Nate tried to make amends but the damage had been done — and Cain has made his stance incredibly clear: he wants nothing to do with him. ADVERTISEMENT In spite of this, Belle (Eden-Taylor Draper) and Sam (James Hooton) have shown Nate their support — as has Charity (Emma Atkins) — which has resulted in Cain voicing his feelings, berating his family for siding with the enemy. In the coming episodes, the festive season arrives, and Nate’s upset at the thought of being excluded from the celebrations as the Dingle clan discuss their plans for the big day.
Nate Dingle Jersey Retro

However, Nate later receives a last-minute invite to join them for the festivities. The big question is, of course, how will Cain react? Nate single-handedly destroyed his life, which is why he can’t stand to be in the same room as him, so he’ll no doubt be angry to discover that his own family have invited him to Christmas dinner.

Floyd Peters Jersey Retro

Michael Floyd Peters

March 25, 1941 – May 23, 2019

McCOOK, Neb. — Michael Floyd Peters of McCook passed away Thursday, May 23, 2019, at Cambridge Memorial Hospital, surrounded by his family. He was 78 years old.

Mike was born on March 25, 1941, at Inglewood, Calif., to parents, Floyd and Elaine (Reynolds) Peters. The family moved to the family farm near McCook when Mike was young. He graduated from McCook High School in 1959 and continued his education at McCook Community College, then Kearney State College, majoring in Spanish education.

On Sept. 15, 1962, he married Patricia “Pat” Hays at St. Patrick Catholic Church in McCook. This union was blessed with six children. Mike was manager of McCook Farm Service and later worked for Frenchman Valley as an agronomist, dedicating 20 years until his retirement this past fall.

Mike was an avid Husker fan, holding season tickets for both football and volleyball. He enjoyed his time in his yard and garden, especially mowing. The family enjoyed summer vacations in Estes Park, Colo. He served on the KRD Board and was a 20-year member of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as a weather reporter. Mike was known for his quick wit and sense of humor, telling a good story, and being patient. He loved to listen to music and spend time with his children and grandchildren.

Preceding him in death were his parents, Floyd and Elaine Peters and his wife, Pat Peters, on June 7, 2013.

Survivors include his three daughters, Jodi (Chad) Baker of Lincoln, Lori (Jim) Ruggles of McCook and Lisa (Josh) Beideck of McCook; three sons, Brian (Ginger) Peters of Albia, Iowa, Darren Peters of North Platte, and Kevin (Shannon) Peters of Jacksonville, Fla.; 17 grandchildren and one great-grandchild; brother, Dennis (Charlene) Peters of Williamsburg, Va.; sister, Susan Williamsen of Mesa, Ariz.; and special friend, Gladys Brockway and her son, Cory Brockway, of McCook; numerous family and a host of friends.

Memorials may be given in his name.
Floyd Peters Jersey Retro

Visitation was Monday, May 27, 2019, at Herrmann Jones Funeral Chapel in McCook, with family present. Words of comfort may be sent to the family at www.herrmannfh.com

Funeral services were today, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, 10:30 a.m. at Herrmann Jones Funeral Chapel with Jim Jones officiating. Burial will follow at Memorial Park Cemetery. The family requests you wear Husker attire for the funeral service.

Herrmann Jones Funeral Chapel of McCook entrusted with arrangements.

Wendell Davis Jersey Retro

BATON ROUGE – LSU passing game coordinator and wide receiver coach Joe Brady has been named the winner of the Broyles Award, which is presented to the top assistant coach in college football, the Frank and Barbara Broyles Foundation announced Tuesday in Little Rock, Ark.

Brady becomes LSU’s second winner of the Broyles Award, joining John Chavis who won the award as the Tiger defensive coordinator in 2011. Brady is also the first Broyles Award winner with a title other than offensive or defensive coordinator.

Brady, in his first year with the Tigers after spending two seasons on the New Orleans Saints staff, and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger have transformed the LSU offense into the most explosive unit in college football. The Tigers are averaging a school-record 47.8 points per game. The Tigers led the nation in total offense (554.3 yards per game) and rank No. 1 in the SEC and No. 2 nationally in passing offense (386.8).

“This award should say Joe Brady/Steve Ensminger,” Brady said on Tuesday in Little Rock. “I’m only at LSU because of Steve Ensminger. I’ll never forget that … There is not a greater person to work for than Steve Ensminger and there is not a greater person that cares more about LSU and the success of this program. He doesn’t want to take credit for anything. I’m so grateful for Steve, and I hope to be him one day.”

Overall, LSU’s offense racked up a school-record 621 points, scoring 50 or more points six times and going over the 40-point mark a record 10 times. Only one time all year was LSU held below 30 points.

In 13 games, the LSU offense cracked the 500-yard mark 10 times, which included 714 yards in a win over Ole Miss, the most yards ever recorded by a team in a game against another SEC opponent.

The Tigers also set school marks for passing yards in a season (5,029), passing touchdowns (49), and total offense (7,206).

Individually, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow – one of four finalists for the Heisman Trophy – has re-written the school record books as he’s the first quarterback in SEC history to throw for 4,000 yards and 40 TDs in a season. Burrow broke the SEC record for passing yards in a season with 4,715 and touchdowns with 48. He currently leads the nation in passing TDs and ranks No. 2 in the country in passing yards.

Burrow was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year on Monday by the Associated Press becoming the first Tiger to claim the honor since wide receiver Wendell Davis won the honor in 1987.
Wendell Davis Jersey Retro

Burrow, along with running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, represent the first group of players from the same team to have a 4,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers in the same season in SEC history.

Chase is one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award (Nation’s Best Receiver). Chase tied the SEC record for touchdown receptions this year with 18. He currently leads the nation in TD receptions, receiving yards (1,498) and yards per game (124.8).

Ray Crittenden Jersey Retro

As Eastern Illinois football toils through fall camp under first-year coach Adam Cushing, the JG-TC is examining each position group. Next in the series: the secondary.

Returning players: DB Corneliuss Page (R-Sr.), S Ray Crittenden (R-Jr.), S Edwyn Brown (R-Soph.), S Iziah Gulley (R-Jr.), S Bryce Dewberry (Soph.), CB Xzavier Shugars (R-Sr.), S Marcus Bornslater (R-Soph.), CB Mark Williams (R-Jr.), DB Charles Shelton IV (R-Fr.), CB Jordan Jackson (R-Jr.), CB Jonas Filer (R-Soph.), S Darius Waddell (R-Fr.), DB D.J. Perry (R-Soph.)

Incoming players: CB Donovan Perkins (Fr.), CB J.J. Ross (Fr.), CB Nile Hill (Fr.), CB Dylan Hughes (Fr.), CB T.J. Davis (Fr., walk-on), S Matt Ross (Fr.) DB Jordan Williams (Fr.), S Brandon Guido (Fr., walk-on), DB Connor Aldrich (Fr.)

Departed players: CB DySaun Smith (Sr.), DB Ryan Mosley (Fr.), WR/DB Javon Turner (Sr.)

Biggest offseason development: Smith, an 11-game starter at corner, is out of eligibility. As is Turner, a former Penn State wide receiver who started one game at corner in 2018. But those two are the only notable departed starters from last year’s secondary. Darshon McCullough and Courtney Rowell moonlighted as defensive backs last year but are now back at their original running back position. McCullough started three games at the “star” hybrid spot.

In short
EIU returns the primary starter at three of the four main positions. Both safety spots featured a revolving door of starters, but the primary guys (Brown and Crittenden) and the occasional starters (Gulley and Dewberry) are back. Page and Crosby both started at the star, along with McCullough.

Defensive coordinator Chris Bowers cautions against reading too much into that, though. He and Cushing don’t care who did what last year. No one has earned snaps based on their 2018 job title. Heck, the coaches don’t even know those titles.

“I’d read about us and think, ‘I wonder who they are,’” Bowers said. “I hadn’t paid attention. I think everyone knew from the moment we got here that from January 7 on would determine what happened.”

What to like
Bowers isn’t faced with identifying contributors from a cadre of entirely unknown commodities. While the receiver room and the offensive line faces that issue, EIU has eight defensive backs who have started at least three games in their careers. Mark Williams, the group’s most experienced player, started all but one game in his first two seasons at EIU.

“He has played a lot of football,” Bowers said. “He’s a heck of a player. You can trust him out there.”

That group should be past the stages of adjustment to the college game’s speed and complexity. Their growth has to come from technical improvement and execution of assignments, and that’s where the coaches will have their biggest impact.

Several of the returners played significant snaps early in their careers. Williams started as a true freshman. Brown and Gulley cracked the rotation to become starters as redshirt freshmen. Dewberry was a rotation player and three-game starter as a true freshman. Shugars was a part-time starter as a freshman and a regular in 2017 before an injury wiped out his 2018 season.

There’s experience, but the unit still youth and room to grow. Dewberry and Brown are still underclassmen, but it doesn’t quite feel like it because of their high snap counts as freshmen. Everyone except Page and Shugars has eligibility for 2020, giving EIU’s secondary a chance for anther offseason of continuity.

“The secondary’s going to be a mix,” Bowers said. “You have some old and young.”

That “young” includes nine freshmen defensive backs. Several of them have already seen the field a lot in call camp. With the NCAA’s four-game redshirt rule, it’s expected that most will have a chance to play at some point this season. But there likely will be some who don’t redshirt, because they instantly emerge as one of the unit’s best players. J.J. Ross, the former Cincinnati commitment who held some Power Five offers, is on his way to getting there.

“Our expectations are high,” Cushing said of Ross. “What’s been most impressive is that he came in this summer and was in great shape when he showed up. He’d been doing the workouts we sent him after he signed.”

After less than two weeks of practices, EIU already has some obvious candidates to start. It’d be a surprise if Williams did not open the season as a starter at one corner spot. Dewberry has stood out at safety. Nearly every play in 7-on-7 or full-team work, he seems to find his way around the ball.

“Bryce had a heck of a spring. He’s a quarterback for our defense,” Bowers said. “He combines great intellect and understanding of the defense with great instincts.”

The other safety spot and snaps behind Dewberry are still up for grabs. Brown, Jackson, Crosby and Crittenden figure to be in the mix in there, among other spots. Ross will have a chance to become a starter at the other corner spot, which remains pretty open.

“If we were playing a game tomorrow, Bryce Dewberry plays,” Bowers said. “Mark Williams plays. J.J. Ross will get a chance to play lot of snaps. Ray Crittenden has a great camp.”

Questions
There’s no hiding it: EIU fielded one of the FCS’ worst defenses a year ago. Only eight teams allowed more passing yards per game than the Panthers did. Is returning a large chunk of the players who comprised such an ineffective unit entirely a good thing?

“You’re the returning starter on the 118th-best defense in the country, that gave up 492 yards per game,” Bowers said.

Returning starters can be a deceiving stat because it assumes everyone who comes back a year older is automatically a better player. That’s not always the case. Sometimes a player just isn’t cut out for a starting job in a defense that wants to take a step forward. Bad coaching is often involved in poor-performing units, but there has to be some talent and ability present too.

That’s the devil’s advocate look at it.

On the other side, EIU’s defensive staff likes plenty of the returners, thinks they have room to develop and believes there are some impact players in that group. Progress there will be best seen over the course of the entire season. How much of it occurs will determine how much better EIU’s defense can become.

“The only way you really develop is to go play,” Bowers said. “Outside of the O-Line, who can go eat peanut butter and jelly and lift weights and get better, the rest really need game snaps to develop. And nowhere is that more true than the secondary.”

In line with that, Bowers said he expects six to eight of the freshmen to see the field against Chattanooga. The earlier they play, the earlier EIU knows what it has in them and how much they can be trusted.

EIU ran a 4-2-5 base last season under former defensive coordinator Cary Fowler. Bowers is keeping his plans secret other than saying, “we will be multiple.” With college football’s pass-happy ways, though, the nickel or hybrid linebacker/safety is at minimum a key part of the defense, if not part of its base.
Ray Crittenden Jersey Retro

Key stat
8.4 – the number of yards per pass the Panthers allowed in 2018, eighth-worst nationally.

Bold prediction
J.J. Ross becomes a starter by the end of September. He’s too skilled to sit on the bench and he possesses a college-ready frame (6-foot-1, 190 pounds). Cushing and staff have leaned on the coachspeak saying that they will play the best 11 guys. It’s hard to imagine he isn’t one of those by the end of the first month.

Warren Livingston Jersey Retro

It’s an easy thing to say you’re moving on past a tough football loss, but it’s another thing to actually succeed in doing it.

That’s especially so when the loss is 54-0 to an intense neighborhood rival, as Warren Hills’ opening setback to Phillipsburg was.

It was the kind of defeat that could have ruined a whole season, or at least a few weeks — but the Blue Streaks didn’t let it happen.

Senior captain Jake Smith and his teammates wouldn’t let it.

“What we did was like what we did after the Summit game last season (when the Streaks fell to 0-3 after a thumping by Summit),” Smith said. “We had to focus on what was next. We knew (the Phillipsburg loss) happened, and we had to take that game off our shoulders and move on to Governor Livingston. We did, and we won.”

A 24-6 defeat of the Highlanders proved an excellent reversal of form for Warren Hills, which now has some momentum heading into Friday’s Mid-State 38 crossover game against another local rival, North Hunterdon, in the renewal of the “Route 31 rivalry” at North’s Singley Field.

Blue Streaks coach George DiGrande knew he could count on Smith, one of the very few returning starters on his green-as-a-forest-in-June team, to deliver the kind of mental turnaround the squad needed.

“Jake is a passionate leader and vocal supporter (of his teammates),” DiGrande said. “An an old-school, throwback player, tough and physical.”

That last trait came in very handy against Governor Livingston.

“The difference between the Phillipsburg and Governor Livingston games was our physicality,” Smith said. “It was a lot better than it was against Phillipsburg. Not just on defense, but up front on offense, too. We felt much better, much more physical, for the entire game.”

The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Smith was a large part of the extra-physical play in the win.

“Jake sets the edge well on defense and can get upfield to rush the quarterback,” DiGrande said. “He is a stalwart at defensive end. Against Governor Livingston he had a crunching sack and fumble that (we) recovered.”

Jake Smith
Courtesy photo

Warren Hills’ Jake Smith sacks Governor Livingston quarterback Victor Chait, forcing a fumble, in Saturday’s 24-6 Blue Streak win.

Smith plays defensive end and tight end, after a short stay at offensive tackle earlier this season. He’s the sole returning Blue Streaks starter on offense and just one of two on defense.

While DiGrande liked Smith at tackle, he likes what Smith does at tight end even more.

“His skills allow us to use him in different ways at tight end, inside, in motion, and out wide,” DiGrande said. “Jake has good hands and blocking ability.”

The Blue Streaks had 254 total yards on offense against the Highlanders, 213 on the ground (177 by sophomore running back Jon Lainez), a considerable improvement from the sub-50 yardage against Phillipsburg. But Smith thinks there is even more in the tank.

“We did a good job on offense Saturday,” Smith said. “But I think we can play even better. I think I can play even better.”

Where the Blue Streaks may have improved the most is on defense, where they held Governor Livingston to one touchdown and had five takeaways.

“We were able to get a lot of pressure against the quarterback,” said Smith, who had 10 tackles against the Highlanders. “We were definitely stronger than their offensive line. We stopped their running game. (Defensive coordinator) Tony Frey put in a really good play against their single wing.”

Single wing? That old classic of an offense is rarely seen these days, but it can drive defenses crazy with misdirection and confusion. To be able to contain a single wing speaks wonders about the mental discipline and physical adaptability of the Warren Hills defense.

Now, Smith and the Blue Streaks must try and contain a North Hunterdon team that, like them, suffered a tough opening loss and bounced back strongly with a 20-0 defeat of Immaculata. The Lions piled up 309 yards rushing in the win.

“Defensively, we need to contain the run game within the tackles and stop the short pass game,” DiGrande said. “Reducing self-inflicted errors and turnovers will give us an opportunity to win in a hostile, loud environment.”
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That’s fine with Smith, who well remembers a thrilling last-minute 36-33 win over the Lions in 2018 in front of a rocking house at Warren Hills.

“That was a good time, and it will be another full atmosphere at North Hunterdon,” Smith said. “We just have to keep working hard and getting better.”