COAL CITY – In its first game under head coach Jason Spang, Peotone scored 32 points, which is respectable but remains the lowest any opponent has totaled against Dwight.
The next week, Peotone was limited to 167 yards of total offense in a 12-7 loss at Seneca. The Blue Devils then had to enter Interstate Eight Conference Large play, where they were 1-4 last season.
By Week 3, the Blue Devils were starting to produce for Spang. They blew out Herscher 44-14, and following a 25-21 loss to Plano, they outscored Manteno and Sandwich by a combined margin of 53-0.
“I’ve seen Week 1. I’ve seen what they’ve done week in and week out. They’re improving,” Coal City coach Lenny Onsen said. “It was the first game for their new head coach with their system. They’ve made some adjustments and some changes, and again, very solid.”
Peotone’s defense, which is untouched since allowing Plano 18 fourth-quarter points, faces a Coal City offense that had 158 total yards, including 5 passing yards, in a 35-14 loss to Plano last week. For the season, Coal City ranks fourth in the I-8 Large in scoring offense with 136, and Peotone’s 58 points allowed are a conference low.
Coal City quarterback Brennen Shetina has completed 37-of-80 passes for 480 yards with four touchdowns and seven interceptions on the season. He doubles as the Coalers’ leading rusher with 273 yards and nine touchdowns on 74 carries. His top receiver, Lane Cowherd, has 16 catches for 214 yards and a touchdown and is also a weapon as the placekicker, making 16-of-17 extra points and his only field-goal try.
“I think we just have to be more comfortable blocking. I think a lot of it was [Plano] running the three-man front, like having a guy over the center,” Coalers lineman Bailey DePodesta said. “I think it’s just more communication. We had a lot of guys going both ways and stuff on the line. We had to take a kid out because he wasn’t really comfortable playing.”
Of the 1,627 yards gained by the Peotone offense this season, senior tailback Jake Rapson is responsible for 867, including 795 on the ground. He has rushed for 12 of the team’s 21 offensive touchdowns. Two other Blue Devils – Joey Janutis and quarterback Brandon Wenzel – have more than 100 rushing yards, and Wenzel has completed 30-of-84 passes for 362 yards with three touchdowns and six interceptions.
“They’ll spread it out. They’ll have a 3-by-1, a 2-by-2 look, and then all the sudden they’ll come into a wishbone look, power-I look, double-tights looks. So they’re very versatile,” Onsen said of the Blue Devils. “The thing is, we gotta make the adjustment quickly, cause they’re trying to go fast, speed things up.”
The 35 points allowed to Plano were a season high for the Coalers, who allowed only 260 total yards and forced three turnovers despite the score. Parker Czaja has emerged as the statistical leader of the defense with 37 solo tackles, 18 assists, three sacks, two tackles for a loss and one fumble recovery.
“I just think we have to be very physical like we were with Sandwich and just take away the run,” Coal City linebacker Kasey Kaiser said. “We’re not worried about the pass. I think if we just step up, fill our gaps and play physical, we won’t have a problem with it, or [Rapson].”