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In the last four years, the Fieldcrest football team is 9-27, including 2-7 records in each of the past three seasons.
Coach Nate Lorton looks to turn things around with big guys in the Heart of Illinois Conference.
“We’re big up front on offense and defense. We think we’re going to be better at pounding the rock, pass blocking and be better at being hands on and getting off the ball on defense,” Lorton said. “That’s our strength and something we hang our hat on.
“Skill kids know that, too. They understand the importance of working to get the job done and they know it starts with the big guys in the trenches.”
The Knights lost only seven players to graduation.
In a program that has played and started many sophomores and juniors in the past few seasons, the experience might catch up.
Junior quarterback Jackson Puetz is the returning starter and classmate Grant Jochums returns as the starting running back after a successful sophomore season.
Puetz will be backed up by sophomore Drew Barth, who has taken a large amount of reps over the summer and in camp while Puetz nursed a broken wrist. “They’re both such good athletes and good football players,” Lorton said. “Whoever wins that spot, the other kid is going to be playing somewhere for us, either at wide receiver or slot back.
“(Puetz) is a tough kid, didn’t miss a whole lot. He’s been doing every rep out here. He’s a competitor, he wants that spot, he wants some spot on the field.” In the backfield opposite of Jochums will be sophomores Jack McDonough and Jordan Hamilton.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman or senior, these guys come out here to work together. They have to be bulldozers out there and our running backs know that,” Lorton said. “They work well together. They take pride in their jobs up front. If our backs make a mistake, they’re the first ones to recognize it. Our kids know they have to block up front.”
Lorton hopes the Knights improve in special teams.
Lorton said he has athletic and talented skill players and a line that could take the Knights to a higher level in the HOIC, but he has to have strong play from every unit on the team.
“Hopefully, our kicking game is a little better. It hasn’t been in the past. We need to get some better field position on our kickoffs,” Lorton said. “That has kind of been our Achilles heel the last two years. I think we got all of those kinks worked out. Being a better running team is going to help us, and being a better defensive team and kicking team is going to help us tremendously.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.