MINONK – Fieldcrest’s initial Saturday game of the season will bring in a first-time opponent to Veteran’s Park. West Carroll makes the two-and-a-half hour trip southeast to battle the Knights in the first round of the two A playoffs. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.
The Thunder, members of the Northwest Division within the Northwest Upstate Illini Conference, enters with a 6-3 record. They are undefeated in three contests versus two A competition, but are 2-3 against teams that made the postseason.
“They’re definitely run-oriented,” pointed out Fieldcrest coach Derek Schneeman, who added WC will line up out of the power I-formation. “They have some speed and athletes. They’re not real big. They have a lot of 5-10, 190-pound guys.”
WC features senior twins in quarterback Kody (1,163 yards passing, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions) and tailback Kaleb (620 yards rushing, 25 receptions for 451 yards) Plattenberger. The top rusher is senior fullback Kaleb Hartman (128 carries, 745 yards). Senior receiver Jacob Dunk adds 26 catches for 349 yards for the Thunder, who has scored 235 points.
According to Schneeman, the Knights have seen three Heart of Illinois Conference foes that used the power-I during the course of the regular season.
“It’s similar to EP-G (El Paso-Gridley). LeRoy ran a little bit of it and so did Tri-Valley,” he added.
Three seasons ago, the Thunder’s defense was horrendous, as they allowed 441 points. This year, they have shut out three opponents and yielded 107 points. Senior Devon Murray is their top defender at linebacker, while the Plattenberger twins are safeties. Murray is joined at linebacker by Hartman, as the Thunder operate out of a 4-4.
“They’re physical and they play low,” said Schneeman. “Personnel-wise, I think they’re similar to Eureka. Senior-dominated. They have a lot of senior starters.”
One advantage Fieldcrest has is the fact the NUIC does not see an offense that can throw it around the yard. Quarterback Cameron Grandy has completed 139 of 207 passes for 1,676 yards, 18 touchdowns to just three interceptions. Three of his receivers, Michael Morse (502), freshman Jaxon Cusac-McKay (449) and Derek May (429) have over 425 yards.
“As far as we know, they have not seen a spread team,” Schneeman said. “They have not seen anybody like us.”
According to Schneeman, May (concussion) has been cleared to play after he missed the Ridgeview/Lexington game. Micah Hurd suffered a knee injury versus R/L and is doubtful for WC as is Cam Milashoski (groin).
Matt Leitzen is in his third year as coach with a 15-13 record. The Thunder went 4-5 in 2016. The season before they went 5-5, but lost 22-0 in the opening round to another HOIC club, eventual two A champion Tri-Valley.
The winner likely faces the HOIC’s Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley in round two. They’ll host Eastland/Pearl City out of the NIUC in a Saturday afternoon matchup.
Notes: Savanna and Mt. Carroll consolidated in the fall of ‘05 to form WC (enrollment of 341). The school is located in Savanna, which lies along the Mississippi River near the Iowa border. Mount Carroll is the county seat for Carroll. This is their fifth postseason appearance. The Thunder’s lone victory in five games was a 28-0 road win over Illini West in ’07. Fieldcrest has a 2-5 record in first round playoff contests at home. They dropped the first five, but have been victorious over the last two under Schneeman.