MINONK – When Fieldcrest last ventured southeast to Ford County, it was a long, long evening. Specifically, it was week seven of the 2015 season when the Knights were on the short end of a 52-0 score versus Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley.
Friday will be the first time Fieldcrest has returned as 3-0 GCMS entertains the 1-2 Knights in a large division Heart of Illinois Conference matchup with a 7 p.m. kick off.
“That game was one of the longest nights any of us have ever had,” recollected Knights’ coach Derek Schneeman. “It’s totally different. I think we’ll have a much better game.”
So far, the Falcons have been about as dominate as any team has been in the Land of Lincoln. GCMS has outscored opponents by a combined 126 to 12.
When asked if he’s detected any weaknesses in the Falcons, Schneeman has yet to find any.
“Not really. They’re pretty good at every position. We have to play our best game,” he said. “We have to match their energy.”
Senior back Jared Trantina has rushed 46 times for 296 yards and eight touchdowns, while senior quarterback Nathan Garard has completed 18 of 31 passes for 383 yards, four TDs and one interception. His two main threats are 6-foot-4 senior receiver Ryland Holt and 6-3 senior tight end Bryce Barnes. GCMS, who has six starters back on offense, operates out of the wing-T.
“I think you have to take away the run game,” explained Schneeman. “They’re so physical, they execute well and their backs run hard. I’ve been really impressed with Garard and his arm. He’s a good high school quarterback. He’s got two really good receivers in Barnes and Holt. We know they’re going to make some plays. We have to match their plays with our own plays.”
The first-string defense has yet to surrender a touchdown through three contests. Barnes (end), Trantina (linebacker), senior Joe Allen (nose tackle) and 270-pound senior Hayden Workman (tackle) are among eight starters back on defense. The Falcons operate out of a 3-3-5 scheme.
For the Knights, they’ll have to find a way not to turn the ball over. Through three games, they have been guilty of eight turnovers.
“We have to focus on taking care of the ball whether that’s putting two hands on the ball going through the line or at quarterback,” commented Schneeman. “We cannot turn the ball over against these guys because they’ll make you pay.”
Mike Allen is in his 18th season as head coach and has a record of 118-63. GCMS has a regular season win streak of 23 straight games. They edged Maroa-Forsyth 38-32 in the two A title game last November. The Falcons lead the all-time series with the Knights six to four.
Notes: In that ’15 encounter, the Falcons outgained Fieldcrest 258 to 11 on the ground. The Knights have not lost three in a row since ’16. Friday’s game can be heard via streamlive by logging onto the site www.tunein.com/radio/WGCY-1063.