FORRESTON, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — The last time a Forreston football team finished a football game it was celebrating another state championship. Now the Cardinals start back from scratch record-wise, but they’re hardly starting from scratch talent-wise.
For the third time in five years the Cardinals are coming off a state championship. The only thing this program hasn’t accomplished is win back-to-back titles. Championships aren’t the biggest motivating force though here for the players. It’s simply trying to make everyone in the Forreston proud of them.
“The carrot you could say is more just living up to those expectations within the community, within the program and within all of our alumni,” said head coach Kyle Zick.
The Cardinals return seven starters on offense including senior quarterback Bailey Cullor. And they have a stable of running backs ready to turn lose again. This group, believe it or not, could be faster than last year’s group. Dom Christensen can fly. He’s back after rushing for 710 yards last season. Gabe Owens is back from an injury that sidelined him throughout the playoffs, and there are some underclassmen ready to show their wheels.
“We’ve got some newbies coming up and they all run track,” said two-way lineman Derek Debries. “We watched them a little bit last year at track and they were super fast.”
The fastest newbie is Jordan Neushwander the NUIC’s 100 meter and 200 meter champion in track.
“There’s a lot of speed,” said Zick. “It’s just a matter of whether or not we can get them fitting in with the system and understanding that we’re still going to run between the tackles and that’s their main thing.”
It’s on the defensive side of the ball where the Cardinals aren’t quite as settled. Ethan Mulder is back at linebacker and first team all-conference lineman Derek DeVries returns, but the Cardinals graduated six starters on defense including their two most physical players Garrett Badertscher and Mitchell Heinz.
“We’re going to have to figure out a way to be physical and maintain that,” said Zick. “There’s no other way around it. There’s one way to play football here in Forreston and that is to be physical.”
“We have some younger kids. As long as those guys can step up and no longer be the backups and be the starters their senior year then we should be okay.”