FORRESTON, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF)– The Northwest Upstate Illini Conference has been the most successful conference in Illinois in football. The Forreston Cardinals have contributed greatly to that with several deep runs in the playoffs and three state championships in recent years. There’s another group of players ready to carry-on that run of success.

In Forreston, boys grow up going to football games and wanting to suit up for the Cardinals. It’s what they do.

“I grew up in Forreston going to all the games,” said senior quarterback Brock Smith. “I remember watching the 2014 State game sitting in the stands.”

“I’ve been coming to the games ever since I can remember,” said Forreston lineman John Kobler.

These young men certainly put in the effort in the spring and summer to keep that tradition of winning going.

“These guys had the best summer imaginable,” said head coach Keynon Janicke. “You can feel it when you’re at practice or in the weight room, their team energy, their comaraderie is through the roof.”

There’s experience on this team. Eight players who started or saw extensive action last year are back on offense and six return on defense.

Smith is back after missing a good chunk of last season with a herniated disc in his back. He takes over at quarterback this season. Smith appreciates his health and the chance to contribute to the team.

“It means a lot especially since I haven’t really had a season for football yet. Just to be out there with the guys and be a leader on the team.”

As usual the Cardinals running back cupboard is full. There’s Kaleb Sanders, Micah Nelson, McKeon Crase, Quinten Frederick, Payton Encheff, and Owen Mulder.

The offensive line returns Casey DeVries, Drew Determan, Ethan Bocker, and John Kobler.

“I feel like that’s going to be one of our stronger points this season,” said Kobler.

Janicke says Kobler should also make his presence felt on the defensive line.

“I think the most physical player on our team is Johnny Kobler. We’re going to put him on the defensive line and just let him go. He’s going to bring it.”

Senior Kyler Ganz should also bring it as potentially one of the best linebackers in the NUIC.  DeVries on the line and Payton Encheff at safety will also be keys for the Cardinals on defense helping them maintain  that great Forreston tradition of success.