ROCKTON, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Running the table in the NIC-10 in football is never easy. Hononegah has done that each of the last two years. So how much longer can the Indians continue this run?
They have lost several key players from last season. Their starting quarterback Ryan VanSchelven has moved on to play division one football at Dayton. In his place now is senior Payton Mather. The road to get the starting spot wasn’t easy though. It took a lot of patience for Mather to wait for his time to shine.
“He’s definitely got an exceptional arm. Throws the long ball well,” said Hononegah head coach Brian Zimmerman. “I think that between his junior and senior year, he’s refined what he can do and he makes reads a lot better and has definitely adapted to our system and doing a great job.”
For Mather, earning the spot was a dream come true. A bit intimidating at first, Mather knows he has some big shoes to fill. VanSchelven didn’t leave him hanging though. He still gives Mather tips every now and then.
“We talk all the time,” says Mather. “He texts me a lot. He sat at my lunch table last year actually and we talked about it a lot. (He told me) just to live in the moment and not to let the moment get too big for me.”
Helping Mather on offense is one of Hononegah’s biggest weapons running back Christian Gomez. He ranked fourth in the NIC-10 conference last season with 814 yards rushing along with 10 touchdown runs.
“He runs through the hole fearlessly and our expectation is that you’re going to have to account for him. Otherwise, he’s going to be running all over the place,” said Zimmerman.
Other returners on offense include juniors wide reciever Braden Sales and running back Dylan Collins.
Hononegah isn’t short of talent on the other side of the ball either with returners like defensive linemen Will Coleman and Sam Scott. You can’t forget about Kaleb Etnyre who was all conference last year. He plays both offense and defense for the Indians. He stays humble though and knows he still has some work to do.
“I still think that I need to work on more technique stuff. I think I played good last year, but some of my technique stuff on offense and defense can be improved.”
Regardless of the heavy competition this new season brings, the Indians remain humble but with a high level of confidence.
“We’re not going to lose many games in this conference and we know that,” said Mather. “We just have to go on Friday nights and prove it.”