ROCKTON, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — In the last five full regular seasons, Hononegah’s football team has finished first or second in the NIC-10 conference. Now they add in a bunch of juniors who went undefeated last year as sophomores. Here’s more on the Indians’ well-stocked cupboard.
“Honestly, I’m just happier than heck to be outside and back enjoying football,” said head coach Brian Zimmerman.
Zimmerman is back out on the field with his Hononegah boys after missing more than half the season last year due to health concerns.
The Indians finished tied for second in the conference last year after a 7-3 season which included a loss in the first round of the playoffs to Normal Community, 44-13.
“We just use it as motivation, find the things we gotta work on and prepare for this season,” said star slotback Isaiah Houi.
And now, as the 2023 season approaches, this team is stacked with veteran experience. They return 14 of last year’s starters.
“I think that we have a strong chance to contend for the conference championship,” said Zimmerman.
That’s the mentality all-around for this team. Their last conference championship was in 2021.
“I’m biased you know, I feel like we are the best team in the conference, it’s just my confidence, my confidence in our teammates,” said Houi. “I feel like nobody can stand a chance against us this year.”
The first of the key returners is senior quarterback Cole Warren. Last year he threw for over 1,300 yards with 18 touchdowns and was named to 1st team all-conference. This will be his second full year with the starting job.
“He’s not just a one-dimensional quarterback, I think he can do it all,” said Zimmerman. “I think he’s got good feet, he can run the ball. I think he does a good job on the RPO’s, and he’s got a good long ball as well, he’s got a good arm.”
He’ll be using that arm to find one of his key weapons in senior Isaiah Houi who’s quickly turned into one of Hono’s best slot receivers.
“He’s [Isaiah Houi] one of the reasons why I think that we can be extremely competitive this season,” said Zimmerman.” He’s that guy that you are just so excited to have on your team because he’s so athletic. He does offense, defense, kick the ball, returns, you know he can do so much for us.”
Cole Schmall, Estin Fichter and Luke Popee will also help to bolster the offensive production this year.
“We’ve got height and we got speed on both our wide receivers and our slots are athletic,” said Warren. “We got big superbacks, man they are huge this year, and I mean we re-stacked our offensive line, so I’m really excited this year to see what our offense does.”
On the defensive end, Mike Floryance is a third-year returner on the defensive line. He missed most of last year due to injury and will play a key role inside if he stays healthy. Houi is another crucial piece at defensive back, along with Miles Schmidt at middle linebacker.
“I think we’ve got some size inside, I think we are fast on the outside, so I’m hoping this is one of our better defensive years,” said Zimmerman.
You’ll be hard pressed to find an area within this team that doesn’t have depth.
“We got studs everywhere, so not too much to hide, you are gonna see it on the field,” said Houi.
The Indians open their season on Friday, August 25 at home against Jefferson.