A-J set to open 2017 football season
After ending a 15-year Illinois High School Association football playoff run two years ago, the Anna-Jonesboro Community High School football team bounced back to advance to the playoffs again last year.
“We got ourselves back in the playoffs last year,” A-J football coach Brett Detering said. “We’d like to advance this year as far as we can.”
The Wildcats finished with an 8-3 overall mark last season.
A-J is set to open the 2017 season Friday night, Aug. 25, at West Frankfort. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
There are 15 seniors, 14 juniors, nine sophomores and 19 freshmen in the A-J football program as the new season draws near.
A return to the postseason for the second year in a row will be fueled around the return of five starters on offense and four on defense.
“We lost 15 seniors who were good leaders and hard workers,” Detering said. “But we’re okay with where we’re at.”
Leading the way at quarterback is senior Bryce Osman, 6-3, 205 pounds. He will be backed up by senior Noah Smith, 6-1, 170 pounds, and junior Conner Jerolds, 5-10, 155 pounds.
The top returning rusher from last year is senior Jayce Turner, 5-11, 225 pounds.
Two top downfield targets should be a pair of seniors in Arieh Hart, 5-10, 170 pounds, and Ross Pinnon, 5-9, 140 pounds, and a trio of juniors in Wyatt Johnston, 5-11, 150 pounds; Zach Griffin, 6-1, 165 pounds; and Colyn Girtman, 5-8, 170 pounds.
“Arieh has good speed and Ross has good hands,” Detering noted.
Still, the Wildcats should be more of a grind it out on the turf rushing team.
“We’ll be run oriented again, with our leading rusher Jayce Turner coming back,” Detering said.
Other running back threats should be senior Sheldon McGrath, 5-11, 170 pounds, and a trio of juniors in Reid Morrison, 6-3, 205 pounds; Nate Kisat, 5-10, 165 pounds; and Kyle McMahan, 6-0, 175 pounds.
A trio of soccer players to add to the kicking game are McGrath, who kicked extra points last season, and a pair of seniors in Jaryt Tripp, 5-11, 160 pounds, possibly on kickoffs, and Zach Massey, 6-1, 180 pounds, who should add to the punting game.
On the defensive side, Osman, McGrath and Hart will double as defensive backs. Turner is a linebacker.
The offensive line is expected to be built around juniors Damien Chrisp, 5-10, 195 pounds; Dylan Cunningham, 5-11, 260 pounds; Noah Craig, 6-4, 260 pounds; Kevin Wright, 5-10, 200 pounds; and senior Nick Sanders, 5-6, 180 pounds
Shoring up the line are juniors Carsten Christy, 5-10, 280 pounds, and Garrett Fabec, 6-3, 255 pounds, and seniors D.J. Latham, 5-10, 260 pounds, and Clay Schultz, 6-0, 280 pounds.
Senior Drake Pyle, 5-9, 215 pounds could be on the defensive line as well.
Several offensive linemen also are expected to play on the defensive side of the ball.
“We have decent numbers,” Detering said. “We have a number of guys very capable.”
An addition to the team this year is a transfer player from Louisiana, senior Zack Pinter, 5-8, 175 pounds, a running back-linebacker.
Detering looks for Du Quoin and Carterville to be the top teams again in the Southern Illinois River-to-River Conference Mississippi Division race this season.
“Hopefully, we are right there with them,” Detering said.
A-J’s assistant coaches are Michael Eudy, Kyle Kueker, Dave Sullivan, Jamie Yates, Joel Dallas, Tom Stark, Chase Hargrave and Sarah Konecek.