Normal Community High School' debuts a new electronic scoreboard at Ironmen Field this season. (Photo courtesy www.ironmenfootbal.com)
By Bryan Bloodworth
NORMAL - Young and eager is the best way to describe this year’s Normal Community High School football team.
“We’re going to dress 14 or 15 sophomores this year and they aren’t dressing just to fill out the sidelines,” said fifth-year coach Wes Temples. “You’re going to see a lot of sophomores playing varsity football. And even the older kids, who are going to be on the field, this will be their first meaningful varsity snap.”
Defense will be the strength for the Ironmen as seven starters return from last year’s 6-4 Class 6A state playoff team.
‘We have all three of our defensive backs, an inside linebacker, an outside linebacker and two guys up front returning, so we have quite a bit of experience on the defensive side,” added Temples. “Hopefully, they can gel and mesh.’’
Leading the defense will be Ethan Kennedy and DJ Frank and Justin Fish. “There’s not a whole lot you can do as far as coaching experience, and those guys have a lot of varsity experience,” said Temples.
Offense is a different story as the Ironmen return just three players with substantial varsity experience. Leading the way will be sophomore Alec Bozarth, who joined the varsity lineup the last five games and rushed for a little over 500 yards.
“Offensively, we’re going to be pretty young to start the season, so it’s going to be a work in progress as we go,” continued Temples, whose team will use a faster-paced more wide-open style with junior Josh Kirshenbaum at the controls.
“The big question any time you play young kids is how are they going to react the first time the lights come go and they are in that environment. They’ve done a tremendous job in practice. You wouldn’t know a lot of them were sophomores.”
Temples, whose team opens the season tonight on the road against defending co-Big 12 Conference champion Urbana, said NCHS’ goals are the same as always regardless of the youth of his team.
“We have tremendous kids and I truly believe we’ll be competitive,” added Temples. “It’s just a matter of how quickly we can come together. Our goal always at the end of the year is to be in position to try and win the Big 12. I don’t have any question we’ll be competitive. We’ll be ready to go. Our kids are chomping at the bit.”
Bryan Bloodworth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.