By Bryan Bloodworth
DOWNS – It’s easy for Tri-Valley High School football coach Josh Roop to identify the reason for his team’s undefeated record in its first three games.
“Senior leadership,” said Roop without hesitation. “We’re playing very well right now because the seniors expect us to play well and hold the rest of the team accountable.”
Roop has nine seniors and the majority have been three-year starters. The group includes Blake Cowden, Steve Dew, Blake Hillary, John Heyman, Blake Lishka, Austin Wiegand, Joel Kussmann, Trevor and Travis Goveia.
The Vikings, ranked No. 8 in the Class 1A state rankings, put their undefeated mark on the line Friday at 7 p.m. when they host undefeated Tremont in a Heart of Illinois tussle.
“Tremont is well coached and they have a solid team,” said Roop, whose team has allowed just 13 points and scored 144. Conversely, Tremont has allowed only six points while scoring 76.
“They have a couple of the better backs (Caleb Shutt and Isaiah Thompson) we’ve seen so far this season,” added Roop. “And their defense is one of the best – if not the best – we’ve seen so far.”
Shutt has rushed for 305 yards and five touchdowns on 58 carries, while Thompson has 295 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries.
Tri-Valley is paced by the backfield of Cowden and juniors Braden Herrmann and Caleb Wilson, Cowden has gained 367 yards from his quarterback position, while Hermann has 329 yards and Wilson 175.
“In two of our first three games we’ve had two running backs with over 100 yards,” said Roop. “We have pretty good balance when it comes to our ball carriers getting the ball.
“But as far as run to pass we haven’t been so balanced. We’ve thrown eight passes and Blake has completed five with three going for touchdowns. We are definitely going to run the ball first.”
The backfield’s success has been courtesy of the line composed of Mike Edwards, Brandon Bakewell, Jeremy Elam, Lucas Hammer, Patrick Kinsella and the Goveia twins. The same unit has also been instrumental on defense.
“Both sides of the ball have taken control of the line in our first three games,” added Roop. “That’s been nice to see.”
Roop said the Vikings would be disappointed if they weren’t sitting 3-0 at this point in the season.
“This team has really set its expectations high,” he concluded. “They are expecting great things this year.”
Bryan Bloodworth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org