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Big 12 2007 Conference Preview
By Dan Hyman

When it comes to competitive prep football in Central Illinois, look no further than the Big 12 conference. With established programs as well as up and coming competitive teams, the 2007 season looks to once again bring the hard-nosed aggressive football that the Big 12 has become known for.

Normal (Community)

Coming off an undefeated season as well as a 6A state title, the Ironmen would be hard pressed to live up to last year’s success. Now in his 14th season at the helm of the football program, head coach Hud Venerable looks to pile on more victories to his incredible career record of 317-33.

Mikel LeShoure
The Ironmen bring back a pair of talented running back in Austin Davis (5'11 200 sr.) & Joey Anderson (5'11 180 sr.)(#20 pictured above). Davis who was the primary tailback his sophomore year seen more time on defense last season.

Leading the Ironmen this fall on offense will be Junior QB Zach Johnson, assisted by senior captain and WR Alex Buck, as well as Juniors Kedric Williams and Tate Mussellman. Additionally, senior captains Joey Anderson and Austin Davis will likely be taking the majority of the carries for the Ironmen this season at tailback. Anderson rushed for just over 500 yards last year.

Davis who was the Ironmen's leading rushing during the 2005 6A Runner-up season with over 1,100 yards his sophomore year, seen more action on the defensive side of the ball in 2006 as Dan Moore & QB Omar Clayton seen most of the carries.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Ironmen will line up with 6’0 linebacker Dawit Derege as well as DT Jake Kretlow.


Champaign (Centennial)

Mikel LeShoure
The Chargers return one of the top running backs in the state with Mikel LeShoure (6' 220).

After ending the 2006 season with a 40-7 loss to Oak Forest in the 6A Quarterfinals, the Chargers are poised to move beyond their success last season, and push further in their quest for a state title.

Led by veteran coach Mike McDonnell, Centennial looks to improve upon their record of 8-4 from last season. 

“Right now our main goal is to win our first game,” explains McDonnell. Obviously after that we hope to win our conference and take that success into the playoffs. Once the playoffs start it’s always hard to predict what will happen, but we are just taking it one step at a time right now.”

Helping the Chargers in their quest for a state title this season will be highly touted RB Senior Mikel LeShoure. Coming off an incredible 2006 season, the 6’0 220 lb tailback will attempt to balance the pressures of being recruited by the top programs in the country with his primary goal of winning a state title for the Chargers.


Bloomington (HS)

Mikel LeShoure
The Purple Raiders can expect to see some more of junior Darrelynn Dunn (RB) who seen some action as a sophomore last season.

After am impressive 9-2 2006 season, the Purple Raiders are poised to continue their successful ways. While they only look to have six returning starters, head coach Rigo Schmelzer and his staff look to work up the on field magic that Bloomington has become famous for in the Big 12 conference.

Conference champions in 2005 and runner up in 2006, the Purple Raiders appear to be ready to make another serious run at the Big 12 title in 2007. With new players stepping into their roles as starters, it will be essential for the Purple Raiders to win some early games in their schedule in order to build momentum against conference rivals.

The Purple Raiders will certainly be tested early on in the season as they square off against Normal Community in week 2.  Another key game for the Raiders will be in week 7 as they square off against the explosive offense of the Centennial Chargers.

Normal (Community West)

Normal Community West
Normal Community West senior quarterback Ross Schmillen (2) returns this season after helping the Wildcats make the playoffs. Schmillen and the Wildcats almost upset Bloomington 24-21 and lost to 6A Champs and cross town rivals Normal Community by a score of 14-7.

Coming off a 6-4 season, the Wildcats, led by head coach Darren Hess, look to not only better their overall record this season, but more importantly contend for the Big 12 title. After ending their 2006 season on a disappointing tone with a first round playoff loss to Oak Forest 21-7, the Wildcats appear to be ready to make the next jump toward state title contention.

Now entering his fifth season as head coach, Hess will be returning his senior quarterback Ross Schmillen. Schmillen and the rest of the Wildcats played conference rivals extremely well throughout all the 2006 season. Specifically, the Wildcats fell just short against the Purple Raiders of Bloomington in week eight 24-21. They will look to bounce back against Bloomington in week eight again on the road.


Danville (H.S.)

Coming off a .500 season, the Vikings are looking poised to break into the wins column, and become strong contenders for the Big 12 Crown this season. In his first two seasons, Coach Luke has seen a steady improvement going from a 1-8 record his first season to a 5-5 record in 2006.

“We are a young team, but an extremely talented young team. If we take care of our business, play solid football, and grow up quickly, our talent should certainly show,” said Coach Luke

The offensive side of the ball, while only returning one starter, has some surefire weapons that should aid the Vikings in their battle this season.

Such weapons include 6”5 Wide Receiver Mikel Brigham and Quarterback Kendall Carter. Carter will be making the transition from being a defensive starter a year ago for the Vikings to leading their offensive unit.


The Rest of the Best

While the aforementioned schools are predicted to be in prime contention for the conference title, do not count out the rest of the conference.  Rounding out the rest of the Big 12 conference are respectively Mattoon (5-4), Decatur (MacArthur) (2-7), Champaign (Central) (2-7),Decatur (Eisenhower) (1-8),  andUrbana (H.S.) (1-8).




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