Try as he might, Red Bud coach Dave Lucht had trouble dredging many positives out of an 0-9 season in 2012. One of them was gaining experience for players he felt might make an impact in the future.
Now the Musketeers will take a 2-0 record into Friday's Cahokia Conference home game against Carlyle after road wins over Pinckneyville (22-12) and Wesclin (45-16).
"After 0-9 last year, to get two wins like this is big," Lucht said. This junior class went undefeated last season and we harped on them, told them just because you're undefeated as sophomores doesn't mean it's going to carry it over to the varsity."
Lucht said playing more aggressive on defense and utilizing better speed on offense has helped.
So has a defensive line led by returning All-Area senior Kristian Miller (26 tackles, two sacks), Tanner Heiken (18 tackles, four sacks) and Dillon Zimmer (nine tackles).
Miller had 14 tackles and a sack in the season opener.
Red Bud's opportunistic defense has helped forced eight turnovers and already has six fumble recoveries.
"Defensive we've done a good job and offensively, we've been living on the big play," Lucht said.
Junior running back Dustin Sauer (212 yards, four TDs) and sophomore Addison Gunter (156 yards, two TDs) have been the impact player on offense.
Lucht pointed to another 0-9 Red Bud team in 2005 that helped pave the way to state playoff games and a 10-2 Class 2A quarterfinalist in 2007.
The Musketeers made four state playoff appearances in five years from 2008 to 2012.
"That other group that came through six years ago had success at the lower levels too," he said. "It's kind of like lighting striking twice."
Mater Dei gaining traction
Mater Dei moved to 2-0 with a 41-8 victory over Nashville as Jordan Ratermann rolled up 174 yards and three touchdowns on just 17 carries.
Ratermann has been a workhorse through two games with 271 yards and six TDs on 40 carries and is only two yards behind area rushing leader Kyle Kirkpatrick at Civic Memorial. Ratermann is tied for the area scoring lead with Highland's Gage Geiger and Belleville West back Brian Hill.
Ratermann also leads the defense with 12 tackles and a sack.
The Knights' second-leading rusher has been quarterback Sam Toennies, who also has completed 27 of 45 passes for 380 yards and two TDs with two interceptions.
The top receivers have been Jared Thole (six catches, 106 yards), Nick Hitpas (seven catches, 102 yards) and Ben Lampe (six catches, 70 yards).
Thole has also been extremely elusive on punt returns, returning one 79 yards for a touchdown early in the first quarter Friday against Nashville.
Mater Dei, which is replacing Nashville on its schedule with Althoff, has a tough this week at Civic Memorial (1-1).
Carlyle Indians moving forward
After losing 7-6 to Freeburg last season in a hotly contested Cahokia Conference game, the Carlyle Indians gained revenge Friday with a 7-0 victory over the Midgets.
Carlyle extricated a victory thanks to a 79-yard TD pass from Billy Cummins to Tommy Cummins with 6 minutes, 56 seconds remaining in the game. Billy Cummins was 10-for-18 passing for 199 yards in the Freeburg win and through two games has thrown for 432 yards and five TDs.
His top targets have been Tommy Cummins (five catches, 204 yards, two TDs) and Deven Hicks (six catches, 119 yards, two TDs).
Billy Cummins' offensive production was huge with Carlyle's ground game held to 42 yards on 32 carries by the Freeburg defense.
Jordan Rainey (12 tackles), Brent Johnson (11 tackles) and Alex Velazquez (eight tackles) helped spur the Carlyle defensive shutout.