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August 29, 2014

It's Belleville vs. Normal to kick off the 2014 campaign

The struggle to find nonconference opponents has led to a filp-flop arrangement between Belleville East and Belleville West and two Normal high schools.

The Lancers will open the 2014 season at the Normal Community Ironmen, while the Maroons will open the 2014 season at the Normal West Wildcats.

Next week, Normal West will travel to Belleville East, while Normal Community will travel to Belleville West.

"It's hard to find games anymore,'' East coach Tim Funk said. "A lot of teams in the area have to travel a lot. If you are not in an established conference with a large number of teams, it's hard to get games.''

This week is a homecoming game for Funk, who is a 1987 graduate of Normal Community.

Funk expects both of his parents, Jan and Don Funk, of Hudson, as well as brother, Todd, and many other family members and friends in the stands.

His nieces actually attend Normal West.

"There will be a lot of people in attendance -- family and friends,'' Funk said. "A lot of people have either texted me or called me and said they are going to be there. It'll be a fun game.''

Funk's connections don't stop there.

Funk played for and coached with Normal Community coach Wes Temples' father, Gerald, who was an assistant coach at Millikin.

And, Normal Community standout junior running back Alec Bozarth is the son of Funk's former high school and college teammate, Mike Bozarth.

"He's very similar to his dad, and he's one heck of a good football player,'' Funk said.

Normal West went 8-2 last season and Normal Community went 9-2 last season. Both schools had their season ended by East St. Louis in the playoffs.

Belleville West quarterback Sherand Boyd will be making his return from a knee injury suffered late last season.

"He's doing great,'' West coach Cameron Pettus said of Boyd. "He's moving great, he's throwing the ball really well. We just have to make sure he stays healthy.''

Normal West has not one, but two quality quarterbacks in junior Mitch Fairfield, who threw for 1,160 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, and senior transfer Arion Worthman, who threw for 2,035 yards and 32 touchdowns last season for Normal University High.

Fairfield could see some time at wide receiver and Worthman could see some time at running back.

Today's Games: Belleville East at Normal Community, 7 p.m.; Belleville West at Normal West, 7 p.m.

Belleville East coach Tim Funk: "The late great coach (Dick) Hood always said this, 'The team that makes the least amount of mistakes is probably going to win Week 1.' Shoot, sometimes it seems like watching Week 1 of a high school game that it's a wonder anybody wins because of the mistakes whether it's penalties, turnovers or missed assignments.''

Belleville West coach Cameron Pettus: "I think we have tackle well. We have to tackle in space, that's a big point of emphasis when you are playing spread teams. They're a really good spread team.''

Belleville East players to watch: QB Drew Millas (started last four games last season); RB Demarius Ward (382 rushing yards and three touchdowns); OL-DL Nathan Sylvester (6-2, 294)

Normal Community players to watch: RB Alex Bozarth (1,065 rushing yards and 16 TDs last season); QB Josh Kirschenbaum (broken ankle in last year's season opener); ILB Mason Weight

Belleville West players to watch: QB Sherand Boyd (42 of 84 passes for eight touchdowns in five games last season), RB Antoine Davis (762 rushing yards and eight TDs), NG Antoine Williams (71 tackles, 3 sacks); PK Austin Seibert (17-for-24 career FGs)

Normal West players to watch: QB-WR Mitch Fairfield, QB-RB Arion Worthman, OT Karson Lueck (6-1, 290), C Caleb Mohrs (5-8, 260)

Notes: Belleville East has won its last seven season openers, while Belleville West has won its last two season openers... Normal Community has nine starters back on offense... Bozarth is coming back from a broken ankle suffered in June at the University of Illinois football camp... Worthman was the Bloomington Pantagraph's Player of the Year last season as he had 59 touchdowns (27 rushing, 32 passing).

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