With a total of 29 juniors and seniors returning from a team which finished 4-5 in 2014, Central coach Brian Short probably has a pretty good idea what he’ll get from the Cougars when they open the season Friday at Mascoutah.
As for Mascoutah coach Scott Battas, it’s just the opposite. Already hit hard by the graduation of 14 starters, Mascoutah also lost four more players to military transfer.
As a result, the Indians will have new starters at 19 positions when the opening whistle is sounded at Mascoutah High School.
“That’s positions. Not 19 new starters. We have some kids who will be two-way starters,’’ Battas said. “Honestly, I’m anxious to see us line up against another football team and see what we can do. The kids are excited and have great attitudes and have worked hard to get ready for the season.
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“We’ve got some talent and we think we might be able to show some things that maybe we haven’t before. But how will kids, who have never started a varsity football game in their lives react once the Friday night lights go on, I don’t know. I’m anxious to see because I think we’ve got some talented football players.’’
While Mascoutah will feature several new faces, the Cougars should be a veteran team looking to be in contention in the Cahokia Conference and qualify for the postseason.
Central has one of the top running backs in the league in senior Brent Thomas and a defensive unit which allowed seven or fewer points three times last year.
“We’re junior and senior dominated and a lot of those kids played a lot of football a year ago,’’ Short said. “We’re looking forward to a good season and it all begins on Friday against a good Mascoutah football program. It’s been a long summer with our conditioning program and workouts and with practicing and getting ready for the season these last three weeks. Right now, we just need to play a game and see where we are and where we need to improve.
“I know Mascoutah lost a lot of players from last year but coach Battas will have his kids ready to play.’’
Friday’s game: Central (4-5 in ’14) at Mascoutah (4-5), 7 p.m.
Last meeting: Mascoutah defeated Central 35-21 last year in Breese.
Recent history:. The game on Friday will mark the seventh straight year, the Indians and Cougars have clashed. Central won the first three games and Mascoutah has taken the most recent three. The Indians have outscored Central 113-55 in those three games. Central’s last win was by a 29-0 margin in 2011.
Central players to watch: RB Brent Thomas (140 carries for 653 yards, 7 TDs); WR Bailey Stewart (8 receptions for 216 yards, 1 TD); WR Lucas Koopman (4 receptions for 49 yards); WR Brennan Kent (6 receptions for 190 yards, 1 TD); LB Braydon Watts (28 tackles, 2 interceptions), LB Tyler Malone.
Mascoutah players to watch: WR: Devantre Machado (6 receptions, 88 yards, TD); QB: Noah Dressler, RB: Jacob Williams, RB: Jasaun King, RB: Darius Cooley, OL-DL Brandon Curl, C: Dalton Martin, WR: Glen Gibbons, OT:Justin Stephens, LB: Reid Roberts.
Prime time: The Central-Mascoutah game has been chosen as the St. Louis Rams Game of the Week.
Upcoming games: Central will host Dupo on Sept. 4. Mascoutah will travel to Effingham on Sept. 4.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.