Off to a 2-0 start for the first time since the 2011 season, the Granite City Warriors head into week three of the regular season as one of only two remaining undefeated teams in the Southwestern Conference.
Why the sudden turnaround for a Warriors program which won just three of 27 games the previous three seasons?
“For one thing our offensive line play has been much better the first two weeks of the season. We’ve been able to run the football and in this conference you’ve got to be able to do that,’’ Luehmann said. “But I think a lot of our success has to do with this group of kids.
“They’re working hard and for the first time in a few years this group is listening and are receptive to what the coaches are telling them. We’ve still got a ways to go, but the kids are having fun playing football and we (the coaches) are having fun working with them.’’
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Granite City, which has wins over Jerseyville and Riverview Gardens, (Mo.), figures to have it hands full Friday when it hosts Belleville East. Under first-year coach Kris Stephens, East is coming off a 55-48 double-overtime win at Normal West on Saturday in a game which saw Lancers quarterback Drew Millas complete 26 of 47 pass attempts for 281 yards and five touchdowns.
And yes, it’s true, a East quarterback attempted 47 passes in one game.
“One of the coaches joked that there may have entire seasons when an East team didn’t throw 47 passes,’’ Stephens joked. “It’s a different style offense than they’ve run before, but the kids are having fun and we’re having some success running it.’’
FRIDAY’S GAME: Belleville East (1-1) at Granite City (2-0), 7 p.m.
LAST WEEK: Belleville East defeated Normal West 55-48 in 2 OTs; Granite City defeated Riverview Gardens (Mo.) 29-28
RANKINGS: Belleville East is ranked fifth in the News-Democrat large school poll. Granite City received votes in the News-Democrat large school poll
LAST MEETING: Belleville East defeated Granite City 34-12 last year at Belleville East.
SCOUTING THE LANCERS
The new look offense of the Lancers has been impressive in the first two weeks, scoring 86 points in splitting a pair of games with Normal and Normal West High School.
Millas, a gifted three-sport athlete has led the way, completing 43 of 78 passes for 497 yards and seven touchdowns. Wide receivers Isaiah King (16 receptions, 237 yards, 5 TDs) and Quantavius Alexander (9 catches, 117 yards, 1 TD) have been Millas favorite targets, while senior running back Damone Witherspoon enjoyed a solid second game against Normal West, rushing for 127 yards on 20 carries.
As usual, East is big and physical on both the offensive and defensive lines. But the Lancers defense has been vulnerable in the first two weeks of the seaosn, allowing 111 points.
“We’re just making some mistakes and having breakdowns on coverage at the wrong times. We’re working on getting better as a defensive football team,’’ Stephens said. “Granite City is a good football team, but in this Southwestern Conference, you’ve got to be ready to play every week. Every game is a big one.
SCOUTING THE WARRIORS
Like the Lancers, Granite City relies heavily on its quarterback. And in senior and three-year starter Gabe Jarman, the Warriors have a good one. Showing more poise than ever before, Jarman has completed 13 of 26 attempts for 158 yards and two touchdowns. He also leads Granite City in rushing with 192 yards on 36 attempts with three scores.
Also having good starts to the year are running backs Ronald Allen (23 carries, 183 yards, TD) and Brandon Bettag (24 carries, 156 yards, 3TDs).
But the key is Jarman.
“Gabe is a three-year starter and he knows what we want from him. He’s had a good start to the year, but we certainly think he can play better,’’ Luehmann said. “We’ve got our hands full with Belleville East. They’re typical East in that they’re huge up front and they have a lot of speed in the backfield and at the wide receivers. And their quarterback (Millas) is an excellent athlete who does a lot of things right.’’
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2661.