For football fans that enjoy the sport’s big one-on-one collisions, it’s always good to keep an eye on Althoff High junior linebacker Bryson Strong.
Strong has a knack for not only making big hits, but also for creating the type of big plays on defense that can help turn momentum and fire up his team.
He did it several times Friday as Althoff (6-0) ended an eight-game losing streak to South Seven Conference rival Marion with a 37-20 victory.
The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Strong hit everything he could find and didn’t stop until finishing with 18 tackles and three sacks. His night included 14 solo stops and a rock-solid hit on the Marion quarterback.
“Bryson goes hard no matter whether it’s a practice, a walk-through or a game — and always at full speed,” Althoff coach Ken Turner said. “He’s only got one speed and he plays that way. Sometimes we have to turn him down in practice because his level is so high all the time.
“He just love the sport. He loves to hit people. That’s his passion and he takes it seriously.”
Strong leads the Crusaders with 80 tackles and his eight sacks are the highest total in the metro-east.
“Our kids said he was the hardest-hitting kid they faced all year,” Mater Dei coach Jim Stiebel said. “I made them well aware of what we'd be seeing because he's one of the best linebackers we'd faced. I saw it on film, too.”
Strong was named MaxPreps/USA Midwest Regional Defensive Player of the Week earlier this season after a 21-tackle explosion in a road victory against Jefferson City (Mo.) Helias.
“I think he can be a Division I football player at outside linebacker or maybe strong safety,” Turner said. “He’s got good really good hands too, he catches the ball as well as most of our receivers. If we needed him to be a running back he could be a running back for us, too. He’s one of those guys that can do it all.”
He just love the sport. He loves to hit people. That’s his passion and he takes it seriously.
Althoff coach Ken Turner on linebacker Bryson Strong
Strong and his teammates were able to end an eight-year losing streak to Marion that followed a nine-game winning streak over the Wildcats.
“It hit me after the game,” said Turner, who began to get a familiar feeling of doom following three first-half turnovers before Althoff came back strong after halftime. “Once the guys turned it around and we won it in the second half, it felt pretty special. A couple people who talked to me after the game said they had come all the way to Marion to see us do it (win) for the first time since I was coach.”
Quincy Notre Dame obviously studied Mater Dei’s offensive stats and saw game film as well.
However, even knowing and preparing for Knights’ senior receiver Brendan “Butchie” Timmermann as the obvious big-play guy made little difference. Timmermann lit up the QND defense with 11 catches for a career-high 200 yards and three touchdowns in a 47-28 victory Friday that pushed Mater Dei to 4-2.
He caught a 28-yard TD pass early, then hauled in a 86-yard bomb from quarterback Colin Schuetz to start the second half before adding a 15-yard TD reception in the third quarter.
“They were keying on him,” Stiebel said. “In the backfield we can use him as a weapon and we can use him as a decoy. He’s just as good as a decoy and he is a weapon at times.”
In a 68-46 loss to Althoff, the 6-1, 170-pound senior had 11 catches for 172 yards and two TDs. In a 61-36 victory over Mt. Carmel, he caught six passes for 174 yards and also ran the ball five times for another 116 yards.
He’s the best receiver I’ve had. You just know he’s not going to drop it and he’s going to do something when you get it to him.
Mater Dei coach Jim Stiebel on receiver Brendan Timmermann
“He’s put together quite a resume against good teams,” Stiebel said. “He’s the best receiver I’ve had. You just know he’s not going to drop it and he’s going to do something when you get it to him.”
Timmermann is just as effective at jet sweep plays and bubble screens out of the backfield as he is on deep routes or returning kickoffs. He also was the starting point guard on Mater Dei’s state basketball tournament qualifier last season.
Even so, Stiebel believes Timmermann has a future in college football.
“He could play any position, that’s what makes him so unique,” Stiebel said. “He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he’s fearless. I don’t think he’s done growing or has completely matured yet. He’s a two-sport guy and he’s doing something all the time.”
Getting their kicks
So far, the move from Belleville West to the University of Oklahoma has been a smooth transition for All-American kicker Austin Seibert.
The freshman is a perfect 7-for-7 on field goals for the Sooners (4-0, ranked 10th in the country) with the longest coming from 44 yards. He’s hit three field goals of 40 to 49 yards and also has been successful on all 21 of his extra-point tries.
Starting as Oklahoma’s place-kicker and punter, Seibert is averaging 45.2 yards on 21 punts while landing nine of those inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
Seibert is the latest big-time kicker produced by the metro-east, but certainly may not be the last.
O’Fallon senior kicker Tucker McCann (three field goals, 15 extra-points) has a scholarship from Missouri while Belleville East kicker Matt Sotiropoulos is also hoping to land an offer and has some interest from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Sotiropoulos has an area-leading eight field goals and also has hit 25 extra points.
Columbia junior kicker Greg Long has four field goals and 30 successful point-after tries and Highland senior Zeke Kaufman has two field goals and 33 extra-points.
Highland injury update
Already without star running back Andrew Winning because of a season-ending ACL injury, the Highland Bulldogs got another scare Friday when sophomore quarterback Garrett Marti suffered a neck injury during the fourth quarter of a 35-27 win over Civic Memorial.
Highland coach Jimmy Warnecke said Marti was diagnosed with a neck strain and is listed as day-to-day. Marti’s availability for Friday’s Mississippi Valley Conference showdown against fellow unbeaten and state-ranked Triad is uncertain.
If Marti can’t play, Warnecke said Highland’s quarterback will be freshman Sam LaPorta.
BND High School Football Rankings
Rankings for metro-east teams; voting by area coaches and News-Democrat staff. First-place votes are in parentheses; records through last week’s action.
Large school rankings (Class 5A-8A)
East St. Louis
Also receiving votes: Triad (6-0), O’Fallon (2-4), Collinsville (2-4), Granite City (2-4)
Small school rankings (Class 1A-4A)
Also receiving votes: Nashville (5-2), Carlyle (3-3), Freeburg (3-3), Wesclin (3-3), Roxana (4-2)