The Edwardsville Tigers began the 2017 season with three straight losses. They ended it with nine wins in 10 outings and were a win away from a berth in the Class 8A state championship game.
So what is in store for the Tigers in 2018?
“I’ve been honest with this group. We believe that this group has a chance to do something special,’’ Tigers coach Matt Martin said. “We’ve had some bad luck already too. Last year’s group stayed relatively healthy. Is that good luck? Is that a product of how we train or how we practice? But our best lineman (Josh) Anderson was injured at a college camp and is out for the season. That poses a challenge for us.’’
Edwardsville, which hosts McCluer North to open the season on Aug. 24, will have talented players throughout its lineup this fall. The Tigers also welcome back senior running back Dionte Rodgers to a loaded backfield.
A standout as a sophomore two years ago when he ran for over 1,500 yards and 25 touchdowns, Rodgers was injured during the 2017 season. The addition of a healthy Rodgers will also take some of the pressure off senior quarterback Kendall Abdur-Rahman.
The Belleville News-Democrat Large School Player of the Year last season when he finished with nearly 2,000 yards of total offense, scored 26 touchdowns and added eight touchdown passes, Abdur-Rahman has scholarship offers from several Big 10 and Big 12 Conference schools as well as Notre Dame.
According to Martin, Abdur-Rahman has shown early signs that he’ll be even better in 2018.
“Kendall is better than he was last year,’’ Martin said. “His decision making is better, he’s bigger, faster and stronger and he’s in better shape at this time now then he was last year at this time.
“Kendall’s maturity level is also better. He’s also got goals. He wants to be a better football player.’’
Among the other key players on offense who return for the Tigers will be sophomore Justin Johnson, two-way starter Norman Harris and wide receiver Lavontas Hairston.
On defense, the Tigers linebackers, Evan Ramirez (6-1, 205) and Jacob Morrissey (6-0, 210) will be among the best in the Southwestern Conference, while senior Ryan Strohmeier (6-1, 195) returns to compete the trio of linebackers.