New coach Kris Stephens, an assistant coach for Belleville East for the past 15 years, opens his first campaign as armed with one of the top quarterbacks in the Southwestern Conference in senior Drew Millas, elusive running back Damone Witherspoon and an always big and strong defensive unit, East looks to be in the thick of the SWC race.
Millas threw for more than 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, while Witherspoon rushed for more than 300 yards.
Stephens promised a more diverse offensive, but for the Lancers to be able to move the ball against the powers in the SWC, they will need big years from their offensive line. Senior C.J. M ller (6-0, 300) will lead an athletic front, which includes tight end Dewayne Hill (6-2, 240), Jacob Radden (6-4, 260) and Dominic Colbert, among others.
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Hill will be a common target for Millas who will also have the opportunity to throw to Isaiah King (6-1, 170). King led the Lancers with 34 catches for 447 yards and two touchdowns a year ago. Senior Anthony Dean (6-2, 190) also returns after collecting 12 catches for 135 yards in 2014.
Witherspoon will be the featured back in the backfield while senior Moses Holman will get his share of carries.
Miller and Hill will anchor what should once again be one of the top defensive units in the SWC. Hill, who was fifth on the team in tackles with 43 (31 solos) and four quarterback sacks a year ago has the strength to handle opposing offensive linemen and speed and quickness to chase down running backs and wide receivers.
Other key returnees on the defensive side of the football are senior Shamar Welch and Witherspoon. Welch, a defensive back, was second on the team with 56 tackles a year ago and also added two interceptions. Witherspoon, who will anchor the Lancers linebacker core, had 45 tackles and a team-leading six quarterback sacks.
— Dean Criddle
at Normal West
at Granite City
at East St. Louis
at Normal Community
at East St. Louis