With three shutouts through four games and an unbeaten record, the Central Cougars are letting the numbers speak for themselves.
Following the lead of coach Brian Short, this has never been a team that likes to brag on its own accomplishments or point a spotlight of attention at itself.
Three shutouts and outscoring your opponents 155-10 is a large statement.
“We knew had a chance to be pretty solid,” said Short, whose team pounded a Carlyle tea that had won two of its first three games 41-0 Friday to move to 2-0 in Cahokia Conference play. “This year our strength’s been our front four (defensively) more than anything else. We’ve got some experience returning in the secondary, all theee guys played quit e abit last year.
“We’re pretty young at linebacker, but having the experience up front and in the secondary has made a difference.”
This is Central’s third 4-0 start since 2010 under Short.
Central’s heavy presence up front in a 4-4 defense includes ends Brayden Watts (11 tackles, three sacks) and Brice Haselhorst (seven tackles, two sacks) and tackles Domonic Weary (11 tackles, one sack, one interception) and Branden Hooker (12 tackles).
Their strong play in the trenches frees up linebackers Lucas Koopmann (34 tackles), Tarik Tibbs (29 tackles, one sack) and others to make plays.
“They’re squeezing really well and protecting the linebackers,” Short said. “They’ve also been doing a good job of getting pressure on the quarterback. We’ve been doing a really good job across the board and all 11 guys are playing well.
“If someone makes a mistake, it seems like somebody in front of them or behind them makes a play.”
Safety Brock Nunn came up big in the Freeburg game with the Cougars down 10-8. On fourth-and-goal at the Central 32, Nunn came flying in to knock a receiver out of bounds at the 1-yard line, negating a would-be touchdown.
Offensively, senior running back Brent Timmons has been a workhorse with 467 yards and nine touchdowns on 63 carries (7.4 yards per carry). First-year starting quarterback Hunter Toeben (23-of-48, 400 yards, four TDs, two interceptions) continues to improve each week, according to Short.
Next up is the Milk Bowl, one of the most anticipated and best attended regular-season small-school games every year. Central travels to Mater Dei (2-2) for the rivalry game at 7 p.m. Friday.
Central’s only win in recent series history came in 2013, while Mater Dei responded with a 45-12 victory over the Cougars last season. Mater Dei has won 10 of the last 11 games against Central land owns a 29-8 record in the series.
“It’s a great game for our kids and it provides a great atmosphere, maybe the most intense atmosphere we’ll have until maybe a second- or third-round playoff game,” Short said. “Our guys love it and it brings a lot of attention to our program and to Clinton County, which is always important.:
Same story at O’Fallon
Coach Brandon Joggerst had seen it all before.
Once again Friday, his O’Fallon Panthers had moments of promising play, but were unable to avoid the breakdowns in a 24-10 loss to visiting Edwardsville.
“The defensive line was good and solid except for a few breakdowns,” Joggerst said. “(Edwardsville) is a very good team. They hurt us a little bit on the speed option until we made some adjustments, and they had a big pass play on us. That, unfortunately, has been the story of the season.”
Edwardsville senior Jackson Morrissey rushed 20 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns, which also wore down the Panthers’ interior defense.
The Panthers (0-4 overall, 0-2 in the Southwestern Conference) led led 10-0 in the second quarter but allowed Edwardsville to get back into contention with 10 quick points late in the second quarter. Morrissey had a 6-yard TD run and junior Riley Patterson drilled a 29-yard field goal with two seconds to play.
“Then it was a frustrating second half,” Joggerst said. “Their defensive line is obviously very special. We moved it at times a little bit, but we never could get enough continuity to string two or three first downs together. We could never get in a flow.”
East moves to 3-1
Even when he’s not as his best, he’s still pretty good. Belleville East senior quarterback Drew Millas has completed 56-percent passer on the season for an overall rating of 102.2 and his 944 yards ranks eighth in the St. Louis region, third in the metro-east.
Millas was a little off early in the Lancers’ 42-14 win over Alton Friday, throwing an interception on an under-thrown ball deep downfield and throwing into thick coverage on other plays. He completed 15 of 31 attempts.
But the Lancer senior — just one-third of a talented group of Belleville quarterbacks that includes Althoff’s Jordan Augustine and West’s Logan Betz — found his touch by halftime and ended up with four touchdown passes in the win. He threw scoring passes of 12, 28, 7, and 8 yards and set up his own two-yard touchdown run with a deep pass to Isaiah King.
Millas now has 13 touchdown passes against just two interceptions. The 3-1 Lancers are averaging more than 43 points per game. They travel to Edwardsville Friday.
-Despite their team playing one fewer game than Missouri teams, Althoff senior quarterback Augustine leads the entire St. Louis area in passing while junior receiver C.J. Coldon is the tor receiver.
Augustine has completed 82-of-114 passes for 1,397 yards and 14 touchdowns with four interceptions. Coldon has 23 catches for 520 yards and five TDs while averaging 22.7 yards per reception. Augustine has another dangerous target in senior Keenen Young (28 catches, 415 yards, six TDs).
(David Wilhelm and Todd Eschman also provided information for the Prep Football Notebook).
News-Democrat Large-School (5A-8A) Football Rankings
Rankings for metro-east teams; voting by area coaches and News-Democrat staff. First-place votes are in parentheses.
Large school rankings (Class 5A-8A)
East St. Louis (4)
Also receiving votes: Triad (4-0), Granite City (2-2), O’Fallon (0-4), Collinsville (0-4)
Small school rankings (Class 1A-4A)
Also receiving votes: Nashville (4-0), Sparta (4-0), Carlyle (2-2), Wesclin (2-2), Freeburg (2-2)