Week 1 - 2018 - Game of the Week


Six-man expert
By Leman Saunders

Week 1 Game of the Week:
DII Strawn v DI McLean - @ Jayton – Saturday 8:00pm

Here we go! Week 1! I’m going to be completely honest right off the bat…Strawn will be featured in the game of the week probably three times in the regular season. Coach Lee decided to go out and try to create the toughest schedule he could and to start the season off is playing highly ranked DI McLean, these teams will learn really quick what they need to work on to get better when this game is over!

McLean had a very good season last year as their only two losses were to Happy in district play and then again in the quarter-finals. Coach Linman has a strong squad back for the 2018 season with many key players off that 11-2 team, and is very excited about this team as this will be their second year in his system and given the success last year there is no doubt expectations are high in McLean. The Tigers have plenty of reasons to feel this way chief among them is that they return RB Ben Crockett, LB Chism Henderson, and QB Cayden Mann three big, solid, physical, all-state players poised for big seasons.

Strawn as everyone knows by now returns virtually their whole team from last year’s 15-0 DII state championship team. They have so many weapons offensively it is almost unfair to defenses. Tanner Hodgkins (DII player of the year, 2018 Dave Campbell’s 1A cover boy) gets a lot of well-deserved accolades. However, there are probably six or seven other players on this team that could just as easily receive the same praise such as DL Ivan Ruiz (all-state defensive MVP), RB/DB Carlos Villanueva, DB/RB Julian Fraga, LB JW Montgomery…and so on and so on.

Keys to the game:
McLean will need to stop the Greyhounds run game and try to match their speed in the game. Ben Crockett will be a big part in this regard. The Tigers will need to be physical, which they do very well, and play mistake free football needing to be in the plus side of the turnover battle.
Strawn will need to be level headed coming into this game and make adjustment as the game progresses especially if McLean comes out and punches them in the mouth early on so to speak. If they come into this game thinking it will be an easy one…it’s going to be a long night for the Greyhounds.

My Thoughts:
This is the first time these two have ever played, which is fun all in itself. McLean WILL come into this game with something to prove! They WILL be a physical team, and they WILL have play makers. Having this type of game week one for Strawn might be the best thing for them coming off such a dominate season last year. If there are any lofty thoughts of greatness in their minds McLean can bring them back to reality. I strongly suspect that Strawn will roll into Jayton feeling that THEY have something to prove as well and that does not bode well for the Tigers. This game will be physical! It will feature some of the most talented players in 1A and without question have some amazing plays! I feel like Strawn just has to many weapons offensively and their secondary speed on defense will prevent many touchdowns that McLean would score on other opponents. I’m taking Strawn in a tighter game than many feel like it will be. One thing is for sure…both teams will be stronger, tougher, and better because of this game. Strawn by 12.