After combining for a total of three wins in 2007, both the Brookesmith Mustangs and Rising Star Wildcats are looking to turn their programs around, and a win in Friday night’s season opener could be the first step in doing so.
The Mustangs host the Wildcats at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Bulletin’s Six-Man Game of the Week.
Brookesmith is beginning its second season under head coach Clint Lowry, and first as a member of the Division II ranks in six-man. Rising Star, meanwhile, is breaking in new head coach Shane Mallory, who is taking over the program after serving as an assistant at Division II Woodson the past two seasons.
Both coaches are satisfied with the progress of their respective teams to this point.
“We’re coming along all right,” Lowry said. “We’ve got some new people in new spots and it’s going to take some time to get everybody used to playing. I was pleased with the efforts in the scrimmages, and the kids tried real hard. It’s just going to take a little time getting people used to playing different positions.”
Added Mallory, “It seems like we’ve come a long way, but we still feel like there’s a long way to go. This is a big test for us, and I’m anxious to see how we respond.”
For Brookesmith, the return of Jerimy Allgood could not only be the key to Friday night’s game, but the season. Playing at Rochelle last season, Allgood rushed for 413 yards and nine touchdowns on 40 carries, an average of 10.3 yards per touch.
“Jerimy is back and I think he’ll be a big asset for us at running back and on the defensive side of the ball,” Lowry said.
Other players to keep an eye on for the Mustangs include Derek Ferguson and Dustin Gideon, who both performed well in the preseason scrimmages. Ferguson is coming off a six-interception season that earned him second-team all-district status on the defensive side of the ball, while Gideon was a second-team all-district choice at defensive end with 89 tackles.
“Derek and Dustin are both looking real good, and I feel like we have some other kids that, with a little bit more experience, will be okay,” Lowry said.
Mallory played his cards closer to the vest, not revealing who the go-to players would be for Rising Star. Among those who could make a considerable impact on the outcome of the game are running backs Jonathan Hubbard, Raymond Sutton, Alec Apple, end Adrian Greenfield and quarterback Aron Wilson.
“I’ve basically tried to get everybody reps and look at situations,” Mallory said. “We really haven’t fed the ball to anybody in particular. We’re just trying to find out who we are right now, and hopefully we’ll find that out Friday.”
Mallory feels the Wildcats and Mustangs have very much in common at this point in the season, but he also hopes the added emphasis placed on the physical aspect of the game during two-a-days will make the difference for Rising Star.
“They are similar to us in some ways,” Mallory said. “They are not a very experienced team, and neither are we. The most physical team is going to win, and hopefully that’s us. We want to impose our will whether we have the ball or not.”
Lowry’s main concerns are the Wildcats’ team speed, along with the Mustangs’ ability to avoid crucial mistakes.
“The biggest thing I am worried about is their speed. Speed is always tough in six-man,” Lowry said. “We’re also going to have to try and not make mistakes and turnovers just like every other game, but I know the kids will be nervous since this is the first game of the year. We just have to try and control the ball and not turn it over. We have to utilize every possession we get.”
Both teams have greater challenges ahead as Rising Star is paired in Division I, District 10 with five playoff teams from a year ago - Blanket, May, Gordon, Gustine and No. 3 Strawn. Meanwhile, Brookesmith has been placed in District 13 of Division II with No. 4 Zephyr, fellow former Division I schools Panther Creek and Cherokee, and Division II holdovers Paint Rock and Lohn.
Still, starting the season 1-0 could serve as the building block for playing games in October and November that have postseason implications.
“A win would be huge,” Mallory said. “We’ve been working our guys hard. It’s been crazy. If we get a win Friday night, I think it will start to make sense to them. Some of them may be wondering why we’re doing all this right now.”
Added Lowry, “Everybody wants to win them all, and these kids have been busting their tails for us. I know Rising Star is going to be a big challenge for us, and I think a win for us would help get us off on the right foot. But it’s not going to be easy.”