The newly christened Knosher Bowl is alive with the sounds of whistles and the crash of pad on pad, signifying the beginning of the Midwest Conference 2008 football season. The Prairie Fire look to improve on their 2007 record of 3-7, despite losses due to attrition across the board.
Hardest hit are the defensive front seven, as former starting defensive linemen Jaran Rutledge and Paul Bennett, as well as linebackers Kevin Corley, Tyler Hill, and Chris Carpenter, were lost to graduation. The depth of the secondary suffered a hit as well, losing Jarrett Corrow and Zach LoMonaco, leaving senior standout corner Sam Almohandis to hold down the air defense with a collection of young men eager to step it up. Also lost were offensive linemen Tim Beisher, Josh Jackson, and William Becque, a heavy shot to a team like the Fire, that runs off ball control and excellent offensive line play. Probably the heaviest losses though were linebacker Tyler Hill, as well as Aaron Willits, though that loss occurred midway through last season due to an ankle injury.
Even with these glaring losses the team is looking sharp for this title run with eighteen seniors returning, like defensive end Tighe Burke, interior D-linemen Chris Johnson and Roger Buckwalter, as well as linebacker Marty Dertz shoring up the defense and bringing some veteran experience to the team. The offense has its role models in attendance as well, as seniors Almohandis, wideout Ian Pope, offensive linemen Brad Becque and Kevin Thomas, and kicker Jack Dippold are around to help show the younger guys the ropes.
An intriguing addition to the team is quarterback Bill Meyer, a sophomore transfer from Case Western University. Meyer has already played in both games this year, leading the Fire to their trouncing of Eureka College 26-0, as well as the hammering they took at the hands of the Blue Boys of Illinois College, where they lost, 62-27.
“We’re expecting a lot this season,” said Gibbons on Wednesday. “Camp went great, probably one of the best conditioned teams I’ve had in a while.”
The view of Gibbons down on the field coaching the team in practice was one of a sure-handed old salt. Surely the Knox Prairie Fire are in good hands and are eager to open up the new field in front of a boisterous crowd. With Ripon College coming to town this weekend, and St. Norbert two weeks later, the team looks ready and willing to smash their way to what could be a Cinderella season.
“It’s a big game,” noted Gibbons. “We love playing on that field, we’re thankful to President Taylor and every one else who made it possible.”
Undefeated at home thus far, maybe the Knosher Bowl will help start something new.