The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

High School Sports

November 28, 2013

Football: The Herald Players of the Year are...

Panthers' 72, 27 tops

ERIE, Ill. — There was little guesswork about what Erie/Prophetstown’s offense planned to do in key situations.

“Any time we were in a bind, we had 27 run behind 72,” Panthers coach Chuck Milem said.

Who could blame them?

With No. 72, Owen McConnell, anchoring the line, No. 27, Nick Williams, had a monster year out of the backfield, rushing for a school-record 2,097 yards.

That pair leads this year’s Clinton Herald All-Area Football Team, too. Two mainstays on teams that reached the Illinois high school playoffs after a decade of struggles, McConnell and Williams share the Herald’s Player of the Year honors.

The Herald’s All-Area team includes a first team and a second team, with 11 position players each on offense and defense, a kicker and a punter. Clinton High led the way with five first-team selections, while Erie-Prophetstown had four and Central DeWitt, Easton Valley, Fulton and Maquoketa had three apiece. The first team included six repeat performers -- McConnell, Maquoketa’s Cory Wirth and Cohl Kueter, and Easton Valley’s Andrew Driscoll, Brett Earles and Chase Zaruba -- while eight others also were recognized for the second year in a row.

The Herald sports staff selected the teams based on personal observations, statistical information and input from coaches at the 11 area high schools that play football.

Along with Williams and McConnell, Chuck Milem made it a postseason sweep for Erie/Prophetstown as he was named Coach of the Year.

Milem said the co-Player of the Year designation was fitting for two of his seniors who led the Panthers to an 8-3 record this fall after a 5-5 junior season.

He was happy he didn’t have to pick between the two.

“That’s trying to put me in a terrible position (picking one),” he said. “It’s hard not to go with Owen McConnell. He’s one of those kids whose 110 percent every single play. Everything he has is laid out there for you. Whether you’re talking practice, he brings another level and makes us that much better, or in the weight room all summer and offseason. The kid is the hardest-working kid I’ve been around.”

But it was equally difficult not to go with Williams.

“Nick, his performance speaks for itself every time out,” Milem said. “He’s such a hard-working kid.”

It’s the second year in a row the Panthers nabbed the top player award. Last year, Zach Inskeep earned the honor after rushing for more than 1,100 yards and earning first-team All-Three Rivers Conference honors on both offense and defense.

Williams made that impressive rushing total look miniscule.

“Nick came in this year, as I describe it, with a chip on his shoulder in a positive way,” Milem said. “People thought without Zach Inskeep, we were not as good. Nick took it as a challenge. He went out with something to prove every time in the weight room, and that prepared him for the season he had.”

Williams said: “Everybody was saying that I wouldn’t add up to what Zach could do. He was a good runner -- I’ll give him that -- but I was really proud to know that it wasn’t all about Zach. But I couldn’t do anything without my offensive line. They were really the heart of the offense.”

McConnell -- a member of the varsity since his sophomore year, when a knee injury shortened his season -- was the leader up front with his 6-foot-2, 265-pound frame.

“We play him at the most crucial position in our system, right guard,” Milem said. “He faces some of the best defensive technique we see. Owen, every game stands the test. He’s that lineman that everybody has to game-plan for. He changes the course of football games. He makes that type of difference.”

McConnell also excelled on defense and ranked third on the team with 74 tackles. He was a first-team All-Area pick on defense last season.

“Owen on defense was an absolute beast,” Milem said. “At first we played him on one side. But we thought teams were running away from him, so started moving him. He’s that type of kid we thought people did have to do that against him. It usually took two offensive players to take care of him.”

With McConnell and three other returning senior starters -- Kyle Coleman, Ken Cole and Jace Bright -- in front of Williams, it usually took more than one opposing player to stop the 5-10, 185-pound running back, too.

He rushed for nearly 350 yards in a win against Bureau Valley in Week 5 that put him over the 1,000-yard mark. He went over 2,000 in a season-ending loss to Stillman Valley, gaining 137 yards in the 24-14 loss.

“I’m real happy with how the season went for me, but I couldn’t have gotten anything, any of those yards, without my o-line,” Williams said. “That o-line did amazing all year. They played a high level and it really showed.”

And it made picking just one athlete as Player of the Year an impossible task.

1
Text Only
High School Sports
  • 4-22-14 2B-Photo, Fulton baseball Morrison wins twinbill at Fulton FULTON, Ill. -- As Fulton baseball coach Kyle Miller put it after losing both games to Morrison on Monday, the losses were tough to swallow, but all the Steamers could do afterward was tip their hats toward the Mustangs. Morrison won 1-0, then 11-4

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Irish's Evers second CLINTON -- Conner Evers pulled out his go-to motivation when struggling on the golf course. Not anything in his bag particularly, but a small booklet of pick-me-up quotes. He picked the right one, because Evers, a junior for Prince of Peace, finished

    April 22, 2014

  • 4-22-14 1B-Photo, Fulton softball Fillies take control vs. Fulton FULTON, Ill. -- While Fulton's softball team is figuring out the small things, Morrison is continuing its tear across the Three Rivers Conference. Morrison continued its dominant season Monday by defeating Fulton 9-0. Morrison scored in five of the s

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • E/P scores 15 in inning PROPHETSTOWN, Ill. -- Erie/Prophetstown was all business Saturday, taking care of Peru St. Bede by dominating in a doubleheader that lasted 9 1/2 innings. The Panthers won Game 1 13-2 by scoring four in the third inning, then five in the fifth inning

    April 21, 2014

  • Hot start, strong finish FULTON, Ill. -- A day after a struggle at the plate, Fulton found a dozen runs during the third game of the Fulton Invitational softball tournament against West Carroll to end the day. The game went four innings, and the Steamers used all four of the

    April 21, 2014

  • River Hawks win triangular CLINTON -- Cration Andresen claimed medalist honors and teammate Logan Wilhelm took second Thursday as they led Easton Valley to first place at a boys golf triangular hosted by Camanche at The Oaks Golf Course. Easton Valley finished with a 190-strok

    April 19, 2014

  • 4-19-14 1B-Photo, Fulton catch HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL Hall halts Steamers FULTON, Ill. -- Fulton knew it had its hands full heading into Friday's baseball game against Hall. After all, the Red Devils entered the game with an 8-1 record, and they had momentum after blanking Rockridge the day before. Fulton fell to Hall 5-2

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • River Kings light up the Day DAVENPORT -- Clinton continued its strong season in boys track and field, taking first place Thursday at the Jesse Day Relays on the final day of qualifying for the Drake Relays. The River Kings scored 138 points. Solon edged Davenport Central 120-11

    April 18, 2014

  • 4-18-14 3C-Photo, Rasche Clinton tennis splits with Muscatine CLINTON -- The Clinton tennis team faced Muscatine at Max Lynn Tennis Complex on Thursday where it was a tale of two duals. The girls' team won 9-0 over the Muskies while the River Kings fell 8-1. Queens sail in sweep In the six singles matches, not

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Panthers put the hurt on BV PROPHETSTOWN, Ill. -- The Erie/Prophetstown Panthers had an offensive explosion on Thursday to say the least. E/P defeated Bureau Valley 19-1 in five innings on 15 hits, 14 RBIs and seven walks. Three different Panthers -- Kylie Ackerman, Stephanie T

    April 18, 2014

Sports Updates
Facebook