Jarad Kimbro is not afraid to admit he’s a little bit different.
The end of the era began after former head coach Troy Johnson retired after last season. The new era may not feel as new as Kimbro took the jump from longtime assistant to head coach. With that said, practices might be a bit louder than in the past.
“I know my intensity level is a little different than Coach Johnson,” said Kimbro. “I bring more of that gruff approach and that gets on your type of attitude. All I can say is that the kids have reacted fantastically. Practice has gone well. The kids have answered the challenge all offseason. I think we have a chance to do some big things as long as we take care of ourselves.”
The Green Wave finished last season 3-6 but that record could easily have been reversed.
The Green Wave led Troy Triad in the fourth quarter before falling 26-13. The team lost 35-34 to Lincoln and 28-22 to Collinsville. MHS again faces those three schools from the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Green Wave must replace several players at skill positions – three-year starting quarterback Jackson Spurgeon, who was an All-Apollo Second Team mention, as well as the team’s top two wide receivers in Derrius White, a second-team Apollo mention, and Matthew Gordon.
Spurgeon tossed 1,511 yards with 11 touchdowns to eight interceptions with eight of those touchdown passes going to White, who collared a team-high 693 yards. Gordon added 328 yards receiving and two touchdown passes of his own.
Taking over at quarterback will be junior Slater Trier, who was used as a wide receiver last season. Trier will be throwing Owen Hawkins, Wilson Spraker and Logan Blackburn.
“Slater has stepped in and has done everything we have asked,” said Kimbro. “He is as tough as it gets. Owen played at receiver on varsity last year and could be a force for us. Logan returns after suffering an injury last year. He is a super dynamic kid, hard nosed, and can catch the ball well.”
The ground game should be one of the more experienced pieces on offense with the return of senior Tariek Grace. Last year, Grace was a Second-Team All-Apollo running back after rushing for 569 yards on 107 carries with four touchdown runs.
“He’s back with a vengeance,” said Kimbro. “He came into camp with a fantastic attitude. His work ethic looks really good. I am hoping that our run game will be a little better compared to last year’s past. Having Tariek helps. Deaiden Arnold is a sophomore, and he is pretty dynamic. Cale Kimbro is another guy. That’s three downhill runners with speed who are not afraid of contact.”
The Green Wave lost two key pieces on the offensive line – Aiden Spurgeon, a first-team All-Apollo selection, and Sam Bradbury, who is now throwing for Eastern Illinois University track. Kimbro believes the line can reload with players who missed games with injuries and seniors.
Senior T.J. Owens is expected to start at guard, while Riley Spencer looks to play significant minutes after missing time last season. Jordan Combs, returning to football after two years away, will take reps at center. Caden Knierem also returns from injury, while Kimbro said the final spot has not been decided yet.
“We have a ton of seniors this year,” said Kimbro. “We are in the low 20s when it comes to seniors. We have kids that played before that left but came back out this year. That type of senior leadership bodes well for the season. When you have that senior leadership, it makes the team have some good pieces. A new facility helps but overall, the numbers across the face of the team are in great shape.”
One of those players coming features a member from the band. Cole Kauffman and Gabe Freeman will come out and help “plug up the middle” on the defensive line. At linebacker, Owens replaces first-team All-Apollo selection Aiden Spurgeon, who led the state in tackles last season. Aiden Blackburn and Cale Kimbro will also see time.
At cornerback, Chase Woodard returns as a second-year starter, while Logan Blackburn will play on the other side.
“Cole and Gabe are some good-sized young men that took initiative at getting in shape and lifting weights to get their bodies ready,” said Kimbro. “Riley Spencer and Sean Fuentes are going to be rotating in and out as well. Cale spent time playing as a freshman and had done a nice job when the ball started flying around. T.J. has done a great job of mentoring some of the younger guys and holding them to a higher standard. As a whole, he has been a great leader, especially for our linebacker core. Chase has worked incredibly hard to get better at his position, while Logan is super physical and will be a great addition back there.”
The Green Wave look great on paper defensively with a number of returning players. Last year, the team allowed around 27 points per game. Take away the 59-8 loss to Marion during the final week of the season, and that average drops to 23 ppg. The squad held a high-powered Mahomet-Seymour team that made the Elite 8 to 19 points.
“Defensively, this is as good as a squad in a while,” said Kimbro. “Front seven-wise, I am pretty happy. They have a chance to keep us super competitive in most games. We didn’t give up a lot of points last year.”
When it comes to Apollo, Kimbro said the expectation remains the same. The team wants to compete for a conference championship. Last year, the team finished 3-3 in the Apollo with wins over Taylorville, Effingham, and Charleston.
With a competitive schedule ahead, Kimbro looks forward to the challenge.
“Bottom line is that we want to compete for a conference championship,” said Kimbro. “We want to get to the playoffs. That goes through the conference and the Apollo is super solid. It was a great competition. Then you cross over to the Missouri Valley; there is not a single slouch game on our schedule. I look forward to competitive games each week because it’s only going to make us more competitive and that is how you get better.”
2021 RECEIVING STATS
2022 MHS SCHEDULE
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