GCMS Youth Football teams to start season Saturday at Watseka

GIBSON CITY -- The Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Youth Football Seniors will start their 2017 Central Illinois Football League against a familiar foe.
 
En route to reaching last year's CIFL SuperBowl, the Falcons trailed Watseka 32-16 with 5:43 left in their semifinal game before rallying to win 38-32. 
 
At 5 p.m. Saturday, the two teams will meet again in Watseka for their season opener.
 
“That was a huge game for us last year," GCMS head coach Justin Kean said. "We kind of came back from being way behind. It's a game that we remember, and I'm sure they remember it, and they're going to want to beat us, so we've got to come ready to play.”
 
The game will follow three weeks of preseason practice for GCMS.
 
“We're looking forward to it. We're ready to hit somebody else," Kean said. "We're tired of hitting our own (players). We're looking forward to what we can do when we're hitting and running against somebody else.”
 
The Falcons will go into the 2017 season with a 24-player roster, including, Kean said, "12-13" eighth-grade players returning from last year's SuperBowl-bound team.
 
“We've got a good mix. The eighth-graders coming back are going to be our leaders," Kean said. "We'll have to have some seventh-graders step it up to give us the full squad. Hopefully, we'll have a good year. We'll see. We've got a lot of things to put into place.”
 
After playing at Iroquois West (5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19) and hosting Dwight (5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26), the Falcons will have a bye week before they host Clifton Central at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9, in a rematch of last year's CIFL SuperBowl, which GCMS lost 26-8 to finish its season with a record of 6-3.
 
“We always look forward to Clifton," Kean said. "All of them are big games.”
 
Before their regular-season finale at home against Watseka at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, the Falcons will travel to Paxton for a game against Ford County-rival Paxton-Buckley-Loda at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16.
 
“Every game's big, but I coached at PBL, so I always look forward to going against them because I know all the coaches and everything," Kean said. "Those are some good guys. We always look forward to that. We always look forward to every game.”
 
Mighty Mites
The GCMS Mighty Mites' season opener at 1 p.m. Saturday will send them to the place where they ended last season in glory.
 
Watseka hosted the CIFL SuperBowl, in which the Falcons' Mighty Mites team defeated Dwight 6-0 in double-overtime en route to ending its season with an undefeated record at 8-0.
 
This season, the Falcons return with a 27-player roster.
 
“Most of the time, you really don't know what you're going to get until you get to that first game and see how everybody reacts," GCMS head coach Mark Ward said. "We're anxiously awaiting that game. We're pretty optimistic right now. We'll just wait and see what that first game gets us.”
 
About half of the roster, Ward said, is made up of fourth-graders, most of whom return from last year's title run.
 
"The fourth-graders are doing a great job of leading and showing those third-graders what they're supposed to do and things of that sort – introducing them to football," Ward said. “We've got a couple of places where we've got to shore up and strengthen up a little bit, but for the most part, I have a lot of faith in the guys.
 
“We're feeling pretty good. We've got a lot of kids coming back. We've got a lot of fourth-graders who have a lot of experience. We've got some good size. We've got some good speed. We're feeling pretty confident. We'll just see if all the ducks line up the way they're supposed to when game time comes on Saturday.”
 
There are, Ward said, a couple of new fourth-graders who did not play last year.
 
“They are going to contribute," Ward said. "They're going to do well in some specialty spots and on the line. We're going to be shuffling kids in and out like crazy, trying to make sure everybody gets their plays like they're supposed to and fitting everybody in their proper spot that benefits them and benefits us as a team, and then we get to go from there. We've got a pretty big squad.”
 
Most of the experience, Ward said, comes from the linemen positions.
 
“We've got a new backfield. A lot of guys moved up to the next level from our backfield from last year. Our line is pretty similar to what it was last year, so that's where our experience is going to be right now," Ward said. "We'll just see if our new quarterbacks and running backs are doing what they're supposed to do. Right now, according to the plan, everybody's picking up on the plays. 
 
"Our starters are doing a wonderful job of getting to the hole and getting to the gap the way they're supposed to. The third-graders are contributing with backfield play – running backs and things of that sort. It has taken until now to really get them to where they need to be, and we're still shuffling things. We'll get ready for the first game. We'll put people where everything happens. We'll watch game film, and we'll make our decisions for the next game based on that.”
 
After playing at Iroquois West (1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19) and hosting Dwight (1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26), the Falcons will have a bye week before they host Clifton Central at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9.
 
Before their regular-season finale at home against Watseka at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, the Falcons will travel to Paxton for a game against Ford County-rival Paxton-Buckley-Loda at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16.
 
“We're just going to take it one game at a time," Ward said. "With these little kids, if you start to try to do too much too quickly and you don't take your steps the way that you're supposed to, you might lose a few and get them really confused, and then when you put them out on the field, it runs a risk of them getting injured, or something of that sort, so we're going to get them ready for this first game. We'll see where we're at after that game, and then we'll just keep going.
 
“PBL's a rivalry, of course. There's always a smile on your face when you see them on the schedule, but they're down the line a little bit, so we'll have to hold off on our excitement for PBL for a little bit. We'll take this first game against Watseka and just use that as a good measuring stick to see where we're at, make adjustments and go from there.”
 
Juniors
Eleven of the 24 players on GCMS's roster are fifth-graders moving up to the Juniors level after winning the CIFL championship with the Mighty Mites last year.
 
“It's a big jump. We hope our kids are ready for it," GCMS Juniors head coach Michael Elliott said. "We'll look for some leadership from our older sixth-graders to get those fifth-graders in the position they need to be – some new things they learn such as pulling guards and some of the different rules that we have in Junior football that they didn't have in Mighty Mites. We're working on that every day in practice and getting them ready for the season.”
 
Two of GCMS's players will be out with an injury when the Falcons go to Watseka for its season opener at 3 p.m. Saturday.
 
“We've got a good combination of size and speed," Elliott said. "We're going to take advantage of our speed with the offense we're going to run. We have a big line, so we're just learning our blocking assignments and what we can be on offense. We're just starting to gel as a team, and we'll see what we have come Saturday.”
 
Like the Seniors, the GCMS Juniors are anxious to conclude their three weeks of preseason practice with Saturday's season opener, Elliott said.
 
“Like all teams, you have two weeks to prepare for your first game," Elliott said. "Like every team, we're trying to get in as much (practice) as we can of special teams, learning our offense and getting our defense set. Watseka always has a good, aggressive team. They usually have some good size, so we're excited about the matchup. We'll see how we fare for week one.”
 
After playing at Iroquois West (3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19) and hosting Dwight (3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26), the Falcons will have a bye week before they host Clifton Central at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9.
 
Before their regular-season finale at home against Watseka at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, the Falcons will travel to Paxton for a game against Ford County-rival Paxton-Buckley-Loda at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16.
 
“We just take it game-by-game," Elliott said. "Whoever they put in front of us, we just want to be ready for. Everybody talks about the PBL game. That's always one game on the schedule that our fans will be excited about. I just look at that as another week. We've got to be ready to play regardless of who we face.”
Categories (3):Prep Sports, Football, Sports

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