After losing 45-0 in a Week 6 Heart of Illinois Conference game to Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, the Tremont football team has a chance to rebound against an opponent that is a near carbon copy of last week’s opponent.
At 7 p.m. Friday, Tremont (1-6) travels to El Paso-Gridley (4-2) in a HOI non-conference crossover game.
EPG has a similar philosophy as GCMS: control the trenches and rely on the run game. GCMS rushed for 230 yards and stalled the Turks’ offense last week.
The game is a chance for the Tremont lines to rebound from a tough week.
“We have to be sharp up front and make sure we take care of things and keep them off balance, making sure we can run the ball,” Tremont head coach Lou Wicks said of his offensive line.
Last week, Tremont quarterback Logan Baxter was under duress for most of the game, with the GCMS defense in his face. When the senior had time, the Turks found room in the passing game to move the chains.
EPG head coach Stephen Rigsby wants to avoid giving Baxter time to find his receivers. Rigsby has a young, inexperienced secondary that can get exposed if the Turks have time to make throws.
Wicks said success in the passing game depends on how Tremont responds to the EPG coverage. The Turks tend to respond well with a coverage they’ve seen before, but struggle with new defensive schemes.
Squashing the pass game can go a long way in stopping Tremont running back Eli Finnegan and his 755 yards and five touchdowns on the season.
“We need to create some pressure up front to create some opportunities in the back end,” Rigsby said. “They certainly have very capable athletes on the edges if they get it rolling and a good running back in Finnegan.”
Leading the charge against the Tremont offense is EPG defensive lineman Zack Puck. The senior leads the team with three sacks, 4.5 tackles for a loss, 50 tackles and 20 first hits.
Linebackers Dylan Reeves and Ryne Faulk enter the game with 48 and 47 tackles, respectively.
Tremont’s defense will be tasked with stopping running back Tyler Russell (543 yards, seven TDs). EPG will give the Turks’ defense, led by Finnegan (29 tackles, three tackles for a loss) and Brock Madson (24 tackles, one tackle for a loss), a different look than last week.
GCMS ran a Wing-T offense, whereas EPG tends to run in the I-Form. The difference is where the fullback lines up.
“This is pretty much going to be straight in our face and we’re going to have to do a better job of getting the run stopped,” Wicks said.
Both teams are coming off 45-0 losses last week. EPG lost to top-ranked Downs Tri-Valley. The only other loss for the Titans came against No. 2 ranked Dee-Mack in Week 4.
Wicks anticipates both teams coming into the game ready to put last week behind them.
For the Turks, it begins and ends with stopping the run.
“Offensively, for us, it is always about staying ahead of the chains and being consistent in the run game while limiting turnovers,” Rigsby said.