Coal City/Wilmington Football

Coal City’s Kyle Burch carries the ball on a play as Wilmington’s AJ Meyers tries to run him down during a 2019 game in Coal City. The two Illinois Central Eight Conference rivals will meet again in Wilmington Friday.

Coalers

Coalers players to watch: RB/WR/DB Asa Cooper, RB/LB Ashton Harvey

Coalers on offense: Cooper has been the lightning to Harvey’s thunder as the one-two punch of a deep Coal City backfield. It’s always the Coalers’ top priority to get the offense started through the ground and that will only be of more importance in Friday’s physical matchup. And in throwing situations, Keegan Crater, who is settling in his role as first-year quarterback, will be looking for Cooper in a variety of different ways.

Coalers on defense: Coaler football and disciplined defense go as hand-in-hand as peanut butter and jelly. This season’s unit has allowed just six points through three games, and while the Wildcats certainly offer the biggest threat, an offensive onslaught isn’t likely. If the defensive line, led by the likes of Nick Seplak and Kyle Burch, can eat up double teams and control their gaps, the playmakers on the back end will remain free to flow to the ball and keep the Wildcats’ ground game at bay.

Wildcats

Wildcats players to watch: RB/LB AJ Meyers, RB/DB Jacob Friddle

Wildcats on offense: The preseason loss of lead back Trey Shaw hasn’t bothered the ‘Cats much, with Friddle, Meyers and Cody Franzen all performing exceptionally. The offensive line has also been tremendous as always. Jack Narine has yet to be tested much but has made plays from the quarterback position whenever he’s been asked, whether in the air or on the ground.

Wildcats on defense: Wilmington’s defensive tradition is as strong as Coal City’s, and while it’s been dominant at times, the Wildcats are still looking to put together a full four quarters of defensive dominance this season. The Coalers offer a hefty challenge with their ability to churn out efficient yardage on the ground and as the physical toll of both teams’ styles build up, the Wildcats will have their home crowd behind them for big moments.

— Daily Journal/Mason Schweizer

Mason Schweizer is an award-winning reporter who has been with the Daily Journal since 2017 and sports editor since 2019. Save for time at the University of Illinois and Wayne State College, Mason is a lifelong area resident.