Head Coach: Jason Thiele (1st season)
Career Record: 0-0
Conference: Sangamon Valley
Last Playoff: Class 2A Second Round, 2006
Best Playoff: Class 2A State Champs, 2003
2019 Record: 1-8
3/19 7 p.m. @Central
3/26 7 p.m. @Dwight
4/1 7 p.m. @Paxton-Buckley-Loda
4/10 1 p.m. Watseka
4/17 1 p.m. Walter Christian
4/23 7 p.m. Seneca
For the second time in three seasons, the Raiders gave their program a makeover when it decided to replace former head football coach Cam Stone with Jason Thiele. The former Iroquois West graduate and state champion in 2003 acknowledges he has his hands full taking over a program that’s won just one game in the past two seasons combined.
“My guys understand that this is a process, and we talk about it daily at practice,” Thiele said. “All we can control is the moment you’re in and you have to continue to get better in each of those moments and then, eventually, the wins will come.”
Although his new squad looks relatively young on paper, Thiele believes this year’s team can begin the turnaround Iroquois West needs due to all the experience his players have had playing as underclassmen.
“We're going to look like a younger team, but these guys have been playing since they were freshmen, so, I think our youth is going to pay off for us starting this spring,” Thiele said.
With Thiele now at the helm, the Raiders will look to transition from an offense that ran primarily out of the spread under coach Stone to a team that will lean heavily on its rushing attack.
“Offensively we are going to be a heavy ground team,” Thiele said. “We will have a mixture of formations, but we will be a run heavy team.”
While running back Auston Miller and fullback Trystyn Schacht are expected to take a bulk on the carries, Iroquois West plans to also use sophomore fullback John Ahlden, sophomore running back Damian Melgoza and junior running back David Netzband to lighten the loads.
“We have a very large running back corps who happen to be our linebacker corps, as well,” Thiele said. “So, we have a ton of depth as those positions.”
The biggest turnaround for the Raiders will be Ty Pankey replacing the graduated Tibaldo Alvarez at the quarterback position. Pankey is set to make his first start under center at the varsity level this season as a senior.
“Pankey has spent the last three years backing up Tibaldo so he knows this offense that we're running,” Thiele said. “The way he commands the huddle, I couldn’t ask for anything better than what he’s doing now. He’s great at it, and I think he’s going to step right up.”
Thiele noted how impressed he’s been with Pankey’s IQ, saying he will have the ability to call audibles at the line of scrimmage if he sees something from opposing defenses.
“The kid is extremely intelligent, so he may have some abilities to call some audibles if he sees something because we have that amount of confidence in Pankey,” Thiele said.
With there not being any state series during this year’s shortened season Thiele sees this six-game schedule as a prime opportunity to be a stepping stone heading into the traditional football season next fall.
“With the shortened spring season, I think it’s the perfect time for these guys to build that confidence in themselves that we can win some games,” Thiele said. “And then, take that confidence and roll it over into the traditional fall season, where we should be competing in conference and, hopefully, make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.”