Vazquez heat check

Rantoul assistant football coach Eric Miles checks the temperature of Alan Vazquez before he enters the high school Friday for workouts. RTHS opens the season at home against Prairie Central.

RANTOUL — Rantoul head football coach Tom Hess said the Eagles, who are scheduled to open the 2020 season Aug. 28 at home against Prairie Central, have about 50 players who have been working out this summer.

Hess reviewed the Eagles’ schedule, which includes only one change. Urbana replaces St. Thomas More, which went to eight-man football, on the slate. The two teams collide Sept. 25 at Rantoul.

“I think it’s an exciting opponent to play,” Hess said. “There could be a little bit of rivalry there. We have some kids and families who go back and forth to Urbana. A lot of families work in Urbana, have relatives in Urbana.”

Rantoul is a 4A school that had a 2019-20 enrollment of 738 students. Urbana, a 5A school, was at 1,185.

Enrollment doesn’t always matter. More important are the number of players who come out for the sport. And their mind set. St. Joseph-Ogden, Monticello, Unity, Prairie Central all have smaller enrollments than RTHS but are generally playoff-bound.

Hess said he likes the “core group of motivated kids” who have come out to play for the Eagles and called them “very talented.”

“They have bought into a different kind of culture we are teaching,” Hess said. “I feel this group of kids had bought in to being hard working, good teammates and showing leadership. They’re a fun group to work with.”

Hess, who is starting his fourth season at the helm, said he thought turning around the Eagles would happen faster. The Eagles were winless last season. Twelve seniors from the team graduated.

“It’s taken four years now,” he said, “but it’s been worth it. These kids have learned accountability, respect. They’re good to each other and have a good attitude. It’s been a lot of work to get to this point.’

Hess said he is excited about the season and hopes the Eagles will be able to “get out and show what they can do.”

That is not a given due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some feel the season might be played in the spring.

There won’t be an easy game on the schedule, which includes five playoff teams, including Prairie Central in week one. Standford Olympia, which like RTHS has been toward the bottom of the conference the last few years, has a new coach.

RTHS 2020 football schedule

Aug. 28 vs. Prairie Central, 7 p.m.

Sept. 4 at St. Joseph-Ogden, 7 p.m.

Sept. 11 vs. Olympia, 7 p.m.

Sept. 18 at Monticello, 7 p.m.

Sept. 25 vs. Urbana, 7 p.m.

Oct. 2 vs. Chillicothe IVC, 7 p.m.

Oct. 9 at Bloomington Central Catholic, 7 p.m.

Oct. 16 vs. Unity, 7 p.m.

Oct. 23 at Pontiac, 7 p.m.