RANTOUL — Rantoul Township High School football has not made the IHSA playoffs since 2005. For years Rantoul has had doubters and naysayers, and most of them were right, and that’s where head coach Tom Hess enters.
Hess, in his third year, knew he had to build the program from the ground up. And that starts in the offseason.
“We had a really good summer, and know we have to get at the stuff we have already done,” Hess said.
Building a team starts with leadership, and Hess is looking to his two seniors with perfect offseason attendance. Logan Evans and Sam Wines were in the weight room all off season and will be playing new positions this fall.
“In the past season they were undersized linemen who are now moving to linebacker,” Hess said.
The move has helped not only make the linebacker core strong, it has allowed the lines to match up with anyone, which has been a problem in years past.
“Size-wise I think our offensive line can match-up with anyone,” Hess said.
Hess knows that nothing will ever come easy in the Illini Prairie Conference. The conference is made up of 10 teams, which means there are no out-of-conference games.
“The conference is traditionally successful and stacked with tough competition,” Hess said.
To be able to improve on last year’s 2-7 record, Hess said the Eagles had to make adjustments on both sides of the ball.
“We definitely simplified things on defense; on offense we added some wrinkles in the passing game,” he said.
Seeing the effects of those wrinkles are the two quarterbacks seeing most of the varsity snaps — senior Luke Zech and sophomore Kedrick Terhune.
The team heads to Prairie Central in week one to take on the Hawks.
The Hawks beat Rantoul to open the 2018 campaign 52-28. Prairie Central just missed the playoffs in 2018, going 4-5.
Hess said Rantoul has to be more disciplined to win games it hasn’t in the past.
“We have to be more disciplined in our assignments; do your job and don’t worry about anyone else’s,” Hess said.
Highlights of the Eagles schedule are the home opener against St. Joseph Ogden on Sept. 6 and a date with the defending 3A state champion Monticello Sages at home on Sept. 20. Sandwiched between those teams is a road trip to take on the Olympia Spartans, who the Eagles have defeated in back-to-back seasons.
Contact Ryan Birch at Rbirch@Rantoulpress.com or on Twitter @RyanBirchRP