Prep Football

Blue Devils building off stellar starts

Quincy High School running back Jirehl Brock celebrates after hauling in a 16-yard touchdown pass for the first score in the game against Alton. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 13, 2018 1:15 am Updated: Sep. 14, 2018 10:15 am

QUINCY -- Jose Quintero might not agree with Quincy High School football coach Rick Little's way of thinking.

In an ideal situation, Little would prefer to have the Blue Devils kick off to start a game to ensure they receive the opening kickoff of the second half.

"You can score late in the half and then get the ball right back again," Little said. "It can be a 14-point swing."

Quintero, the Blue Devils' defensive coordinator, tends to see it differently.

"He would rather us score and give him a cushion," Little said.

Things have played out in Quintero's favor so far.

By happenstance as much as choice, the Blue Devils have received the opening kick in each of the first three games and scored on that possession each time. It's been the catalyst for a strong start in which Quincy has outscored its opponents 51-0 in the first quarter and gone 2-1 in non-conference play.

"If that trend continues, I'll keep taking the ball," Little said.

The Blue Devils are just fine with that.

"No one is going to ease into a fist fight," senior lineman Blake Poling said. "That's kind of what a football game is. You have to come out swinging just like the other team."

Quincy has tried to deliver some haymakers.

In Week 1 against North Lawndale, the Blue Devils went 65 yards in just four plays, capping the drive with an 18-yard touchdown run by Jirehl Brock. In Week 2 against Alton, it was another 65-yard scoring drive, this time featuring a 16-yard touchdown reception by Brock seventh play in which he tipped the ball between two defenders and hauled it in.

Last week at Belleville East, it took seven plays before Adonte Crider scored on a 35-yard run.

"I like to have the ball the first possession. Punch them first," QHS senior fullback Garrett Drew said. "They have to come back. They're crawling now. You have the advantage. You have the uphill edge."

That could wind up being the edge the Blue Devils need to regain the Western Big Six Conference championship.

Quincy had won 10 straight league games before suffering a 35-32 loss at Moline in Week 7 last season. The Blue Devils rebounded to beat United Township in the WB6 finale, but they still finished second in the conference.

They had won the conference title outright in 2016.

"I teared up when we lost it (to Moline)," Poling said. "I'm using that as this year's motivation."

Pursuit of the league crown begins in earnest this week with United Township visiting Flinn Stadium. The Panthers have lost 33 straight league games and haven't beaten the Blue Devils since a 56-35 victory in 2002. That's enough to give the Blue Devils some inflated confidence.

They know they have to fight through that.

"You have to make sure the energy is high and stays high," Poling said.

It all starts with the opening kickoff.

"Keeping the intensity high is key," Drew said. "We know how we're supposed to start and we know how we can start."

That gives Little confidence should the Blue Devils receive the opening kick, although he has no plan in place yet just to take the ball and run.

"It's a gut feeling," Little said of the decision to kick or receive. "I don't know until I'm walking up to the coin toss."

But he'd be smart to do what Quintero wants. It's worked flawlessly so far.

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