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SATURDAY SENTINEL: Winter season doesn't want to end just yet

The next issue of the Morris Daily Herald you pick up will contain prep girls basketball results. It seems too early for that, but it always does.

Some years, basketball can immediately grab the spotlight on the local prep scene. The fall season is sometimes over by the time the first games tip off. That won't be the case in Tuesday's paper, and there's a good chance it won't be the case for another week or two beyond then.

Coal City and Morris are both state quarterfinalists in football and will play their third-round games this afternoon. Morris is also competing at the Sandburg Girls Swimming and Diving Sectional today, though having any of its athletes extend their seasons will be difficult now that standout diver Alyssa Applebee has graduated.

I've spent a lot of time around the Coalers the past couple of weeks, having covered their first two playoff games and visited them at practice a few times while working on follow-up coverage. Having not seen them during the regular season, I knew only the obvious about the Coalers prior to their first playoff game against Peotone — that their defense is pretty good, that senior Ryland Tondini was having a nice season running the ball.

Obviously I've learned a good deal more about the team in the past several days, and I've shared much of that with you in the numerous stories I've penned about the team. But there are a few more tidbits that I haven't been able to work in that are worth sharing.

While planning a feature on the Coal City defense this week, I asked Coalers coach Lenny Onsen if there was a member of the defense who hadn't gotten much publicity. Onsen brought up a few names before getting to safety Collin Anderson.

Anderson's numbers don't jump out at you. His 53 tackle points (the Coalers award two points for a solo tackle and one for an assist) rank 11th on the team. None of his tackles have been for a loss, and he has no takeaways.

Onsen was complimentary of the job Anderson has done "in the huddle," calling defenses and making sure the Coalers aligned properly. I asked Anderson about that role this week in practice.

"Me and the middle linebacker are really the only ones who talk, whether it's to correct something or to pump guys up if they get down," Anderson said. "There's a lot of pressure because if I make one bad decision, it's usually a touchdown."

I asked Anderson if he enjoys that pressure.

"It's tough. I have to be in the right place at all times, and that's hard to do," he said. "There's so many places you can have to be, especially when we're playing Cover-1, because if we blow a coverage in that, it's going to be on me."

Another thing worth mentioning is the atmosphere from Saturday's 12-10 second-round Coalers win at Geneseo. Bob Reade Field is a high school football field unlike any I've ever visited. Its most notable feature is a video scoreboard. If one of the Maple Leafs' players makes a tackle or carries the ball, his photo and name are instantly displayed after the play is over.

Geneseo attracted a great crowd, and for a team that had to travel nearly two hours, the Coalers also brought a nice number of fans. That only added to the excitement as the Maple Leafs marched down the field on a potential winning drive late in the fourth quarter. Coal City's fans made some serious noise, especially when a 44-yard field-goal try went wide to essentially seal the win.

Today, Alleman must make a commute from Rock Island to Coal City that is only slightly longer than the trip the Coalers made last Saturday to Geneseo.

"We're not thinking about them having to travel. We're just happy to be back on our home field," Onsen said. "We love playing at home, and we're expecting a big crowd."

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