Kankakee Valley Kougars
Last season: 1-9
Returning starters: 7 (3 offense, 4 defense)
Returning offensive leader: Joel Bolen, Jr., QB (46-98 passing, 355 yards; 84 carries, 114 yards, 4 TDs).
Returning defensive leader: Tim Hillers, Sr., DB (38 tackles, 33 solos).
Everybody's All-American: Tyler Birky, Jr., RB/LB. Birky will solidify the Kougars up the gut on offense and defense. He runs a 4.7 40. "He plays pretty aggressive defensively," Stewart said. "He's got very good speed."
He's got next: Johnny Morrison, Jr., DL. The Kougars like Morrison's quickness and agility up front despite his small stature. "He's a 145-pound defensive tackle," Stewart said. "When you play with the big boys, that's pretty small."
MARK HOFFMAN CONNECTION
Stewart is an acquaintance of Hoffman.
Coaches since 1977: 10.
The Times' breakdown
The Kougars will try to rebound from an injury-plagued season of a year ago with a renewed vigor and commitment. Former Lowell assistant Brad Stewart takes over as head coach after serving the past season as K.V.'s defensive coordinator. Stewart might finally be the guy to lead the Kougars to respectability with a promising sophomore class and a solid junior contingent. "We had troubles in just about every aspect of the game last year," Stewart said. "We need to be competitive, and I like our opportunity, because these kids made a commitment. As long as they don't get discouraged early because physically they are sophomores." K.V. will run a wishbone attack, utilizing its speed and quickness with Birky and Keegan Higgins at halfbacks and Alex Berdine at fullback. Stewart also vows a more physical brand of football. "We feel we need to teach our kids to block and tackle," he said. "We weren't very good at that last year, and that's an area we need to improve tremendously." !~ Christopher Breach