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Local

Coal City Coalers eager to open playoffs

Coalers to host Wheaton Academy

Coal City's Connor Skubic has returned from an injury and will lead the Coalers into Friday night's first-round Class 4A playoff game against Wheaton Academy. The game kicks off at Coal City at 7 p.m.
Coal City's Connor Skubic has returned from an injury and will lead the Coalers into Friday night's first-round Class 4A playoff game against Wheaton Academy. The game kicks off at Coal City at 7 p.m.

COAL CITY – The Coal City football team has won eight straight games after a season-opening loss to Morris, and the Coalers will look to continue that hot streak Friday night when they open the Class 4A playoffs at home against Wheaton Academy.

The Coalers are seeded second in the northern bracket of the 4A countdown, and will host the 5-4 Warriors at 7 p.m.

Coal City allowed 21 points in the loss to Morris, but no other opponent has been able to match that total since. In fact, the Coalers have just 35 points during their eight-game winning streak, including five shutouts.

“We definitely want to continue to play great defense,” Coal City coach Dan Hutchings said. “That is what has gotten us where we are. Defense, control the football and good special teams play.”

Hutchings said Wheaton Academy may offer a bit of a different challenge than most of Coal City’s Interstate Eight Conference opponents, as the Warriors like to take advantage of third-year quarterback Ben Thorson and throw the ball more than the Coalers are used to seeing week in and week out.

“It’s definitely a different challenge,” Hutchings said. “They do like to throw the ball and their quarterback does a good job. Other than that, they are like a lot of the teams we have played. They are big up front and they have some good players at the skill positions.”

Many teams around the state are dealing with injuries at this time of year, but the Coalers seem to actually be getting healthier as the year goes on. Running back/linebacker Connor Skubic has returned to the lineup after missing a few games in the middle of the season, as has tight end/linebacker Austin Pullara.

“We’re finally getting healthy,” Hutchings said. “We had a stretch there we had some key guys out, but the other guys came in and did the job for us. That will only help us with our depth because now we have some kids with experience if we need them.”

The running game for Coal City compliments the defense, and it has allowed the Coalers to keep the ball away from opposing offenses. Hutchings sees no reason to mess with success Friday night.

“We hope we can continue to do what we’ve been doing on offense,” he said. “It’s no secret we want to control the ball with our running game, but we aren’t afraid to throw it in order to loosen up the defense. We are pretty healthy up front, too, and that will help out.

“We just want to keep doing what we have been doing and move forward in the playoffs.”

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