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The Taylorville Tornadoes football team open the season with Mt. Vernon on Friday night at home. Kick-off is at 7:00 p.m. Team members are, Front Row: Ryan Keep, Connor Bilyeu, Ian McGrath, Vincent Graziano, Owen Younker, Clark Durbin, Kason Long, James Micheletta, Karter Ostermeire, Clark Rahar, Kamren Heimsness, Seth Hughes, Jaden Mathon, Mathew Greetings, Shey Champley, Joe Lyons, Wilson Johnson, Thomas Greetings, Ethan Dyer, Cayden Crowe, Frank Herkert, Ethan Rusher and Brody Harker. Middle Row: Clayton Guy, Grady Hainaut, Jackson Meyers, Waylon Wolfe, Jacob McWard, Brock Daughtery, Cayden Tirpak, Isaiah Aten, Kolin Albright, Eric Provines, Judd Bates, Kade Beckmier, Gage Rusher, Myles Clayton, Kayson Mathon, Jake McConnell, Damian Warren, Hadley Ray, Isaac Sanchez, Liam Piatt. Back Row: Blake Daughtery, Michale Moss, Ian Stubbs, William Blue, Colin Bottrell, Robert Root, Baron Odam, Aaron Corso, Luke Durbin, Rain Ebert, Finn Niemann, Brogan Muncy, Cash Foraker, Lane Wemple, Laden Molina, Colin Janssen, Traviss Burke, Carter Donnan, Hunter Gerlick, Camren White, Koby Long and Jude Niemann. (Not Pictured: Ty Patterson, Zane Anthony, Zeyton Sides, Dominic De Los Santos, Cameron Adams and Bradley Mahan.)
TAYLORVILLE — As Taylorville High School head football coach Jeb Odam starts his 13th season at the helm, he has the luck of having a great num- ber of returning players to mold into a cohesive unit.
“Like all teams this time of year, we are still building around our core group of upperclassmen,” Odam said. “We spend a lot of time trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and each day the picture becomes a little more clear. We are excited about a nine- week season and several more underclass games. We know that we are capable of making the playoffs again this year, but need things to fall in our favor a little.”
The Taylorville native wouldn’t have it any other way than coaching the Tornadoes.
“ I became a coach by chance,” he recalls. “I was in the weight room one day after visiting some family after I graduated college. Coach (Scott) Alberssen invited me to help at a practice, and I got hooked. I believed I enrolled in my Teacher Education program the next week. I have always bled Purple and Gold. There has never been a discussion of coaching anywhere else.”
He has the shortened spring season firmly in his rear view mirror, saying he’d rather not experience it ever again, although it gave some players a chance to get varsity experience.
“Any time you lose guys like Ethan Mileham, Cole Repscher, and three offensive lineman, there is going to be void left behind. Our seniors last year worked very hard in order to have a season, Odam said. “The mandates and rules in place were hard to overcome at times, but our kids embraced them and fought hard.”
There are several key players he is looking for contributions to make the 2021 Tornado season a success.
“Offensively, guys like Kamren Heimsnees, Joe Lyons, Aaron Corso, and Seth Hughes will play big roles for us,” the coach said. “On the defensive side, the entire defensive line returns in Will Blue, Eric Provines, and Landon Molina. Karter Ostermeier, Luke Durbin and Jaden Mathon also return in line- backer core and secondary.
Leadership will play an important part of this year’s team.
“We hope that all of our kids have it in them to hold each other accountable. If not, a few of the guys that have stood out so far have been Kamren Heimsness, Aaron Corso, and Judd Bates on the offensive side of the ball,” said Odam. “Gage Rusher and Luke Durbin have also done a nice job working with our younger players on the defensive side as well.” During the summer, the Tornadoes were able to look at a number of younger players.
“Defensively, Jake McConnell, Clark Rahar and Thomas Gettings have flashed for us,” he said. “On the other side, Koby Long can use his length well and Myles Clayton has some nice quickness. Judd Bates started a game for us as a freshman and we are going to count on him to be a solid piece up front.”
Odam and the Tornadoes will get a chance to see just how far their hard work has paid off when they host Mt. Vernon at 7:00 p.m. Friday night in Taylorville. It is also Senior Night for the team.
It always starts with Mt. Vernon for us. Have to find a way to get that win to settle the nerves of the season,” Odam said.
The coach is grateful for the community’s support of the program. “Whether it is fundraising or simply washing uniforms, we could not play the game of football without you,” he said.
In addition, Odam also had some kind words for the Breeze-Courier’s recently departed sports editor.
“Wanted to add a ‘best of luck’ to Robert Fagg as he starts his new journey. He was good to work with over the years and always tried to put our program in a good light.”