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Dukes ready for tough team despite record

Can’t look past the Crusaders

Dixon QB Noah Wilcox (16) and RB Arthur Cox have provided plenty of balance for the Dukes through the first three games.
Dixon QB Noah Wilcox (16) and RB Arthur Cox have provided plenty of balance for the Dukes through the first three games.

Dave Smith has been at the helm long enough to know that records go out the window in Big Northern Conference play. 

With 0-3 Rockford Lutheran coming to A.C. Bowers Field, the 3-0 Dukes know Friday night’s game won’t be a walk in the park.

“[Being] 0-3 doesn’t mean anything in this conference,” Smith said. “There’s not one team in this conference that isn’t capable of beating you, and I think that’s what’s great about the Big Northern. You see teams do well in the playoffs because each week is a war. No one is weak.”

One good look at who the Crusaders have gone up against, and their winless
record makes sense.

Lutheran suffered a 15-12 loss at Genoa-Kingston to open the season, a 48-14 drubbing at the hands of 3A No. 4-ranked Byron the following week, and a 38-7 nonconference road loss to Burlington Central last week.

The Cogs, Tigers and Rockets are a combined 7-2 thus far, and G-K’s and
Central’s only losses have come to Byron.

“We’ve talked about who they’ve played,” Smith said. “Genoa-Kingston is a very good team that beat us last year. Byron is undefeated and a machine. Burlington Central is a 5A school with one loss.”

“These can be some of the worst teams to play,” senior linebacker Cody Elliott said. “Some of the guys could think, ‘Oh, this is is going to be our easiest game,’ and then they’ll run all over you. Anything can happen.”

On the other hand, the Dukes have been a juggernaut offensively, outscoring opponents 174-33 in the first 3 weeks. Look inside the numbers again, though, and Dixon’s first three opponents have a combined 3-6 record. 

“You have to keep asking for more. You have to keep on them,” Smith said. “No one is content. It doesn’t matter what we did the previous weeks. Our primary goal is Lutheran. I’m happy with where we are right now.”

What Smith may be most happy about is the balance Dixon’s offense has achieved, especially last week. In the Dukes’ 63-26 road win over Rockford Christian last week, Dixon rushed for 291 yards and threw for 287 yards. Noah Wilcox tossed five touchdowns and accumulated 272 yards, while Arthur Cox rushed for 245 yards and four touchdowns on 18 rushes.

“We have to spread the ball,” Smith said. “It can’t be about one guy. I want the defense to worry about everybody. The game plan is to get everyone involved. There’s no one here that’s a skill position guy that just blocks. Everyone is a threat, and if they’re not, we’ll find someone else who is.”

Though Smith said he’s happy about the way his defense has played, an area of improvement can come from Dixon’s secondary. Rockford Christian quarterback Noah Kellerman threw for 287 yards and touchdowns of 78, 73 and 32 yards against the Dukes. 

“I think we’ve been fine,” senior lineman Brock Burgess said. “We gave up big plays, but we kept our heads up and kept trying hard.”

“We have to continue to listen to our coaches,” Smith said. “Coach [Rich] Crabel has them going, and they’re intense. I see a lot of great things, and then they’ll have that one play where it breaks down. We’ve been working on that this week in practice, because Lutheran has some pretty good speed.”


Rockford Lutheran at Dixon

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: A.C. Bowers Field

Radio: 1460 AM

Twitter: @AdamFeinerSVM

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