Three Rivers crossover games are done for the Kewanee Boilermakers and TRAC Mississippi play will begin tonight when reigning champ Hall pays a visit to KHS Stadium.

Kewanee is 1-2 on the young season and will try for its second win at home in as many tries. The Boilers lost at Morrison 18-0 seven days ago.

“We started slow,” Kewanee coach Tyler Nichols said of the loss. “Obviously we were down 6-0 at half. I thought we had some good opportunities in the second half. I thought Brandon (Ainley) came in and did a really nice job playing quarterback. We had those two really poor snaps on punt team that put our defense in a bad spot. We didn’t capitalize offensively, but it should have been a 6-0 ball game because we gave them two scores.”

Ainley, a sophomore, was forced into action last week after starting quarterback Kavon Russell suffered a leg injury and missed the second half. Nichols said Russell’s status for tonight is questionable at best.

“He’s questionable I guess is the best way to put it,” he said. “He’ll definitely be very limited if he’s able to play.”

That means Ainley will likely get his first varsity start under center. Last week, in one half of action, Ainley went 3 for 10 passing, with an interception.

“As long as he gets rid of the ball quickly he’s fine. We talk all the time about how incompletions are fine,” Nichols said of the young QB. “We aren’t worried about incomplete passes, we’re worried about sacks and throwing interceptions. If we get the ball out on time and he goes out there and doesn’t try to do it all himself and relies on the guys around him, he’s definitely capable.”

We just have to get back on track. Two goose eggs in three games is not what we do around here. KHS head football coach Tyler Nichols

As a freshman last fall, Ainley was the starting quarterback for the Riveters’ team. He completed 49 of 95 pass attempts, throwing for 715 yards and nine touchdowns.

Nichols said the offense will be tweaked slightly if Ainley gets the start, due to his strength as a pocket passer.

“Kavon’s biggest threat is his legs and Brandon’s biggest threat is his arm,” he said. “It is changed a little bit, but we have athletes all around the field and our O-line is still doing a nice job. We just have to get back on track. Two goose eggs in three games is not what we do around here.”

Tonight’s opponent, the Hall Red Devils, are 2-1 on the season with the only loss coming to Orion 42-21 in week one. Last week, the Red Devils scored a game winning touchdown on a flea flicker in the final minutes to stun Princeton 20-18. Hall also has a 41-0 win over Morrison this season.

“They’re really good,” Nichols said of Hall. “Their two receivers (Steven) Brust and (James) Mautino are just studs – about as good as you see at the high school level. Their quarterback gets rid of the ball on time all the time and (Anthony) Buchanan at tailback is a freak.”

Hall’s quarterback, junior Grant Resetich, is completing 72 percent of his passes on the season and has five touchdowns. Buchanan leads the team in rushing yards with 165 and touchdowns with five. Brust has caught 15 passes for 275 yards and three scores.

After a rough week one, the Kewanee defense has been strong the past two games. The Boilers’ defense gave up 230 yards to Riverdale and just 188 to Morrison. The run defense has been especially stout, allowing an average of just 3.2 yards per carry the last two weeks.

“Defense has been very impressive,” said Nichols. “Obviously we have to stop the run; we have to worry about the Buchanan kid. Up front we’ve done a nice job. We blew some assignments at linebacker last week and we’ve really been working hard at getting those cleaned up. If we can do that I like our chances.”

Out of the 82 points Hall has scored this season, 49 of them have come in the second quarter. 

In Kewanee’s two losses this season, they have struggled to move the ball offensively. It’ll be important that the Boilers come out and pick up some first downs early on and not dig thsmselves into a deep hole against a potent Hall team.

“As long as we come out and have productive drives, I don’t even think we need to score necessarily,” said Nichols. “Obviously you’d like to score. But if we come out, move the ball, get a first down or two on the first few drives, we can get Brandon’s feet underneath him or Kavon if he’s able to go. We need some positives in there in the beginning. If we can do that, I think we’ll settle in and play a tough game.”

Last week, freshmen Joshua Nimrick and Niko Powe saw some action during the varsity game. According to Nichols, that will continue as the season progresses.

“Josh Nimrick is up full time; he’ll start at safety for us,” he said. “Niko (Powe) is a special talent. We feel like he’s a guy that can change games if we can get the ball in his hands.”

Hall has won 15 of the previous 16 meetings with Kewanee, including a 44-26 win last year in Spring Valley.

The Riveter game will begin at 5:30 p.m. tonight with the varsity to follow.