Dictionary.com defines unsung hero as “a person who makes a substantive yet unrecognized contribution.”
Today, we’d like to recognize the unsung heroes who help make their respective area small-school football teams better.
These are players who don’t get the headlines or their names in the paper often, but players who do everything asked of them for the good of the team.
Christian Miller, Deer Creek-Mackinaw: The junior is a backup quarterback and defensive end. He plays scout team QB for the 5-2 Chiefs.
“On most other teams, Christian would be the starting quarterback, but he happens to be playing behind one of the best QBs in the Heart of Illinois Conference in Levi Scheuermann,” Dee-Mack coach Job Linboom said. “Nevertheless, he has one of the best work ethics on the team and he always does a great job getting our defense ready for the opposing team’s offense.”
Nate Nguyen and Caiden Buster, Tremont: The sophomore duo leads the 1-6 Turks in tackles. Nguyen has a team-high 53 tackles (18 solo) as a defensive back, while Buster has 50 tackles (28 solo) at linebacker.
“They have limited roles in our offense so they don’t get much publicity in the paper, but they’re the backbone of our defense and our most physical defenders,” Tremont coach Zach Zehr said.
Cy Snider, Elmwood/Brimfield: The senior worked his way into a starting role at center on an offensive line that has paved the way to 307 yards rushing per game for a 6-1 Trojans squad.
“I don’t think I’ve mentioned Cy once in films this year for needing to correct something he’s done wrong,” Elmwood coach Todd Hollis said. “In fact, I don’t think I’ve said anything about his play. That’s the sign of a really good center. No issues. Job gets done quietly.”
Allen McClean, Eureka: The senior is a two-way, two-year starter at defensive end and offensive guard for the 5-2 Hornets. This year, he’s a captain for a team looking for a second consecutive playoff berth.
“Allen is one of the most intelligent, coachable players on our team,” Eureka coach Jason Bachman said. “He comes to work, does his job and gets better every day. He’s one of the most technically sound players I’ve had the opportunity to coach. He focuses on details and does all the little things right.”
Ben Efnor, Farmington: The 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior has seen limited action as a backup offensive and defensive lineman for the unbeaten Farmers.
“He’s the most supportive teammate I’ve ever been around,” Farmington coach Toby Vallas said. “He’s constantly fighting to get on the scout team. He’s the loudest voice on the sideline at every game. His effort and support have made us all better. He didn’t play football until last year, when he finally talked his parents into it. We all thought, ‘this kid won’t last,’ but now we’ll never forget him.”
Brady Hammer, Illinois Valley Central: The senior plays wide receiver and cornerback for the 2-5 Grey Ghosts. He’s caught two passes for 14 yards and made four tackles on defense.
“He does anything we ask him to do,” IVC coach Tim Heinz said.
Dyami Gibson, Peoria Heights/Quest: The versatile senior has played defensive tackle, defensive end, linebacker and running back for the 1-6 Patriots.
“The kid has played everywhere we’ve asked him to and he doesn’t complain,” Heights coach Adell Hawks said. “The great part about him is he doesn’t say a word, just ‘teach me the position and I’ll give everything.’ He gives 100 percent. He’s undersized and won’t let that stop him.”
Chris Hank, Princeville: The 5-foot-8, 165-pound junior was expected to be a change-up nose guard, but he’s worked his way into a starting role at defensive end. He’s had 25 tackles, with two sacks and a fumble recovery for the 6-1 Princes.
“Chris began impressing us in preseason,” Princeville coach Jon Carruthers said. “He’d do his techniques better than anyone.”
Extra points: The way Farmington erased a 12-0 halftime deficit en route to a 28-12 victory Friday at Elmwood/Brimfield impressed Farmers coach Toby Vallas. “To win it the way we did, to have it look so bleak at halftime ... I told them at halftime to ‘keep it in perspective, it’s 12 points. We can score 12 points in two minutes, you know that. Just stick to your guns. It’s going to come down to, do you believe in yourself or not?’ And they did. They showed a lot of heart, a lot of character.” ...Four big games mark the metro area Week 8 schedule: Princeville (6-1) at Stark County (4-3) in a Lincoln Trail rivalry, Eureka (5-2) at Deer Creek-Mackinaw (5-2) in a Heart of Illinois Large Division clash where the winner clinches a playoff spot, Prairieland Black champ Knoxville (5-2) takes its five-game win streak into Elmwood/Brimfield (6-1), and Abingdon-Avon (6-1), with 1,600-plus yard rusher Jay Allbright, travels to Class 2A No. 2 ranked Farmington (7-0).
Stan Morris is a Peoria Journal Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 686-3214 or email@example.com, Follow him on Twitter @stanmorrispjs