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Disabato: Rich Central, led by QB Black, has great football expectations

Rich Central quarterback Devonte Black. | File photo

Rich Central quarterback Devonte Black. | File photo

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Olympian
efforts

Rich Central has qualified for the state football playoffs 11 times since 1978: 1978, ’79, ’81, ’82, ’86, ’91, ’92, ’99, 2001, ’02, ’05.

Rich Central never has advanced beyond the second round in those seasons.

Rich Central’s best single-season football record is 9-2, accomplished in 1978, ’79 and ’82.

Updated: November 2, 2011 6:47PM



Terrell Alexander can’t wait for the first official practice of the 2011 football season to arrive.

That would be Wednesday, for those not in the know.

His excitement is genuine, considering he’s about to embark on his first season as head coach.

But Alexander isn’t the only person excited for Rich Central’s football season to begin.

There is considerable buzz surrounding the Olympians, who have qualified for the playoffs just once the past eight seasons.

The excitement is as much about the new man in charge as it is the players he will be coaching.

And that’s a good thing. A coach’s excitement alone can’t lead a team to the playoffs. It needs help in the form of talent on the field, which Rich Central appears to have in large quantity.

However, if the Olympians are going to live up to the buzz and qualify for their first playoff since 2005, much of it will be determined by the arm and legs of quarterback Devonte Black.

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior is a difference-maker, an exciting dual threat who can march a team down field with his arm or legs, and cause nightmares for opposing coaches.

In 2010, Black totaled 1,846 yards and 18 touchdowns passing and an additional 223 yards on the ground — numbers that earned him a place among the SouthtownStar’s 50-member All-Area team.

“Devonte has great poise,” Alexander said of his quarterback. “He’s so relaxed in the pocket. He can find the hot route, throw it deep or take off and run. He throws a great ball.”

At 5-foot-11, Division I college programs have been hesitant to pursue Black. As of now, Eastern Illinois and Air Force have shown the most interest. As a matter of fact, the day he and I talked, he was visiting EIU.

The lack of interest from the bigger schools has fueled Black’s desire to prove he has what it takes to succeed at the next level — even if it means shifting, reluctantly, to another position.

“I’d be willing to do that,” Black said. “But I would like to play quarterback. My ability can make up for my size. I think I can make an impact at quarterback.”

So do I.

Black sat down early in the summer with Central assistant Quincy Woods, a Rich East grad. Woods was recruited by USC as a quarterback but was moved to receiver after two years.

The tandem jotted down some goals for Black in 2011: 2,500 passing yards, 600 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns.

Lofty ambitions, indeed — but projections the strong-armed Black can achieve.

However, the number he wants most comes in the form of wins; ultimately, enough to qualify the Olympians for the elusive playoffs.

“I would say, without a doubt in my mind, we will make the playoffs,” said Black, a Colin Powell Middle School graduate. “Our coaching staff, hands down, is one of the best in the area. Coach Alexander brought in some new coaches, mostly on defense, and everyone is real confident.”

Central should have little trouble scoring points. In Black and receiver Sean Mitchell, Central has one of the area’s most dangerous passing combinations.

The offensive line, anchored by seniors Charles Hardy, Edwin Price, Jerome Conner and Jaylen Love, brings experience and skill to the table. Senior Brandon Fowler, a star baseball player, provides a multidimensional weapon on offense.

“I think the offensive line is our most mature and dedicated group,” Alexander said. “We have a lot of experience there.”

The Olympians also have experience at linebacker, where Jermaine Hughes, Derrick Johnson and Calvin Wiley figure to wreak havoc.

Whether Rich Central has what it takes to win what should be a competitive Southland Conference remains to be seen.

But there hasn’t been this much excitement surrounding the team in years.

Black is ready to prove the Olympians are for real. He has Sept. 30, a home game against District 227 sister Rich South, circled on his calendar.

“I’m looking forward to getting back at them,” Black said. “Our senior class has never beat them. We plan on changing that this year.”



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