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Gridiron Preview: Bulldogs look to continue dominance vs CZR

Week 4 of the 2022 IHSA Football season kicks off on Friday night as the Carmi-White County Bulldogs welcome in the Chrisopher-Zeigler Royalton Bearcats. It will be the first time that CZR has made the 52 mile bus ride to Carmi since 2018 as the two teams did not play in the 2020/2021 Spring season.

CZR has struggled to say the least in the Black Diamond Conference. Outside of 5-win campaigns that saw them reach the playoffs in 2005 and 2008, the Bearcats have seemed to always be near the bottom of the pack in the conference. Their history against CWC is also not in their favor, as they have only beaten the Bulldogs once (2009) since Carmi joined the BDC in 2003.

Despite the struggles, the Bearcats have had some sort of movement in the right direction over the past couple of years. The team hired Anthony Hargrove as their head coach in 2016. Hargrove was a member of the 2009 New Orleans Saints Super Bowl Championship team. After only leading CZR to 10 wins in 6 seasons, Hargrove accepted a position at Limestone University in June. So the new leader of the Bearcats? 20-year-old Grant Gordon.

Gordon spent last season on Hargrove’s coaching staff after graduating in 2020. Gordon played quarterback for CZR in 2020 when the Bearcats nearly upset CWC, losing 20-14, but they did defeat both Eldorado and Johnston City later that season. However, none of that is relevant in 2022. The Bearcats are 1-2 and are heavy underdogs against the Bulldogs.

CZR fell to Flora in week 1 by a final of 47-14 before getting shut out 40-0 against Hamilton County in week 2. The Bearcats would get in the win column last week when they defeated Vienna-Goreville 54-34. Offensively, the Bearcats love to spread things out. Quarterback Trey Cole threw for 164 yards and 2 touchdowns in last week’s win, but their running game was also very impressive. Junior running back Brian Rowland led the BDC in rushing in week 3 with 237 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Eagles.

Give credit where credit is due, CZR played a great game to pick up their first win of the season last week, but Carmi-White County’s performance on both sides of the football was even more impressive in their 44-12 win over Sesser-Valier. The Bulldogs have been dominant to say the least in the first three weeks of the season. Of course, the offense is led by Isaac King, who leads all of southern Illinois in rushing yards (per BDC_Stats on Twitter). But King isn’t alone, Draxtyn Aud and Andrew Dodgson have been equally as dominant in their rushing attempts.

“CZR has some speed,” said Carmi-White County head coach Kurt Simon. “At the same time, they’re young and are in a rebuilding phase. With that being said, we don’t overlook anyone on our schedule,” Simon added. “We treat every week the same regardless of the opponent.”

Kickoff is set for 7 PM at Harrington Jeffries Sports Complex on the campus of CWCHS. The pre-game show on 97.3 FM WRUL and on the WRUL Sports YouTube Channel will begin at 6:45 PM.

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