Trying to find a flaw on the Shelbyville football team through three weeks has been like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
The Rams have bulldozed through opponents, outscoring teams 174-19 on the way to a 3-0 start.
As expected, Turner Pullen, Kentrell Beck and the offense have been prolific. But that's not the sole reason head coach Bill Duckett is giddy.
The starting defensive unit hasn't allowed a point yet. All 19 points scored by the opposition have come against the Rams' reserves.
In fact, Duckett estimates the Rams starting defensive unit has only allowed three or four first downs so far.
“I think that's been our biggest thing,” Duckett said. “We knew the offense was going to be pretty explosive with all those playmakers, but the defense has made a lot of strides since last year.”
Cade Helton and Clayton Peterson have anchored the front seven of the defense, stopping the run against three run-heavy teams.
The third-year Rams' coach hasn't even seen anything quite like what his team has done so far.
“We've had some years where we started with three or four wins in a row,” Duckett said, “but not outscoring people like that and defensively being able to hold opponents to those lower numbers.”
Pullen has 13 passing touchdowns and five rushing touchdowns and has spread the ball to all of his weapons that include Beck, Cade Watson, Jack Lopez, Brett Spears and Mason Cameron.
As good as things have been so far, Duckett knows the combined records of the three teams – Pawnee, Cerro Gordo-Bement and Sullivan-Okaw Valley – is 1-8, with Central Illinois Conference power Tuscola coming to town Friday.
Therein lies the test.
“Tuscola is the team to beat,” Duckett said. “We haven't beat them yet with these guys at the varsity level.”
The Warriors come in with their own gaudy scoring differential, outscoring teams 137-28. Tuscola's won the last three meetings.
After a forgettable opening-week loss to city rival MacArthur, the Eisenhower defense has slowly started to take shape.
The Panthers (1-2) allowed 53 points Week 1, 28 in a Week 2 loss to Normal University and 15 in Friday's win against Jacksonville.
Putting pressure on the opposing team's quarterbacks and blasting into the backfield has sparked the revitalization of the unit.
“We've been forcing some turnovers," Eisenhower coach Drew Wagers said. "We had a pick last week and this past Friday we had a forced fumble. We've tackled a lot better and had a lot more guys to the football and put more pressure in the backfield on the quarterback. We had 4.5 sacks last week and five this week and several tackles for losses. Just being able to get after guys in the backfield has helped us and created turnovers."
The defensive line and additional blitzes from linebackers has generated the pressure. Defensive end Daniel Morford has 18 tackles this season, five for a loss and three sacks. Jakob Davis has three sacks of his own, 33 tackles and four tackles for a loss.
Antonio Austin has been disruptive and forcing turnovers. The senior defensive back has one sack and two forced fumbles.
Key stops and forcing offenses into third and long has translated to the Eisenhower offense getting the ball back with good field position.
Cerro Gordo-Bement's Brady Greenwood took not one, but two interceptions back for touchdowns in Friday's 42-26 win over Villa Grove-Heritage.
Greenwood's first return was for 92 yards and his second was good for 47 yards.
The Broncos (1-2) got an 85-yard kick return for a touchdown from Matt Guffey, who also ran for a score.
Raiders' new leader
Central A&M has a new single-game rushing leader. Riley Black ran for 346 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries in Friday's 40-20 win over Meridian.
The rushing total sets a new school record, breaking the mark set by Zach Tibbs in 2005.
Black has been on a roll this season, rushing for 603 yards and six scores.
Sages stay hot
Monticello is adjusting pretty well to life in the new Illini Prairie Conference.
The No. 2 team in Class 3A has outscored its first three opponents 143-7.
Quarterback Braden Snyder is 37-of-48 for 607 yards and nine touchdowns for the Sages and Lucas Leib has accumulated 184 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.