The Argenta-Oreana football team didn't get much preseason hype.
But the Bombers are now 4-0 for the first time since 2001 after Friday's 28-14 victory over defending Class 1A state champion Arcola.
Senior quarterback Brody Ulrey has been the catalyst on Argenta's electric offense, which also features an array of talented receievers. They include seniors Pierce Bradford, Parker Holtom, Jared Gifford and junior Braxton Norman.
Against Arcola, Ulrey completed 14 of 21 passes for 181 yards and two TDs — both to Bradford.
After posting no more than two wins in the last two seasons, head coach Chad Eisenmenger is now making his third run for the playoffs in six years there.
Q: Did you ever imagine being 4-0 like you are now?
A: With the guys coming back, we thought we'd do much better than we had in the last couple of years. We felt we could get a few more wins. We knew at the start of our schedule, we'd have to do very well because the back-end is very difficult with a bunch of playoff teams in the conference. We wanted to be here and we're happy to be here. Hopefully, we keep it going.
Q: That experience seems to show in the passing game. How exciting is it to watch the offense take the field?
A: It's our second year in the offensive system and to have Brody Ulrey do it for two years with Jared Gifford, Parker Holtom and even Braxton Norman at the varsity level, everything's really clicking. And we like Pierce Bradford moving in. He had a summer to learn it. Every week, he's getting better and better and learning it more and more. Apparently, he's really starting to click.
It's really fun to watch Brody command that offense and get things going for us.
Q: What impresses you the most about Ulrey?
A: Just his ability to come to the sideline and explain to me what he sees and what's available to us. It's like having another coach on the field. The trust level I have with him is a really big help for us. It's really nice having him out there on the field.
Q: So this is Pierce Bradford's first year with the team?
A: He moved here over the summer. He's a tremendous athlete and a great young man. We're really happy to have him on our program. He's really helping us out.
Q: Do you have another transfer at running back, Makhi Stanley?
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A: Yeah, we have Makhi, Malik and Makail — the three Stanley boys. They moved into our district. They had a nice spring and summer with us. Makhi is out right now with a broken fibula, but he should be back by the end of the season. Malik stepped in and played a big role on defense for us. Now that we have running back injuries, he stepped in last night and had some big runs for us.
Q: What are your other injuries?
A: We've just taken some hits at running back. We lost Makhi in the Central A&M game, and Skyler Peterson was our second running back. He took a hit on the wrist and luckily we gave Malik some reps this week in practice and he was ready to go.
Q: How significant was it to beat Arcola after losing to them 52-6 last year?
A: It's a great program. I feel like people counted them out when they lost to Central A&M in Week 1. But coming from there (I taught there six years ago and I had some of those kids when they were younger), I know that program has a lot of pride. I knew that the A&M game didn't reflect what their talent was. I think they had a bunch of kids without varsity experience.
I knew last night was going to be a big challenge for us and we had to play our best. They came out and played really well. Fortunately for us, we did as well and ended up winning.
Q: You've had a couple of teams reach the playoffs. How does this one compare to previous years?
A: I'd say the biggest difference is the expectation level. This team wasn't very high outside the program. These kids are having fun with it. There was a lot more pressure on us the previous playoff seasons.
Q: You talked about moving to a new offense. Did you move to a spread offense?
A: Yeah, in the past we were a flexbone triple-option offense — very run-based. We just didn't have the personnel to run that offense. So me and and Steve Kirk sat down during the offseason a couple of years ago and really researched the spread. That's what we're doing now. With the personnel we have, we're glad we made the switch.
Q: Was it difficult making the switch last year?
A: It is. It's different game planning and it's different for me. Every year, I'm learning a little bit more because I've always been a triple-option run guy. It's been a learning experience for the players and myself.
Q: Talk about your conference. It looks really difficult. You have LSA and Sangamon Valley also undefeated. What's your take on the conference?
A: Every week is going to be fun. Every week is game of the week. You can't pick a game that's going to be a bad one. We're all going to be fighting for it and hopefully we're in the running for it at the end of the year.