ARCOLA — In the 2011 Class 1A quarterfinals, Ronny Olvera was a freshman on the team and didn't play much in the 42-7 Tuscola win over the Purple Riders.
Flash forward to last Friday's 106th Cola War, and Olvera, in his first year as a co-line coach with Adam Reel, was part of the historic series.
The game, which was won by Tuscola 45-42, featured 931 total yards of offense and four lead changes all in the first half in what was the closest Cola War game since Tuscola beat Arcola 13-7 in 1998.
"Everybody knows Arcola and Tuscola games have a lot of energy," Olvera said. "I have friends in Tuscola and after high school, we were saying we should have played each year. Some people say they would have given up their senior year just to watch a game between us. There is so much energy around it and I love it. Growing up you know Tuscola is a huge rivalry at the age of four. "
Olvera was an assistant coach in the Junior Football League two years ago and the opening came about when Garrison Stenger (a 2012 Arcola grad) could not return this season as an assistant.
"I was in contact with coach (Nick) Lindsey last year and there wasn't a chance to hire another coach, but this year Stenger was not able to do it and so there was an opportunity," said Olvera, a former lineman. "Coach Lindsey was for it and I was for it. I love football. Obviously coaching at the high school level is a different experience than the JFL. I love it. There is so much energy in these kids and I can relate to a lot of these kids."
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Olvera played his first two seasons under Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Famer Gerald Temples and the last two under Zach Zehr, now at Tremont.
"He has been really impressive," said Lindsey of Olvera. "He and coach Adam Reel do a really great job with our linemen. Ronny has jumped in there and has not been shy. He has been really good with the kids. The best thing about him is his willingness to learn and willingness to know more and understand things and understand the why. That is the characteristics of a really good coach."
Olvera says he has a lot of influence from his high school coaches.
"I was super close with coach Zehr and all of my line coaches and I felt like this was something I wanted to do," said Olvera. "I can't play it anymore, but I can coach it."
As for having another Arcola grad on staff, Lindsey said, "It is always great to get local guys that come back and coach for the program that they played in and I hope years down the road some of these guys now or have played in the past want to come back and coach with us."
As for the game, Tuscola scored 14 points off turnovers in the game between two of the winningest programs in the state.
"It reminded me of a Suger Ray Leonard fight from the 1980s where it was just haymaker after haymaker after haymaker and it wasn't two teams standing out in the middle of the right throwing jabs here and there," said Tuscola coach Andy Romine. "It was a heavyweight battle of bruisers. It was as hard as you could throw the 16-ounce glove at them. They would see if they could stand up to it and I tip my cap to both teams."
Contact Mike Monahan at (217) 238-6854.