The only thing the East Peoria football team lacks at this point is experience.



The Raiders will have a vastly different look in 2010 after losing all 11 starters on defense and seven on offense.



But after back-to-back playoff appearances, East Peoria is not reducing expectations this fall.



“We have good kids. That’s a talented class there,” fifth-year EPCHS head coach Doug Martin said of this year’s seniors. “Our Achilles’ heel is simply experience.”



The coaching staff tried in the preseason to get the players mentally and physically ready to play on Friday nights.


The only thing the East Peoria football team lacks at this point is experience.

The Raiders will have a vastly different look in 2010 after losing all 11 starters on defense and seven on offense.

But after back-to-back playoff appearances, East Peoria is not reducing expectations this fall.

“We have good kids. That’s a talented class there,” fifth-year EPCHS head coach Doug Martin said of this year’s seniors. “Our Achilles’ heel is simply experience.”

The coaching staff tried in the preseason to get the players mentally and physically ready to play on Friday nights.

One key position the Raiders have a returnee at is quarterback, where senior Andrew Wallace is back.

Martin said Wallace worked very hard in the summer and is expanding his depth of understanding.

At running back, Martin listed four strong options.

“It’s one of the strengths of the team, by far,” Martin said of the position. “They all want reps, all want opportunities.”

As of Friday, senior Cody Riley, another hard worker, was a probable starter.

Michael Thompson is a “physical freak,” according to Martin, a 5-foot-11 freshman weighing 210 pounds.

Junior Jake Hornung has been a primary ball carrier the last two years on underclass teams. He will move around in the offense.

Woodruff transfer Tyshawn Burch, a senior, is a tremendous athlete who Martin said only needs to learn the team’s terminology.

At wide receiver, senior Justin Beamer came on strong in the offseason and looks to be an important target.

Another senior, Caleb Horn, has great speed and reliable hands. Martin wished he had found a role for him in ’09.

When East Peoria employs three receivers, sophomore Adam Sommer is a receiver who also has good hands. He could play tight end as well.

In a four-receiver set, junior Juan Mendoza will bring his athleticism and work ethic to the field.

The other tight end option is Hornung, who is perfectly suited for the H back role.

The offensive line has been better than expected.

“We’re really surprised and impressed with the play of the kids,” Martin said.

Sam Friedrich, a junior, is a left tackle with college football potential.

At left guard, sophomore Robby Betz is a force at 6-2, 300 pounds.

J.D. Jones, a senior, is a solid performer at center.

The right guard, Garrett Berryman, is another sophomore who has established himself in the trenches.

Senior right tackle Brett Baize demonstrated his winning attitude by accepting a position move because it would help the team.

On the other side of the ball, Martin senior John Cunefare is a tough kid at defensive lineman.

Baize will be a defensive tackle and junior Alex Moses the nose guard. Senior Justin Taylor is the strong-side end.

The linebacking unit is formidable with senior Austin Brown, junior Rocky Boyer and sophomore Lucas Joseph. Riley also will be in the mix.

Burch is capable of playing cornerback or safety.

Others in contention for secondary assignments include: Horn, Beamer, junior Matt Daugherty and sophomore Tyler Hilton.

East Peoria is anxious to see how everything comes together Friday at Clatt Field in the season opener vs. Geneseo.

“I don’t think any coach in the state of Illinois feels completely ready,” said Martin. “(Geneseo) will let you know what you need to work on with the caliber of athletes and coaches they have.”

Few teams in the state have a tougher starting schedule than the Raiders.

Geneseo, Washington (week three) and Metamora (week four) combined for 35 wins in 2009. The Redbirds defeated the Maple Leafs for the Class 4A state title and the Panthers were a 5A quarterfinalist.

Last year, East Peoria was in the upper division of the Mid-Illini Conference for the second campaign in a row.

“I don’t know that the pecking order has changed that much,” Martin said of league leaders Metamora and Washington, the defending champion. “A bunch of us are trying to overthrow them.”

Martin warned there are no easy contests on the entire schedule.

The coach is excited about the other people he is working alongside.

“We’re really blessed this year with our coaching staff,” said Martin.

Ben Zoss, Gary Beard, Graylin McLeod and Josh Johnson bring a lot of critical experience to the gridiron.

The Raiders lost eight seniors to graduation who combined for 13 first- or second-team all-conference awards in ’08 and ’09. Shane Moses was the lone two-time first-team honoree.

If East Peoria successfully navigates a brutal first four weeks, there could be a riveting second half of the season.