Local Sports

Illinois State Hosting South Dakota in Spring Football Opener

The Illinois State football program was ready to begin its 2021 spring campaign last week at Missouri State, but poor field conditions postponed the contest until April. So, Saturday's scheduled home opener will also be the season opener for the Redbirds, when they play their first game in 441 days as they host the South Dakota Coyotes at Hancock Stadium.

 

The South Dakota-Western Illinois football game scheduled for last Friday, Feb. 19, at the DakotaDome in Vermillion, South Dakota, was postponed due to Western Illinois' COVID-19 protocols. The game will be rescheduled for Saturday, April 17 at 1 p.m., and will be played in Vermillion.

 

Eight South Dakota players were featured on the Missouri Valley Football Conference preseason team including punbter Brady Schutt is a preseason all-American and was a 2019 first-team all-MVFC selection for the Coyotes.

 

The Illinois State offensive rushing attack racked up 331 yards against fourth-ranked South Dakota and big pass plays lifted the No. 24 ranked Redbirds to a 37-21 victory over the Coyotes on Homecoming in front of 12,113 fans at Hancock Stadium in October of 2017. 

 

Coming off a 10-5 season an appearance in the FCS quarterfinals in 2019 and despite several key losses to graduation and transfer, FCS pundits still believe in the Redbirds and their chance at success in the spring 2021 campaign. Illinois State was selected No. 9 in the STATS FCS Preseason Top 25. The Redbirds were also selected No. 9 in the Athlon Sports and HERO Sports FCS preseason Top 25 polls. ISU went wire-to-wire in 2019, as the Redbirds remained the FCS Top 25 polls for the entirety of the season ending the year at No. 7 overall.

 

The Illinois State football team was selected to finish fourth in the Missouri Valley Football Conference by the league's head coaches, when the annual preseason poll was announced following changes made from the fall season. 

 

Cornerback Charles Woods and safety Clayton Isbell were named to the 2019 HERO Sports FCS Sophomore and Freshman All-America Team, respectively, and have a lot to prove this season.

 

Bryce Jefferson stepped up in a big way in the 2019 playoffs for the Redbirds, leading them to a pair of wins at Southeast Missouri State and Central Arkansas and helping his team take No. 1 ranked North Dakota State Bison to the limit in the FCS quarterfinals. So it came as no surprise that Jefferson was named the team's starter at quarterback heading into the season when incumbent QB Brady Davis announced he was leaving to prepare for the NFL Draft.

 

After opening with games at Missouri State and hosting South Dakota, the Redbirds will play three of their next four games on the road all against opponents currently ranked in the Top 5 in the country. 

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