ALBION EDWARDS COUNTY
BY JACK BULLOCK
After more years than most can remember, the Edwards County resided in the Little Illini Conference.

In what was a very tough geographical set up for the folks in Albion long road trips were the norm since the early 1980's when the Lions entered the league.

But with many changes to that conference over the past few seasons with larger schools to the north with ever more miles to be logged, Edwards County accepted an invitation to go south and join the Black Diamond Conference where they competed beginning in the fall as a member of the East Division.

While it may not pay many dividends in the early going, the size of the schools in which this sports program will compete against will be much more suited to their enrollment.

Coach Russ Gerlach took over his Alma mater two seasons ago and produced back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in over 30-years.

Well known around the prep world for the girl's volleyball program built by former AD and head coach Linda Oxby, the rest of the Lions' sports teams look at the conference switch as an opportunity to improve top to bottom.

It starts this winter on the hardwood, with Coach Gerlach returning the top scorer from last season in 6-foot-6 senior Nathaniel Schmittler.

This forward averaged nearly a double-double last season with 20 points and 9.6 rebounds a game.
Schmittler is a four-year varsity player and is the son of former Grayville successful coach Dale Schmittler.

Look for 6-foot-1 senior Bobby Brake (5.8 p.p.g., 8.0 a.p.g.) and 6-foot-1 sophomore Cade Schnicker (6.5 p.p.g., 3.0 a.p.g.) both bring in impressive assist numbers, undoubtedly feeding the post man Schmittler.

Coach Gerlach has more kids to work into the lineup.

Six-foot-five kids are handy to have around and sophomore Justin Wallace returns after averaging four points and three rebounds a contest.

Look for sophomores Marty Schmittler (a 6-foot-1 forward) and 6-foot guard Cade Rivers to play important minutes as will seniors Jarod Columbia and Colton Kelsey.

Columbia is a 6-foot-4 forward while Kelsey is a 6-foot forward.

Edwards County ended up 18-14 last season after winning the North Clay 1A Regional to advance to the Red Hill sectional where they lost to Patoka.

It was just the fourth regional championship in boy's basketball history at the school.

Alas the Lions won't be in another 1A regional this season as they were bumped up to 2A.

But this coach and program will face the 2A challenge. All of the teams in their new league are 2A so it won't be that big of a stretch.

“We are coming off of back to back winning seasons. That hasn't happened in a long time here. We feel that we have a chance to extend that to a third year. We have a good group of returning players, and some new guys we feel can step up and have good years,” said Coach Gerlach.
“We are excited about the new conference, but we realize that there are good teams in the BDC, and every game will be tough. We have bumped up to 2A for Regionals this year. When we starting reworking the schedule, we felt like there was a chance of being 2A, so we decided to keep Flora, Lawrenceville, and Red Hill. We tried to keep a few more, but we couldn't make it work.”
2017-18 VARSITY SCHEDULE
N20-25 Toledo Cumberland Turkey Tournament J15-20 Carmi-White County Mid-Winter Classic

N28

Grayville J26 @ Wayne City
D5 @ Flora J30 @ Carmi-White County
D8 McLeansboro Hamilton County F2 McLeansboro Hamilton County
D12 Lawrenceville F3 Benton Shootout
D15 Fairfield F6 @ Johnston City
D26-28 Eldorado Holiday Tournament F9 @ Fairfield
J5 Johnston City F13 @ Bridgeport Red Hill
J9 Carmi-White County F16 @ Eldorado
J12 Eldorado F19-23 IHSA Regional TBD