ALBION EDWARDS COUNTY
BY JACK BULLOCK
It didn't take Edwards County long to make an impact in their new conference as the Lions came in a finished in second place in their first season after spending many years in the Little Illini Conference.

Head coach Russ Gerlach, who is a graduate of this school, came home four years ago and his teams have improved every year.

His three year record is 54-34 with each season increasing the win total.

Last season the Lions finished 20-7 overall as they lost to eventual state runner up Mt. Carmel in the title game of the Flora 2A Regional.

If you look at the history of this boy's basketball program, there have only been six 20-win seasons, and one of them was last winter.

As for 2017-18, Coach Gerlach has to replace a pair of key seniors from last season as Bobby Brake and Nathaniel Schmittler have both departed.

Blake was the point guard on the squad and Schmittler was “all everything” underneath the basket for the Lions.

Many points, rebounds and assists have left the gym with graduation of those two vets.

Both will be sorely missed but the ones returning all have experience from last seasons' squad that won the Grayville Thanksgiving Tournament and finished sixth at the Eldorado Holiday Tournament.

Their 7-3 mark in the league, with two losses coming to Eldorado, showed that they fit into this league quite well.

Coach Gerlach is optimistic heading into this season, which will begin with a tournament upgrade as the Lions head north to play at the Cumberland Thanksgiving Tournament.

Three of the returning players were starters a season ago.

Cade Schnicker, a 6-foot-1 junior, started for Edwards County in each of his first two seasons at the school. He netted 12.5 points a night while dishing out 4.4 assists.

Six-foot-five junior Justin Wallace averaged 11 points and six rebounds a contest as a sophomore.

Marty Schmittler, a 6-foot-3 junior, tossed in five points and grabbed six boards a night

That is a pretty solid nucleus to build around for this coach who spent seven seasons at Wayne City before heading home.

Coach Gerlach mentioned two other potential starters; 5-foot-7 senior Tyger Clodfelter and 6-foot-1 junior Cade Rivers.

The depth will come from 5-foot-10 junior Bryson Wiseman, 5-foot-10 sophomore Camden Cowger and 6-foot-3 sophomore Andrew Rotramel.

“We feel we have a solid starting group. All of them started varsity games or played a lot of varsity minutes,” said Coach Gerlach, who is a combined 156-127 in ten seasons at both Edwards County and Wayne City. “We are concerned about the bench but we hope to get some productive minutes from our reserves. We have beefed up our schedule this season (adding Cumberland and Carmi-White County tournaments) and I think our conference will be very good with all six teams being competitive with Eldorado leading the way.”

OUTLOOK – This program, under this leadership, is moving steadily in the right direction. Being a 2A club, they have toughened the regular season slate and this should prepare the kids for a post-season jaunt. How far this program can go this season will depend a lot on how well the younger kids grow into becoming solid bench players. The starting five will be very good and a run at the BDC title isn't out of the question.

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