HARRISBURG
BY JACK BULLOCK
In the good news, bad news sort of athletics' world we live in, Harrisburg has a bit of both heading into 2016-17.
The good news is that after a brief stint in Class 3A in boy's basketball, the Bulldogs are back down to 2A for this season.
However the bad news isn't good at all.
Lost for the season is one of their top players that was expected to be a starter and key to the teams' success.
Two year starter Blake Drue, a 5-foot-11 junior, is out with a knee injury.
He suffered it during football season and is out for the basketball season as well.
He would been a huge factor for Harrisburg in conference play and also gearing up for a 2A postseason.
Instead the Bulldogs will search for the right combination of players for the season which begins with the Murphysboro Thanksgiving Tournament this week.
Not having graduated seniors Anfernee Houston and Patrick Bittle doesn't help matters any, either.
Both of those players were starters on the 19-11 club that fell to Murphysboro in overtime at the Marion 3A Regional semifinals.
Coach Randy Smithpeters begins his 24th season as head coach of the Bulldogs and he has 12-regional titles to his credit along with six-sectional championships.
His team captured a state title in 2013.
He will have his work cut out for him this winter, trying to piece together a lineup to face a very tough schedule.
Isaiah Saulsberry, a 6-foot-3 junior guard, is back for Harrisburg after a solid sophomore campaign.
Coach Smithpeters will have three seniors available this season and they will likely start.
Six-foot-two senior forward Jordan Gould, 6-foot-3 Noah Ferrell and 6-foot-2 Austin Hefner return.
Besides Saulsberry Coach Smithpeters will have three other juniors.
Jordan Bartok, a 6-foot forward, along with 6-foot Hunter Smith and 6-foot-1 Carson Burtis.
Benton looks like the best in the conference this sesaon,” said Coach Smithpeters. “Herrin and Murphysboro will also be very good this season while Massac and West Frankfort always give us trouble. Saulsberry had a very good year last year but the loss of Drue to injury is a major loss for us.”
2017-18 VARSITY SCHEDULE
N29-D2 Murphysboro "Bozrath Memorial" J15-20 Carmi-White County Invitational
D8 West Frankfort J26 @ West Frankfort
D9 @ Mounds Meridian F2 Metropolis Massac County
D15 @ Metropolis Massac County F3 TBD
D16 @ Du Quoin F9 Benton
D21 @ Benton F10 @ Murphysboro
D26-28 Eldorado Holiday Tournament F13 Carterville
J5 Murphysboro F16 Herrin
J6 @ Marion F19-23 IHSA Regional TBD
J12 @ Herrin F27-M2 IHSA Sectional TBD