GALESBURG, Illinois – Damon Tomeo begins his sixth season as head football coach at Knox College in 2018. The Prairie Fire held their first practice on August 11 and take on Millikin in a scrimmage this afternoon. The core of last year’s team returns with 17 starters (10 on offense and seven on defense) coming back. Knox returns three players who earned All-MWC football selections last season including Dom Parello (Sr. OL), Garrett Rau (Jr. Punter) and Evan Economos (Sr. DB). During Tomeo’s first five years at Knox College the football program has produced a total of 60 Academic All-MWC awards and 25 All-MWC football selections.
The Prairie Fire offense will look to build on the success of the 2017 season which saw top-four Midwest Conference finishes in passing offense, passing efficiency, sacks against and 3rd down conversions. Malik Hamilton will look to build on what has been a fantastic career at Knox College at receiver. Last season he had 36 receptions for 758 and nine touchdowns. Hamilton averaged 21 yards per catch and 76 yards per game. Other notable returners to the receiving corps are Hunter Lee, Patrick Marzolino and Kobe Shutter. They combined for 42 receptions, 606 yards and seven touchdowns. The offensive line, which allowed only 13 sacks last season, is anchored by senior four-year starter and first team All-MWC center Dom Parello. The run game will again be a combined effort of juniors Braedan Westfall and Joey Auger. The duo combined for 768 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Prairie Fire defense, which ranked third in the conference in Red Zone defense, will return a number of play makers. The defensive unit returns four of their top five tacklers from last year with Quinn Sharp leading the way with 69 tackles (38 Solo), eight tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Two linebackers looking to cap off great careers are seniors Logan Hollis who had 55 tackles (28 Solo), 6.5 tackles for loss and an interception and Tyler Podwojski who had 51 tackles (21 solo) and two tackles for loss. The defensive line will be led by senior Jordan Anderson who had 45 tackles (26 solo), 8.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. He ended the season with the fifth most sacks in the conference. In the defensive backfield, the Prairie Fire return All-MWC performer senior Evan Economos who had 23 tackles (16 Solo), two interceptions and five pass breakups last year. Garrett Rau will look to build of a very successful 2017 season where he had 38 tackles and two interceptions while being nominated First Team All-MWC punter averaging 38.2 yards per punt including a season best 71-yarder. Garrett broke the school record for best average per punt in a game last season against Beloit College with an average of 47.5 yards per punt.
The Prairie Fire are coming off their best season since 2002 last year with a 5-5 finish, three of those losses came by a combined 18 points. They open the season on at home against Eureka College where they will look to defend the Lincoln trophy in the seventh annual Lincoln Bowl on September 1 at 1:00 p.m.