High school football 2023 preview: Get to know Monticello

Aug. 24—Love of the game

On Friday nights in the fall, all Trey Welter has basically known his whole life is going to Monticello football games. Now, the senior wide receiver for the Sages and son of Monticello coach Cully Welter gets to shine on the same field he watched past Monticello teams excel. "Being on the sidelines and watching all the older kids play and practice," the younger Welter said, "it made me really want to do that, too. I've always enjoyed it." Dad grew up in Mahomet, admittedly spending some of his time in the classroom doing what he probably advises his students not to do now. "My teachers probably wouldn't like to hear this," the elder Welter said, "but I spent a lot of time in my classes drawing up X's and O's when I was supposed to be doing my work. I had a fascination with that as far back as I can remember." Monticello senior quarterback and linebacker Luke Teschke, along with senior wide receiver Raiden Colbert, both have stuck with the game for similar reasons through the years. "I really like the sport because I get to spend time with my friends, put in work with my teammates and get better every day," Colbert said. Teschke agrees. "The camaraderie you have with your different teammates," he said, "There's nothing like it with any other sport."

Season outlook

A relatively down season — at least in comparison to what Monticello teams have accomplished under Welter's leadership — ensued last fall. "You could say last year was a down year," Teschke said, "but the teams we lost to all made the playoffs." The Sages finished 5-5 and lost in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs. Having three straight home games from Week 2 through Week 4, on Monticello's new turf field, could prove beneficial. The Sages were able to get summer workouts on the field once the turf was installed this past spring, and the players are all for the new surface. "The turf looks nice," said Trey Welter, who caught 39 passes for 471 yards and two touchdowns last season. "It's a little weird not being the grass that it's always been, but it feels nice to run on and play on."

Playoffs ... or bust

If Monticello wants to make a 14th straight playoff appearance this fall, they'll rely heavily on Teschke. The Illinois State baseball recruit is a standout pitcher in the spring, and he'll put his right arm to the test starting Friday night at St. Joseph-Ogden when he makes his first start at quarterback. It's the first of eight Illini Prairie Conference games for the Sages, with six of the nine league teams reaching the playoffs last season. "You saw how good the conference was last year," Cully Welter said. "It's very balanced. It's going to be relatively balanced again this year. No reason to look ahead. We know we have a tough one right off the bat with St. Joe."

Odds and ends

Former Urbana standout quarterback Cameron Mammen, who led the Tigers to their lone playoff win in 2012, has joined Welter's staff as a wide receivers coach. "I know of his athletic history," Cully Welter said of Mammen, who also won a Class 2A state wrestling title at 170 pounds in 2013. "We'll get him accustomed to things, but we're excited to have him." ... Monticello traditionally doesn't have a go-to running back in Welter's spread offense. But rather a running back who can work well in space, catch passes and throw a crucial block when needed. Look for junior Ike Young to possibly fill that role this season. "Ike is one who has really blossomed as an athlete," Cully Welter said. ... Monticello is unlike other area schools when it comes to its football field in the sense that no track surrounds the field. "I love it with the fans being so close," Teschke said. "Everything is just so much louder, and with the school in the background, it just echoes off. It might be one of the coolest high school stadiums out there in Illinois."