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Co-op brings many positives to Brownstown, St. Elmo

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By Andrew Harner

When St. Elmo and Brownstown high schools agreed to co-op in all sports starting this school year, coaches Ryan Beccue and Elise Asher were both happy about some of the players they gained.

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Beccue, the former baseball coach at St. Elmo, is now heading up the co-op at Brownstown, and said that there were several players on the Bombers who he had to game plan around when the schools were separate.    

“(Jacob) Behrends has been tough on us for the past couple of years, and he has a lot of experience, so it’s nice to have him on our side,” Beccue said. “Brownstown brought several upperclassmen to the mix.”

Behrends, a senior infielder and pitcher, will help anchor the BSE rotation this season, and also brings a capable bat to the lineup.

He, along with senior Dustin Lawson, and juniors Drake Hall and Nate Matthews, are the primary players that Beccue gained from Brownstown to go along with his returners from St. Elmo to form an 18-player roster, which is bigger than either school has had in recent memory.

“This co-op has been a great thing,” Beccue said. “I can’t really think of any negatives.”

For Asher, a big positive is that Brownstown brought five seniors to her volleyball team – which otherwise would have had zero in its senior class.

And two of them are talented athletes who the Lady Eagles tried to contain in past seasons.

“Specifically, Courtney Howard is a great blocker, and we would run our offense away from her, because she can shut down a hitter,” Asher said. “Bethany Oberlink is strong and scrappy, and we always had to pay attention to her.

“We worked around them as much as we could, and they have emerged as some of our physical leaders.”

With the co-op, however, the enrollment of both schools is used to calculate in which class each sport will play in Illinois High School Association postseason tournaments.

For the Lady Eagles, that proved to be a tough assignment.

SEB missed the enrollment cutoff for Class 1A by three students, with an enrollment of 251 and the 1A cutoff being 248.

“I knew there was a possibility,” Asher said. “It’s disappointing, but you have to beat everybody anyway.

“You don’t always get what you want, so hopefully by regional time, we can learn how to defend taller, stronger girls.”