The Redbirds are coming off a 16-12 season in ‘16-17 when they fell to Edwardsville in the 4A Granite City Regional finals.
It marked the fourth straight winning season for AHS in head coach Eric Smith’s five years at the helm of the program.
Now Alton looks to fill the shoes of seven departed seniors, most notably starters Maurice Edwards, Ty’ohn Trimble and Dereaun Clay. Edwards was the 2017 Riverbend AdVantage News Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
Senior Kevin Caldwell Jr. will be the face of the Birds this season. He and junior Donovan Clay return as starters.
“Papi (Caldwell) is the face of our program right now,” Smith said. “He’s a three-year starter, four-year varsity kid and for us it’s definitely nice that our most competitive kid and our hardest worker is our best player. It sets the tone for everyone else.”
Smith added of Clay, “Donovan ended up starting for us last year and he’s grown and progressed and his game is a lot different than it was last year. He’s put in a lot of work to expand his game.”
Other notable players for the ‘17-18 season include Darrell Smith, Josh Rivers, Malik Smith, Ahmad Sanders, Izeal Terrell, and Charles Miller.
“Josh and Malik are talented offensive kids,” Smith said.
Smith believes the lingering effects of a successful football season could help, too. Caldwell, Darrell Smith, Sanders, Terrell, and Miller were all part of the 6-5 Redbirds that advanced to the second round of the Class 7A playoffs.
“You can’t underestimate what a successful football season does for just the general mood of your school,” Smith said. “It sets the tone for the rest of the year. There’s a different bounce in kids’ steps and they’re excited about what they accomplished and they should be. We are excited because some of the guys who had pretty good seasons for them are going to be leaders on our team.”
Alton opens the season at 7:30 p.m. Monday against Riverview Gardens in the annual Alton Tip-Off Classic at AHS.
Eric Roberson is back to run the Redbirds for a 22nd season. He’s compiled 316 wins over his first 21 seasons and Alton hasn’t had a sub-.500 record since ‘07-08.
The Birds will have to replace a couple of talented wrestlers in Keontay Holmes and Keyondrick Russell, who graduated. Holmes became the ninth state medalist in AHS history last season, finishing third at 182 pounds.
“We lost Keontay and Keyondrick Russell, but we’ve got some strong wrestlers who are going to be able to fill in nicely,” Roberson said.
That will start with the four seniors — Hunter Hobbs, Courteney Wilson, Ryan Kane and Nolan Woszczynski.
“With those four, they’ll be the strength of our lineup and we will kind of build around them,” Roberson said.
Junior Garrett Sims is back, too, after qualifying for sectionals at 113 pounds as a sophomore. Sophomores Kyle Hughes and Pierre Evans will also contribute quite a bit and fellow sophomore Kaeden Stanford will mix in after he recovers from injury.
“We’ve got a few guys who have been training year round,” Roberson said. “I think we’ll be OK. I’m cautiously optimistic.
“My freshman numbers are up this year, which is nice. We had 19 freshmen this week in the room.”
The Redbirds open the season on Nov. 25 in Moline. Their home opener is 7 p.m. Nov. 30 vs. East St. Louis.
Tammy Talbert returns for her second stint as Alton’s head coach this season. Talbert replaces Bobby Rickman, who resigned after a 3-23 season in ‘16-17.
Talbert previously was the head coach at AHS from 2002-08. She has also been a head coach at Marquette Catholic and Roxana. She served as Rickman’s assistant last season.
The Redbirds will be pretty young this season, featuring just two seniors in Diarra Smith and Denise Swain.
Juniors Chr’shonna Hickman and Deija Carter return after being first and third respectively in scoring in ‘16-17. Hickman scored 7.3 ppg, while Carter averaged 5.4 ppg. Junior A’llurah Robinson-Bowens and sophomore Rayn Tally return after logging some solid minutes, too.
Alton opened the season on Tuesday in the Alton Girls Tip-Off Classic against Calhoun. The tournament wraps up on Saturday at AHS.
The Alton hockey team opened its season on Monday at the East Alton Ice Arena. The Redbirds are under the direction of a new coach, as Aaron Kestler takes over the reins.
Jacob Eppel is the captain for the Redbirds. The junior defenseman logged four goals and eight assists a year ago for Alton.
Junior Connor Neely and sophomores Tristen Seymour and Tristan Mouser are the assistant captains on the team.
Goalie Madison Dallas is the only senior on the squad. The team is made up of players from both Alton High and Marquette Catholic.
The Redbirds’ next game on the ice is 8:45 p.m. Nov. 21 against East Alton-Wood River.
Boys and Girls Bowling
Dave Meyer is back for his second season at the helm of the Birds.
Last season, AHS won the Alton Regional title on the boys side and finished second at the Triad Regional on the girls side. Unfortunately, Alton was unable to advance anyone to state in Meyer’s first season as head coach.
Tyler Stevenson on the boys side and Ashley Heistand on the girls side will leave the biggest voids after graduating in ‘17.
Seniors Derek Henderson and Justin Milliman will look to lead the boys team. Juniors Jared Cochran, Trevor Vallow and Matt Engdale are back from the regional championship team last year, too.
Milliman had the fifth-highest game (268) and seventh-highest series (1,298) on Nov. 11 in the Zach LeCuyer Memorial Invitational in Collinsville as Alton opened its season.
On the girls side, just two girls in senior Addison Beys and junior Alex Bergin return from the second-place finishing Redbird team in regionals last year.
The girls open the season at the Triad Invitational at 9 a.m. Nov. 25.