Boys Varsity Football
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2018 PREP FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Alton Redbirds
Pete Hayes, email@example.com
Pete Hayes | The Telegraph
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Alton High football coach Eric Dickerson gives advice to players during a summer weight room session at Alton High School.
GODFREY — For Eric Dickerson and his Alton Redbirds football team, there’s a double-edged sword to the magical ride of last season, which saw them advance to the playoffs and excite Alton High fans about football for the first time in many moons.
What do they do for an encore? Dickerson’s answer is simple:
“Keep in going.”
The Redbirds, who finsiished 6-5 overall, indeed look to keep things moving down the same road, one which led to a first-round playoff victory in Chicago and a Saturday afternoon to remember, albeit a loss, to Lincoln Way East in the second round at Public School Stadium.
Alton averaged 33.4 points per game last season and the 367 points scored are a single-season school record. Defensively, the Redbirds allowed 24.1 points a game after surrendering 40.1 in a winless 2016.
The Redbirds throttled Collinsville 70-0 and scored a least 50 points in Southwestern Conference routs of Belleville East (50-26), O’Fallon (50-20) and Granite City (56-14). Those victories in Weeks 6-8 accounted for Alton’s first three-game winning streak since 2006.
Perhaps even more reflective of progress for the Redbirds were hard-fought three-point losses to SWC powers Edwardsville (20-17) and East St. Louis (22-19). Dickerson was not in the market for moral victories, but those battles with the Tigers and Flyers were confidence builders.
“I think it was,” Dickerson said. “To be able to be competitive and be in every game – yes, it’s a loss – but we were able to take a lot of positives from that and build on it.”
Dickerson said the Redbirds started working on the 2018 season a day or two after that playoff defeat last fall.
“We have had a good summer, weight training, 7 vs 7, and team camps,” Dickerson said. “We’re returning a handful of starters on offense, Michael Green, Donovan Porter, and Jayme Copeland on the line.”
At the skill positions, the Redbirds will build around the trio of quarterback Andrew Jones, along with Terry Walker and wide receiver Ahmad Sanders.
“Jones, Walker and Sanders are a good place to start,” he said. “Plus, we’re looking at being very strong up front with some good athletes out wide.”
Last season, Jones completed 48 percent of his passes (41 of 86) for 647 yards and eight touchdowns and three interceptions. His quarterback rating was 94 percent.
Walker caught three passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns.
Lost to graduation are Jonathan Bumpers, who scored six touchdowns, as well as Kevin Caldwell, who scored seven.
In 2017, the Redbirds offense was simply too much for many of their opponents. They had victories in which they gave up 21, 26, 20 and 19 points. But in those same games, they put 48, 50, 50 and 70 points on the scoreboard themselves.
“We’re looking to improve on the defensive side of the ball,” Dickerson said. “The kids worked hard this summer and they’re getting very excited to begin the season.
“On defense Kyle Hughes returns on the defensive line, along with Izeal Terrell and Charles Miller at linebacker. Ju’Qui Womack and Ahmad Sanders bring some experience back in the secondary.”
Alton will begin the season Friday at 7 p.m. against Highland and will travel to Quincy Aug. 31 for a date with Quincy High. The Southwestern Conference season begins Sept. 7 at Collinsville. The Redbirds have SWC home dates against Belleville West, Belleville East, Granite City and finish the regular season at Public School Stadium against East St. Louis on Oct. 19.