Boys Varsity Football
Game Summaries & Headlines.
Redbirds ‘put it together’ in playoff-clinching rout of Granite
Greg Shashack, firstname.lastname@example.org
Greg Shashack / The Telegraph
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Alton’s Kyle Hughes (right), a 5-9, 300-pound junior lineman, applies pressure as Kahoks QB Chris Chi gets off a pass Sept. 8 in Collinsville. Hughes was part of a defensive effort that limited Granite City
ALTON – Fifty yards in penalties and one punt from seven possessions kept the Alton Redbirds from a perfect first half of football Friday night at Public School Stadium.
But coach Eric Dickerson conceded Alton’s 45-9 victory over the Granite City Warriors represented a nearly complete performance from the Redbirds.
“It’s a close as it can get for us right now,” Dickerson said. “We’ve still got some penalties and some little things we can fix. But we definitely put it together on offense and defense tonight.”
Alton sophomore running back Tim Johnson split the heart of Granite’s defense for a 56-yard touchdown run on the Redbirds’ first offensive play. Johnson would add TD runs of 29 and 26 yards on his way to 194 rushing yards on 13 carries that put him within 84 of 1,000 for the season.
His work night was finished at halftime with the Redbirds leading 45-3 and bringing a running clock for the second half. Even with most starters on the sidelines, Alton still made plays on defense.
With the Warriors set up first-and-goal at the 3 early in the fourth quarter, the Redbirds got tackles for loss from Damarco Stewart, Damien Jones and Ihzel Brown to keep Granite out of the end zone.
They were following the tone set by Alton’s defense from the opening kick. Granite, which came in averaging 7.8 yards per carry and 276 yards rushing per game, had 26 yards offense in the first half. The Warriors finished with 85 yards offense, including 24 rushing yards on 30 carries.
Alton controlled the point of attack with linebackers Charles Miller, Izeal Terrell and Terry Walker hawking the football behind a line rotation of Brown, Kyle Hughes, Teiji Walker, Donovan Porter, Tristan Underwood, Michael Green and Armonte’ Miller.
“Our linebackers and D-line, we were able to get some penetration and cause a little havoc back there,” Dickerson said. “We know we’ve got some athletes. We’ve been waiting for them to step up and make some big plays and they definitely did tonight.”
Walker made the unit’s biggest play, pulling off his rush and intercepting Granite QB Freddy Edwards’ screen pass and returning it 30 yards for a TD and a 28-0 lead late in the first quarter.
“I stepped back and reached my hands up and it was just there,” Walker said. “When I caught the ball, I was just thinking, run to the end zone. It was great.”
Great summed up the night for the Redbirds, who improved to 5-3 and unofficially clinched a playoff berth for the second straight season. The playoff points – total victories by teams on your schedule – are projecting at 37 for the cut to advance and Alton’s current 40 figures to rise as high as 46 by the time postseason pairings are released Saturday.
“It’s big for us to go the playoffs, second time in a row,” Walker said. “We lost a lot of big keys from last year, but we’ve got players that can fill in and do what is asked of them.”
Alton will close the regular season back home Friday against Southwestern Conference champion East St. Louis. The 6-2 Flyers’ two losses came against powerhouses from Michigan and Ohio. An Alton upset could force East Side to share the SWC title with Edwardsville.
“It’s going to take a big week of practice,” said Terrell, who is committed to Southeast Missouri. “Stay focused, go into film, learn some stuff and then come out Friday ready to play. … We’re going to the playoffs and it’s exciting. But we still have more to fight for.”
Granite City’s playoff fight goes to Galesburg and a Week 9 clash with a 1-7 Silver Streaks team added to the schedule after the Warriors opted to flee the SWC. Granite is 4-4 and must beat the Streaks to get playoff eligible at 5-4 with playoff points that project at 40.
“We’re going to be a desperate football team,” Granite coach Brad Hasquin said. “We’ll try to do what it takes to win a football game. But it’s all there for us to take. We’ve got to take a 3 ½ hour trip to Galesburg and be focused. Our one job to do is win a football game.”
The Warriors, who last made postseason in 2011, are hoping to have Edwards back at QB after he left with a hit to the head early in the second quarter and Alton leading 35-3. Edwards, a dual-threat junior, came in at 1,037 passing yards with nine TDs and one interception, while averaging 9.6 yards per carry on 1,147 rushing yards.
Edwards left Friday with 10 yards on four rushes and was 0-for-5 passing with an interception. It was the level of play from the Redbirds that Dickerson had been waiting for.
“I knew that we were just misfiring here and there on both offensively and defensively,” Dickerson said. “Tonight, it kind of felt like we put everything together.”
Operating behind a front five of seniors Green and Porter, juniors Kyle Hughes and Jayme Copeland, and sophomore Underwood, Alton’s offense piled up 360 of its 393 yards offense by halftime.
After his one-play, 56-yard scoring drive to open the game, Johnson answered with a two-play, 72-yard scoring drive before other Redbirds offensive weapons joined the onslaught. QB Drew Jones had TD throws of 7 yards to Walker and 4 yards to Lonnie Tate while completing 6 of 8 passes for 123 yards. Ahmad Sanders had a 54-yard reception and Moory Woods had a 42-yard reception.
“We had a good week of practice, the boys were focused, we knew what was at stake in this game,” Dickerson said. “We came out ready and executed really well.”
The rout of Granite marked a goal achieved with playoffs all but guaranteed, but East Side became the Redbirds’ focus by Saturday morning.
“Nothing’s over,” said Dickerson, whose team has won three in a row. “We’ve got Week 9. But it’s a good feeling to have. The boys are excited, they’ve worked hard. Definitely some ups and downs this year, but to finish out the last three games the way we have is pretty positive.”