There’s no better way to celebrate the halfway point of the prep football season than with a chicken dinner ... and some awards.
On Tuesday, the Alton Knights of Columbus Quarterback Club played host to its first awards banquet and second dinner of its trio of events on the season. The coaches’ dinner was Aug. 26 and the final awards banquet will be conducted on Nov. 18.
The dinner gave the opportunity for a midseason reflection and a chance to address issues for the stretch run. After five weeks, the Roxana Shells and Alton Redbirds boast the best records in the River Bend, both sitting at 3-2, while Marquette Catholic and Civic Memorial are scuffling at 2-3 and East Alton-Wood River is mired in an 0-5 start.
The Shells have high hopes for the rest of the way. They are looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2003, also the last time they posted a winning season.
Directed by bruising senior running back Logan Reardon — who has 821 yards on 105 carries and 12 rushing touchdowns — Roxana is poised for success. The Shells are at Charlie Raich Field at 7 p.m. Friday, welcoming Litchfield (1-4) for Homecoming.
“I’m pleased where we’re at right now, but we can’t be satisfied,” Roxana head coach Pat Keith said at the dinner Tuesday. “We have four games left and for us it’s never going to be easy. Right now we’re focused on Litchfield.
“People are excited. It’s a different atmosphere and it’s fun, but we’re not there yet. Let’s not count our chickens before they hatch.”
The Redbirds, after winning their first two games of the year, suffered setbacks to O’Fallon and Edwardsville before dismantling Granite City 56-0 in Week 5 to improve to 1-2 in the Southwestern Conference.
Alton ran for seven TDs in that win, with Kareem Hamilton logging three, Larry Calvin two, Justus Pedrero one and DeKarlos Haynes one.
AHS is at Belleville East (3-2, 2-1) at 7 p.m. Friday in a crucial contest regarding playoff hopes. Alton hasn’t made the postseason since 2006.
“We’re pleased to this point, but with four games to go — and they’re awfully tough games — it’s kind of been our mantra all year that we have to keep improving,” Redbirds’ coach Jeff Alderman said. “The kids are excited and hopefully they see that their efforts pay off. The biggest thing is we’ve got to be able to handle success too. We’ve got to rally from defeat like we did last week, but we’ve got to handle the success and keep working and realizing that this week is an awfully tough opponent and a tough game for us.
“I think we’re two even teams, very similar on offense, both with exceptional speed, pretty physical up front. It should be a great game. It’s an old adage, but I think it will come down to the least mistakes.”
CM has a tough go in Week 6, heading to Mississippi Valley Conference powerhouse Highland (4-1, 2-0). The Eagles have dropped three straight since starting 2-0 and are 0-2 in the MVC.
In the other local game, Marquette (2-3, 2-1) entertains Pawnee (4-1, 3-0) in a Prairie State Conference matchup with heavy league and playoff implications. EA-WR earns its first win of the season via forfeit, as Metro East Lutheran doesn’t have the numbers to field a team.
Awards given out on Tuesday (besides the scrumptious chicken) included: the offensive line of the Shells for Weeks 1, 3 and 4 and CM for Week 2, Alton’s Ricco Gipson was defensive lineman for Weeks 1 and 4 while Roxana’s Luke Curtis earned it in Weeks 2 and 3. Adam Hill of the Eagles was the offensive back in Week 1 and shared the honors with Roxana’s Logan Reardon in Week 4. Reardon won it outright in Week 2, while CM’s John Whitworth and Marquette’s Danny Holtz shared the Week 3 recognition. Alton’s Josh Lovings was the Week 1 defensive back, with Rikki Lafferty of the Eagles garnering the hardware in Weeks 2 and 3 and Roxana’s Seth Chester getting it for Week 4.
Hopefully there’s plenty of positivity left on the gridiron for the remainder of the season and everyone can get to the final awards banquet without too many bumps and bruises for that third round of chicken.