Photo by Bill Roseberry
Alton’s Demonte’ Wigfall (2) celebrates a touchdown after Lavonte Hobbs scored on a 3-yard run in the first half at Edwardsville in Week 4. The Redbirds welcome Granite City for their Homecoming Game at 7 p.m. Friday.
ALTON — The Alton Redbird gridders are sitting at .500 through four weeks of the 2014 season with high aspirations remaining for the final outcome.
The Redbirds traveled to the District 7 Sports Complex in Edwardsville for Week 4 with an uphill climb in front of them. The defending Southwestern Conference champion Tigers were coming off a Week 3 annihilation of rival East St. Louis at Jordan Memorial Stadium.
EHS quarterback Dan Marinko tossed for a whopping seven touchdowns in an impressive 57-32 win over the Flyers.
On the other end of the spectrum, after starting 2-0, Alton came off a disappointing 27-0 loss to O’Fallon at Public School Stadium in Week 3. The Panthers were without starting QB Camden Bauer and star running back Kentrail Moran. Five turnovers plagued the Redbirds in the loss.
But what AHS showed third-year head coach Jeff Alderman in Edwardsville was a mature group of gridders that was able to rebound from adversity.
When Alton quarterback Lavonte Hobbs squeezed into the end zone on a 3-yard plunge at the 11:14 mark of the second quarter, the Redbirds found themselves in a 7-7 stalemate with the Tigers and hungry for more.
On the following drive, Alton had EHS pinned back on its 15-yard line on third and 14 when the Redbirds were whistled for pass interference. A roughing the kicker penalty on a field goal attempt later in the drive let the Tigers stay alive, eventually finding the end zone and ultimately winning 35-7.
A loss is a loss, but Alderman saw fight and that’s what he wants out of his program.
“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot in the first half on those scores, but I can’t really fault our kids because those are aggressive penalties trying to make things happen,” Alderman said. “A good team like (Edwardsville), they’re going to take it and punch it in. I was proud of our kids the way they competed. We came back from a game last week where we don’t feel we competed and they rallied and competed.”
Comparing the performance vs. the Panthers and the one vs. the Tigers just on sheer effort, Alderman said there was no comparison.
“Competition-wise this was 100 percent better,” Alderman said following the Edwardsville loss. “I thought last week we got down on ourselves when a couple breaks didn’t go our way and that hurt us, but tonight we fought back and that was the big challenge we gave them. Teams making that next step — which this team wants to do — can’t let a little momentum shift kill us. We’ve got to rally and come back.”
Through four games, Hobbs, the senior signal caller, has thrown for 300 yards with four TDs and four picks, while Kareem Hamilton leads the rushing attack with 42 carries for 208 yards and three scores. Demonte’ Wigfall is the leading receiver with eight grabs for 170 yards and three TDs.
On defense, beastly senior linebacker Ricco Gipson paces the Birds with 52 total tackles, 41 solos. He also has two sacks and a fumble recovery. Asa Collins leads with three sacks, while Tre’von Northern has a team-best two fumble recoveries. Simeon Brown leads with two interceptions while Larry Calvin and Josh Lovings each have one.
The Redbirds look to get back on track in Week 5 at home for Homecoming Week. They welcome Granite City (1-3, 0-2) at 7 p.m. Friday. The Warriors are reeling off of a 28-27 loss to Collinsville where they surrendered 21 unanswered second-half points.
Alton will need to get to 5-4 to have a shot at its first playoff appearance since 2006 and there is still work to be done.
“It’s Homecoming Week, which is a big week and a scary week for coaches, but it’s time to get back in the saddle and get this thing back on the winning track,” Alderman said. “We showed we can compete with one of the better teams in the state for a half.”
Follow Bill Roseberry on Twitter @broseberry51.