WOOD RIVER — The East Alton-Wood River Oilers and Roxana Shells are a rivalry that has survived over decades and through generations.
On Saturday, the rivalry was reignited in the 2015 annual alumni soccer match followed by a battle for bragging rights between the current varsity teams. The Oilers walked away with a 1-0 victory, improving their record to 14-3-1. Roxana slipped to 6-10-1 with the loss.
The Oilers were unable to penetrate the Shells defense until junior Zac Lafferty found the back of the net off a pass from Luke Simms in the 38th minute. Lafferty's shot was the only goal of the contest, but it was enough for EA-WR to take the win.
EA-WR maintained ball control through the majority of the game, but the Shells made the Oilers work hard for every advance on the field.
"This is kind of how we play soccer now-a-days," EA-WR head coach Mike Lawson said. "We keep it to the simple stuff, pass, move and talking to each other on the field. We are having another very good season, we were comfortable going into the game, during the game and now after the game with how we played. This has always been a good rivalry."
The Shells have improved in the 2015 season with a young and talented squad with good numbers.
"Our kids played hard and we know we're a little bit out-matched," Roxana head coach Steve Dohnal said. "The Oilers do have a little more talent than what we have right now, but they played hard and didn't make it easy for the Oilers to score. This matchup has always been a bit of a grudge match and they always step it up a little more. As you can see by the alumni game, that grudge never seems to end."
Looking ahead, Lawson and the Oilers are already thinking about postseason action coming off of a 2014 regional championship.
"The way they've done the seeding through IHSA is backwards this year," Lawson said. "I do like the idea of not having all the strong teams in one regional but how they did the rest of the seeding with the 3-10 teams is a little backward and won't be very rewarding for a team that has done so well. We know who we have the first game and we can anticipate who'd we play after up to sectionals."
Both the Shells and Oilers honored their seniors during Saturday's full lineup that included three soccer games in five hours. EA-WR and Roxana will both lose nine seniors following the 2015 season.
"Our seniors have worked great together this season," EA-WR senior Cameron Foust said. "We have all been very dedicated and we've all spent four years in the program with Lawson and have all had either select club or previous league experience and we've played consistent."
EA-WR v. Roxana alumni games
The Shells topped the Oilers in both alumni games for the first time since 2012 and just the second time in the history of the annual event.
The EA-WR alumni women had a short bench of only seven players and took a 6-1 shellacking by the Lady Shells, earning their second win in the five-year history.
The EA-WR and Roxana men let the days of old creep back in with a spirited match that resulted in a 2-2 tie at the conclusion of regulation play. The Shells prevailed in penalty kicks during overtime to take a 3-2 win.
"We have a lot of fun with this every year," EA-WR girls' soccer coach and Roxana alumni Matt Herndon said. "It seems every year the Wood River girls bench struggles to have enough players return and they've won several times completely short-handed and with no subs. Roxana made a presence today and I think the Wood River women's alumni should accept the challenge put out to them to get more women back for this event. EA-WR and Roxana has had some excellent players over the years for both men and women. This is after all, a fundraising event that benefits both the girls' and boys' soccer programs at the high school."
The alumni men didn't waste time getting to business with a physical matchup that resulted in penalty kicks for just the second time in the 12-year history of the event with Roxana ending the game on top. Pushing and shoving resulted in some physical contact between the two teams, but left the field with a group photo and handshakes.
"I've been looking forward to coming back and playing this game," Joel Hobart said. "I think the games are more physical now than they were when we were in high school. I plan to come back every year as long as I can play."
Anyone interested in playing in the 2016 Roxana vs. EA-WR alumni game can get information and keep in contact with Matt Herndon, or watch the EA-WR/Roxana Soccer Alumni page on Facebook.