EDWARDSVILLE — A week after securing their first win of the season, the Alton Redbirds had a rough go of it at the District 7 Sports Complex in Edwardsville on Friday, losing 45-0.
With the loss the Redbirds plummeted to 1-7 overall and 1-5 in the Southwestern Conference. The Tigers kept rolling, improving to 8-0 and 6-0 with the victory.
The game was won at the line of scrimmage, as Edwardsville dominated on both sides of the ball, taking a 45-0 lead into the break and being awarded a running clock for the entire second half.
“That's a good team right there,” first-year Alton head coach Eric Dickerson said. “We knew coming in it was going to be a battle and we've got to learn from this. In order for us to compete every week we've got to be a little more dedicated and show up and be ready to go.”
EHS' running game was devastating for the Redbirds as the Tigers amassed 386 yards on the ground and ran for six touchdowns.
With the postseason on the horizon, managing the trenches with such command was pleasing for Edwardsville head coach Matt Martin.
“I think we won the battle up front on both sides of the ball,” Martin said. “Particularly our offensive line, we were able to run the ball pretty successfully. My hats off to coach (Doug) Heinz, our offensive line coach and our offensive line.
“I think most games are pretty simple. It's who wins the turnover battle and who can win the battle up front. Limit big plays on defense and (Alton's) got a good running attack. Their backs run hard so it was a challenge, but for the most part our kids tackled well.”
There were no turnovers in the game, but a short kickoff recovered by EHS following a touchdown in the first half and an illegal hands penalty negating a 43-yard TD run by Alton quarterback Keenan Stegall in the second half were devastating for the Birds.
“It would have been nice to put seven on the board, but unfortunately in a game like this that happens,” Dickerson said.
Edwardsville struck early, scoring on a 32-yard run by quarterback Brenden Dickmann on the first play from scrimmage at the 11:44 mark of the first quarter. Riley Patterson's point after made it 7-0 Tigers.
EHS added a 30-yard field goal by Patterson and a 17-yard shifty TD run by Kendall Davis to take a 17-0 lead at the close of the first quarter.
Davis — who rushed for 121 yards on nine carries — added his second of three TDs on a 43-yard sprint at the 9:36 mark of the second quarter. Jackson Morrissey added a powerful 22-yard run and a 26-yard rumble to the end zone sandwiched around a one-yard plunge by Davis to propel the Tigers ahead 45-0 at the break. Morrissey had four carries for 83 yards and two scores in the game.
Martin applauded Edwardsville's running game. Morrissey and Davis, both seniors, were tough for EHS on Senior Night.
“Jackson looked a little better,” Martin said. “He ran better than I anticipated. A week ago he was running with a limp. The old Jackson is back. Kendall and Jackson were our main returning starters and we've tried to build an offense around them. To have that 1-2 punch, they're both very good in their own rights.”
As for the Alton running game, after accruing more than 400 yards on the ground against Granite City in Week 7, it was hard for the Redbirds to muster much against Edwardsville's monster D-line. The Tigers enjoy having two big-time Division I recruits in 6-3, 235-pound senior Desmond Chapple and 6-5, 260-pound junior A.J. Epenesa. Epenesa is the No. 2 rated junior in the nation.
AHS got a team-high 48 yards on 13 carries from senior Asa Collins and 18 yards each from Stegall and senior back Jameyon Alexander. Overall the Redbirds gained just 87 yards on the ground.
“They're big, they're aggressive and they all get to the ball,” Dickerson said of EHS. “They all swarm to the ball and we had a hard time moving those front three off the line and with those guys we were unable to create any holes for our running backs.”
Alton returns home for Week 9, welcoming Belleville West to Public School Stadium. The Tigers head to Granite City to wrap up the regular season before entering the postseason.