Photo by Bill Roseberry
Standing are key components to the 2015 Alton Redbird football team. In front from left to right are: Kalen Samelton, junior, Kenneth Burnett, senior, Malik Williams, senior, Simeon Brown, senior, Jameyon Alexander, senior. In back from left to right are: Cody Markle, junior, Asa Collins, senior, Keenan Stegall, senior, Charles Sholar, senior and Zach Llewellyn, senior.
The Alton Redbirds will have a new look on the gridiron in 2016.
The Birds lost 22 seniors to graduation from last year in addition to head coach Jeff Alderman, who resigned to focus on his duties as athletics director at AHS. Enter Eric Dickerson.
Dickerson, a 1996 graduate of Marquette Catholic High School, has been an AHS assistant for five years and takes over as head coach. Dickerson has 13 years experience as an assistant between Alton, Marquette and East Alton-Wood River.
He inherits a team that went 5-4 last year but missed the playoffs. AHS hasn't reached the postseason since 2006.
“It's a lot different,” he said of being head coach. “There is a lot more paperwork and phone calls and equipment ordering that goes into it than just the Xs and Os, but overseeing the whole program I'm enjoying it. I'm looking forward to getting out there and playing.”
He has huge roles to fill from last season at key positions. Standout linebacker Ricco Gipson and defensive back/wide receiver Josh Lovings are now at McKendree University. The Birds also lost quarterback Lavonte Hobbs, running backs Kareem Hamilton, Justus Pedrero and Larry Calvin, offensive lineman Zach Edwards, kicker Bradley Leonard and defensive lineman Q'iante Wagner to name a few.
“All our skill guys are gone and we graduated 22 guys off last year's team,” Dickerson said. “A lot of those guys were two and three year starters for us. Those are huge shoes to fill. How do you replace a Ricco or a Josh? It's tough to do defensively speaking, but we've had kids showing up all summer working in 7-on7s and I think there are some juniors and seniors who are ready to step in.”
Senior Asa Collins will be a key component. Collins tied Gipson with four sacks to lead Alton last season and was second to him in tackles with 46 total and in solo tackles with 36. He remains an explosive defensive end, but doubles as a running back for the Birds this year.
“(Collins) is an athlete and he's hard to block,” Dickerson said. “He's so quick. He's working at defensive end and we've got him at tailback this year. He and Jameyon Alexander are a pretty good one-two punch back there. They've been a pleasant surprise.”
Senior Keenan Stegall replaces Hobbs at quarterback and saw limited time last year there. He caught one touchdown as a receiver.
“He's been playing (quarterback) since he was a freshman and matured nicely over the summer,” Dickerson said. “His footwork has improved greatly, his arm strength is where it needs to be and he's making good, quick reads. I think he's going to do an excellent job.”
Dickerson also mentioned senior wide receiver/defensive back Kenneth Burnett, sophomore running back/line backer Kiondray Samelton, junior running back/line backer Kalen Samelton, senior O-linemen Zach Llewellyn and Charlie Sholar and junior O-lineman Cody Markle as players to watch.
New this year, Alton opens with Rock Island at 7 p.m. tonight and heads to Quincy on Sept. 4 for its other non-conference contest before delving into Southwestern Conference action.
“That's competition we're going to face once we qualify for the postseason,” Dickerson said. “I think that hardens us and makes us a better team come conference play. There are no weeks off in the conference — it's a gauntlet.”
The conference includes standouts like A.J. Epenesa (Edwardsville), Jeff Thomas (East St. Louis) and Kentrail Moran (O'Fallon). Even with guys like Terry Beckner (East Side) and Dan Marinko (Edwardsville) gone, the league just keeps producing.
“Those teams reload,” Dickerson said. “There are guys waiting in the wings. You lose a Beckner, but then there's another defensive lineman there — it's tough. It's a tough conference, but the goal of our program is to get to that position and reload. That's our long term goal.”
Quick Hits/2015 Outlook
Head coach: Eric Dickerson
Team: Alton Redbirds
2014 record: 5-4, 3-4
Career record: first year
Last playoff: 2006 first round Class 7A
NAME HT WT POS
Jameyon Alexander 5-10 180 RB-DB
Simeon Brown 5-7 135 WR-DB
Kenneth Burnett 5-11 165 WR-DB
Asa Collins 6-0 185 RB-DL
Will Davis 5-8 130 K
Ronald Gilchrese 5-9 150 WR-DB
Andrew Goeken 6-0 175 WR-DB
Nick Hatfield 5-8 130 K
Harrison Henderson 5-7 145 WR-DB
Dane Hutson 5-7 175 RB-LB
Jordan Jackson 5-10 180 WR-DB
Zach Llewellyn 6-4 220 OL-DL
Fa'Twan Lock 5-10 185 RB-DB
Matt McDonald 5-9 180 WR-DB
Shacoby Moss 5-6 135 WR-DB
Edwards Nicholson 5-9 235 OL-DL
Tyler Reynolds 6-0 200 OL-LB
Alecquan Russell 5-9 200 OL-DL
Charles Sholar 6-3 255 OL-DL
Keenan Stegall 6-1 180 QB-DB
Jeremiah Tandy 5-11 150 WR-DB
Kobe Warlick 6-2 190 WR-DB
Malik Williams 5-7 180 RB-LB
Tahj Womack 5-10 265 OL-DL
Kade Bock 5-8 180 OL-LB
Austin Carroll 5-5 155 WR-DB
Camryn Gerhardt 5-7 165 RB-DB
Samuel Hale 5-9 140 WR-DB
Ke'Ontay Holmes 5-6 200 RB-DL
Chase Hook 6-0 285 OL-DL
Hunter Hook 5-11 170 TE
Zeke Lampley 6-1 165 OL-DL
Ryan Mann 5-9 135 WR-DB
Cody Markle 6-0 277 OL-DL
Evan Meyer 6-8 235 OL-DL
Adam Morris 6-0 170 WR-DB
Tyler Moxey 5-7 165 RB-DB
Michael Overstreet 5-6 140 RB-DB
Ben Rakoski 6-0 310 OL-DL
Breyon Reed 5-7 160 WR-DB
Reggie Rhines 5-10 212 OL-DL
Keyondrick Russell 5-10 195 OL-DL
Kalen Samelton 5-11 187 RB-LB
Gregory Taylor 6-0 250 OL-DL
Jonathan Bumpers 5-11 150 WR-DB
Kevin Caldwell 5-10 150 WR-DB
Ryan Kane 6-0 285 OL-DL
Kamar Newby 5-10 162 RB-LB
Taylor Price 6-0 175 QB
Dyllon Proudie 5-9 165 QB-DB
Ja'Quez Roberson 6-0 200 OL-DL
Kiondray Samelton 5-9 153 RB-LB
Darrell Smith 5-10 160 RB-DB
Marsel Tate 5-9 220 RB-DL
Rashad Williams 5-9 153 WR-DB
Aug. 28, 7 p.m. vs. Rock Island
Sept. 4, 7 p.m. at Quincy
Sept. 11, 7 p.m. vs. East St. Louis*
Sept. 18, 7 p.m. at Belleville East*
Sept. 25, 7 p.m. vs. O’Fallon*
Oct. 2, 7 p.m. at Collinsville*
Oct. 9, 7 p.m. vs. Granite City*
Oct. 16, 7 p.m. at Edwardsville*
Oct. 23, 7 p.m. vs. Belleville West*
* Denotes conference games