ALTON — Edwardsville's Dionte Rodgers made Public School Stadium his neighborhood on Friday night.
The sophomore running back ran for 211 yards on 16 carries and scored 3 touchdowns in EHS' 44-6 win over Alton. With the win the Tigers improved to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in the Southwestern Conference, while the fledgling Redbirds dipped to 0-8 and 0-6.
It was Rodgers' three TDs that were the most memorable for Edwardsville. With scoring runs of 1, 12 and 61 he brought his tally to 19 on the season, breaking Sam Mulford's single-season record of 18, set in 2012.
Rodgers was more focused on the team's success than entering the EHS record books though.
“I just try to come out here and work every day,” Rodgers said. “The record is a blessing to have, but I just try to come out here with my teammates and try to get the ‘W.’ All the other stuff will take care of itself.
“I knew it a little bit, but I try not to focus on that. I tried to focus on the game and tried to get the ‘W’ with my team.”
Edwardsville head coach Matt Martin understands he has a special player in Rodgers. The underclassman made sure to credit his offensive line for his success, something his coach, a former offensive lineman, likes to see.
“There are some big holes that a lot of backs could run through, but when he got to the second and third level, he made people miss and he broke tackles,” Martin said. “That’s all it takes. He’s special and he’s a good person.
“I’m impressed with how he holds onto the ball. We don’t seem to have a lot of fumble issues. He just does a good job. He’s a good player. He’s got that low center of gravity. He’s strong. He’s not very big (5-foot-6, 150 pounds), but he’s strong for his size and he does a good job.”
For second-year Alton head coach Eric Dickerson it was another rough night. The Birds started strong, but couldn't sustain it vs. the talented Tigers. There was a running clock much of the second half.
Rodgers compiled 14 carries for 147 yards and 2 scores in the first half. Both his first-half scores came during a 28-point eruption for Edwardsville in the second quarter.
“That’s been our issue all year,” Dickerson said. “We’ve had trouble tackling people. It’s just one of those years. We’re learning every week. Everybody in this conference, they’ve got strong runners, and we just need to get stronger physically. A lot of arm tackles going on, a lot of diving and that just doesn’t work. Some things we’ve got to fix.”
Alton came out strong, holding the Tigers to a 38-yard field goal by kicker Riley Patterson on their opening drive. Patterson's kick made it 3-0 at the 8:17 mark of the first quarter.
The Redbirds then were able to move the ball some on their first possession, highlighted by quarterback Taylor Price, who busted a 32-yard scamper on third-and-10.
They were forced to punt, but a fumbled snap and a short punt led to AHS recovering and keeping its drive alive, but were eventually forced to punt again.
“They had a good game plan and they're going to get rid of the ball quick and keep you honest with the run,” Martin said. “They did a good job.”
Edwardsville finally found pay dirt with 1:40 to go in the opening quarter. Rodgers' broke a 56-yard run that set up quarterback Brenden Dickmann running in a TD from 14 yards out three plays later. The PAT was no good, leaving EHS up 9-0 as the first quarter came to a conclusion.
The second quarter was all Edwardsville. Dickmann hooked up with Daval Torres on a 56-yard strike early in the stanza. It helped set up Rodgers' 1-yard TD plunge at the 9:55 mark. Patterson's kick made it 16-0.
The Tigers added an 8-yard TD run from Torres, an athletic 89-yard run from Kendall Abdur-Rahman for a score and a 12-yard Rodgers' jaunt into the end zone to take a commanding 37-0 lead into the break.
Rodgers continued to hurt Alton when the game resumed in the second half. His 61-yard sprint into the end zone at the 8:43 mark of the third quarter, followed by the PAT, made it 44-0. It kick started the running clock and proved to be Rodgers last run of the night.
The Redbirds finally got on the board late. Price found Johnathan Bumpers on a nifty 27-yard passing TD with 6:48 left in the game. It came after he tossed one to Kevin Caldwell Jr. on the other side of the end zone, but he was unable to get his foot down in bounds. Both Caldwell and Bumpers made nice grabs.
“We have athletes,” Dickerson said. “We definitely have some skills guys that we can get the ball to, and Taylor does a good job when he stands in the pocket and delivers the ball.”
Price finished 10-of-26 through the air with a TD and an interception. Kiondray Samelton led the rushing attack with 13 carries for 48 yards. Bumpers hauled in 5 catches for 57 yards and the score.
For EHS, Dickmann ended up 6-of-10 through the air for 100 yards. Torres led the receiving corps with 3 snags for 81 yards. Abdur-Rahman complemented Rodgers' big night with 2 carries for 99 yards and the score.
The Tigers forced AHS into a pair of turnovers in the game, including a pick by junior Chase Viehman in the second quarter. All-American defensive end A.J. Epenesa had a couple big deflections at the line of scrimmage, too.
Edwardsville wraps up the regular season with Granite City at the District 7 Sports Complex in Week 9, while Alton heads to Belleville West to close things out.