WOOD RIVER — A better first half might have helped the East Alton-Wood River Oilers' cause in Friday’s Prairie State Conference opener against the Mount Olive Wildcats at Memorial Stadium.
Mount Olive led 18-0 at halftime behind touchdowns from quarterback Andrew Jones and running back Jonathon Darrah at the 7:53 mark and 4:07 mark in the first quarter. Jones scored another touchdown at the 1:38 mark in the second quarter. The Wildcats scored touchdowns on their first two possessions. The Oilers committed one turnover and seven penalties in the first half.
The Oilers fall to 0-3 and 0-1 in the Prairie State Conference. Herron thought the effort represented an improvement from the first two weeks, as Columbia defeated the Oilers 49-0 on August 28 and Centralia defeated EA-WR 44-16 on Sept. 4.
“We came into the game teaching the kids that we had to stop the mistakes and stop the turnovers,” East Alton-Wood River coach Garry Herron said. “Offensively, we shot ourselves in the foot a little bit. Defensively, they came out in a look we had not seen from them, but we had seen that look the prior two weeks. It just comes down to execution and we didn’t execute in the first half.”
Failure to capitalize on a scoring opportunity also represented a problem for the Oilers in the first half. EA-WR’s offense pushed the ball to Mount Olive’s 19-yard line early in the second quarter. Zach Womack’s 30-yard carry highlighted the drive, but a holding penalty and unsuccessful plays complicated matters.
Mt Olive (1-2, 1-0 PSC) coach Bill Jones said “it’s always good to win on the road and to win a conference game.”
EA-WR started to turn the tables by scoring on their first possession of the second half. Womack’s 36-yard run into the end zone made the score 18-6 Mount Olive at the 9:05 mark in the third quarter. Austin Hammond’s extra point put the Oilers a point closer.
The Wildcats answered on the next possession with a touchdown from Andrew Jones to make the score 24-7 at the 7:31 mark. Jones finished the drive with a 29-yard run into the end zone. The Wildcats tacked on two more points with a successful two-point conversion.
EA-WR turned the momentum once again with a seven play, 65-yard drive capped with a 13-yard run into the end zone by running back T.J. Lawson, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to 26-13.
But Mount Olive's offense managed to produce at an opportune time, as Antonio Boccaleoni scored a touchdown at the 2:47 mark in the third quarter pushing the Wildcats ahead 32-13 with 2:47 left in the third quarter. Mount Olive earned another two with a successful two-point conversion.
The Oilers scored one more touchdown at the 1:08 mark in the third quarter. Quarterback Justin Englar connected with Womack on a 45-yard pass and Womack ran a few yards into the end zone to cut the score to 34-19 Mount Olive. A successful two-point conversion brought East Alton-Wood River two more points.
“They blitzed a little less in the second half against our pass, and we were able to do some things,” Herron said. “If you give our kids time, they’re going to complete something. We had a long one (pass) that was dropped. It’s the little things we need to look at and get better at.”
EA-WR might have capitalized on another prime opportunity in the fourth quarter, as its’ offense worked the ball to Mount Olive’s five-yard line but couldn’t put it into the end zone. Herron said this failed opportunity “was pretty much the game.” Coach Jones called it a “difference maker possession.”
The Wildcats next possession started at the 8:03 mark of the fourth quarter. They started on the EA-WR five-yard line, as the Oilers were unable to convert on a fourth-down play.
Although unable to score again, the Wildcats controlled the clock and worked the ball to the Oilers’ four-yard line. Coach Jones said the offensive line “stepped up and did a real nice job.”
EA-WR will look to climb into the win column in Week 4 when it plays host to Bunker Hill at Memorial Stadium.