EDWARDSVILLE — The East Alton-Wood River Oilers' football team earned its first win of the season on Friday night with a 42-12 Prairie State Conference rout of the Metro East Lutheran Knights in Edwardsville.
The Oilers improve to 1-5 overall and 1-3 in the PSC.
“In the last two or three weeks especially, we’ve done a ton better defensively,” EA-WR first-year head coach Garry Herron said. “This is something we did lack. We played good competition in the first two or three weeks and took our lumps, but we’ve been getting better every week. We had to put it together offensively and stop the fumbles, even though we put the ball on the ground a little bit, it didn’t hurt us tonight. The kids came out hard and they played four quarters.”
MELHS (0-6, 0-4 PSC) struck first in the contest. Jerry Watson’s touchdown at the 3:08 mark in the first quarter gave the Knights a 6-0 advantage. On the next drive, EA-WR’s offense worked the ball to Metro's 35-yard line but failed to capitalize. The Knights maintained their 6-0 lead until the end of the first quarter.
On the first series of the second quarter, Zach Wells of EA-WR intercepted a pass from Lutheran quarterback Damien James in Knight territory and the Oilers started their next drive on Lutheran’s 40-yard line. Four plays later senior running back Chris Hamby carried the ball into the end zone to tie the score at 6-6. David Barrett’s extra point gave EA-WR a slim 7-6 lead.
Hamby made himself a factor in the game, especially in the first half. He recovered a Lutheran fumble on the Knights’ 13-yard line at the 9:07 mark in the second quarter. Two plays later he caught quarterback Justin Englar’s pass in the end zone to make the score 13-6. Another Barrett extra point gave the Oilers a 14-6 lead. The score remained 14-6 at halftime.
Herron said Hamby “has done nothing but work hard since he came into the system” and that he “runs hard” and “never gives up on a run.”
Hamby added, “It’s been a rough season for us so far, but we knew this was a winnable game for us. Coach said all day we’ve got to play through four quarters. I came out and gave it my best effort.”
EA-WR outscored Lutheran 28-0 in the second half. The Oilers' swarming defense made sure the Knights’ running backs had little to work with. Lutheran managed four first-down conversions in the second half.
“We talked all week long about being around the ball — all 11 guys,” Herron said. “We knew they were going to try to take some shots deep. So, we kept our safeties back and played deep and they did a good job. They didn’t bite on anything. The corners (cornerbacks) a couple of times did, but we accomplished what we wanted against the deep ball tonight.”
Knights coach Matt Tschudy said EA-WR did a good job of blitzing, but he also thought his team had trouble sustaining an offensive drive.
“We need to be able to hit a hole and get three or four yards out of it,” he said. “We keep trying to get the play and that’s our problem.”
But the Knights had more problems than the Oilers' defense in the second half. EA-WR’s Zach Wells intercepted James’ pass at the 10:55 mark in the third quarter, on Lutheran’s first drive, to give the Oilers the ball on Lutheran’s 21-yard line.
Five-plays later Englar, who connected on seven of nine passes for 103 yards in the game, connected with running back Zach Womack in the end zone to make the score 20-6.
The Knights showed some life on the next drive — a six play, 72-yard drive capped off by another Watson run into the end zone to cut the score to 21-12.
But the momentum would be short lived, as the Oilers answered on their next drive by marching 58-yards down the field to score another touchdown and make the score 27-12. Englar connected with running back T.J. Lawson on a 15-yard pass.
The Oilers took advantage of a short field on their final two touchdowns of the game. A bad Lutheran punt gave EA-WR the ball on the Knights’ 38-yard line at the 10:43 mark in the fourth quarter. It took five plays and a little over two minutes for the Oilers’ offense to move the ball into the end zone. Hamby scored his third touchdown of the contest at the 8:37 mark on a two-yard run into the end zone and EA-WR held a 34-12 advantage.
The Oilers recovered a fumbled punt at the 8:33 mark in the fourth quarter and took control of the ball on Lutheran’s 25-yard line. Six-plays later Englar connected with Womack in the end zone to make the score 42-12.
EA-WR now returns home next week to play Pawnee at 7 p.m. on Friday in a big PSC contest.