EDWARDSVILLE — The Rock Island Rocks visited the District 7 Sports Complex Friday and gave the Edwardsville Tigers a tough test in their home opener.
Unfortunately for the Rocks, EHS sophomore running back Dionte Rodgers passed the test with flying colors. Rodgers rushed for 295 yards and 5 touchdowns as the Tigers bested Rock Island 48-27 in non-conference action.
Edwardsville improved to 2-0 with the win, while the Rocks dipped to 1-1 with the loss.
“When we get a hat on a hat and block the right people we do good things,” EHS head coach Matt Martin said. “Obviously good job by Dionte. He's pretty special on level two, level three, he makes people miss, he breaks tackles and he has just enough speed to run away from some people.”
Only Joe Bevis and Colin Gardner enjoyed better days in the back field for the Tigers. Bevis and Gardner each had 6-TD games, and 300-plus yard games on the ground in the 90s.
Rodgers wouldn't take all the credit for the first 5-TD game of his football career.
“I was able to get behind my big lineman, thank God for them,” Rodgers said. “They got me to my holes and I just made the right reads and got the job done.”
Edwardsville never deviated from its plans to run the ball either. Rodgers hauled the rock 28 times and scored four of his five TDs during the second half. He proved to be a real work horse.
“I was teasing coach (Doug) Heinz,” Martin said. “I said, 'You are so stubborn.' He kept running inside zone, inside zone and he had faith. Again, the reason why he did that when it wasn't looking good is because he realized we weren't going to the right people. He just kept coaching kids up to get a hat on a hat and he knew good things would happen and he was right.”
It was the commitment to the running game by EHS that Rock Island coach Bryan Stortz thought made the difference.
“They just kept handing it to him,” Stortz said. “We had guys there and we missed some tackles, but our offense didn't help our defense at times either. I thought realistically our defense did a pretty stout job even though (Rodgers) had the yardage, they didn't do anything else.”
It was Rodgers that got the Tigers on the board first. He capped Edwardsville's first drive of the game, which went 99 yards on 8 plays, with a 6-yard scamper into the end zone. It was his 72-yard gallop on the third play of the drive that highlighted it. Riley Patterson's extra point made it 7-0 at the 5:17 mark of the first quarter.
EHS struck again at the 6:50 mark of the second quarter when Daval Torres ran back a 48-yard punt return and looked like he was going to take it to the house. Torres fumbled on the 2-yard line, but teammate Ryan Connelly scooped up the loose ball and barreled into the end zone. Patterson's kick made it 14-0.
“It was nice to have a break,” Martin said.
The Rocks answered the bell before going into the half though, scoring twice in the final minute. Quarterback Alex Jacobs found Jacob Ellis on a 3-yard strike with 59.5 seconds left in the half. Then after a botched snap on a punt attempt by the Tigers, Rock Island was able to score with 6.4 seconds to go.
This time Jacobs connected with Ben Ellis for 6 yards. Nickolas Roessler made both PATs to tie the game at 14-14.
Jacobs finished the first half 14-of-23 for 143 yards and two scores.
“That quarterback is a heck of a player, (Jacob Ellis) is a good player,” Martin said. “I'm not taking anything away from them, but I thought we missed some opportunities in the first half and we took advantage of opportunities in the second half.”
It was Rodgers again starting the scoring in the second half. He ran in from three yards out at the 6:17 mark of the third quarter. Patterson's kick made it 21-14 in favor of the Tigers.
Another Jacobs TD pass at the 3:00 mark of the third looked like it would knot things up again, but the Rocks missed the extra point to trail 21-20.
That opened the door for Rodgers who scored on a 52-yard run and a 6-yard plunge to make it 34-20 after a missed PAT by EHS with 5:31 left in the game.
“We were focused and staying with the game plan,” Rodgers said about the second-half surge in the run game. “Coach said he was going to call my number and I had to execute. That's what I did and we got the job done.”
Jacob Ellis cut it 34-27 when he scored on a nifty 4-yard run with 2:48 left in the game. Jacobs made a nice shuffle to him and he motored in untouched.
Rodgers answered again on a 3-play drive where he ran all three plays for 56 yards, including a 21-yard TD scamper. EHS then put the final nail in the coffin when Nathan Kolesa picked off Jacobs and ran it 48 yards into the end zone with 41.3 seconds left in the game.
Edwardsville signal caller Brenden Dickmann was 4-of-10 in the game for 57 yards and ran it 8 times for 43 yards.
For the Rocks, Jacobs finished the game 23-of-44 for 234 yards, 3 TDs and a pick. Jacob Ellis was the biggest beneficiary with 12 snares for 127 yards and a TD. He also ran in the 4-yard score.
The Tigers now enter Southwestern Conference play, heading to Collinsville for Week 3. The Kahoks are 0-2 on the season with losses to Althoff and Triad in non-conference action.