GRANITE CITY -- After being out for three weeks due to an injured hip, Granite City senior Kendrick Williba returned on Friday against the Alton Redbirds at Kevin Greene Field.
Williba definitely made up for lost time. He helped the Warriors inch closer to a winning season and a possible playoff berth by scoring a pair of touchdowns in the 41-27 win over the Redbirds.
“Anytime I’m on the field, I’m 100 percent,” Williba said. “I play for my brothers and I play for the city. When I got hurt, I got so much support from the city, so I feel like I have to give that back when I’m on this field.”
Granite City improved to 4-3 overall and 3-2 in Southwestern Conference play. The Warriors played their last home game of the season.
“It’s nice to end it on a high note and on a good note and hopefully, we’ll keep going and end it on a playoff note,” Granite City defensive back Trevor Corey said.
Granite City will wrap up its regular season with two games on the road. The Warriors travel to Belleville West next Friday and play at Edwardsville on Oct. 21.
Granite City is hoping to clinch a state playoff berth for just the second time in Luehmann’s seven-year coaching career. The Warriors were 6-4 and participated in the state playoffs in 2011.
“All four years, I never had something so big put in front of me like this,” Granite City senior offensive lineman Ryan Earney said. “We’ve got a big shot this year and we’re going to make it happen.”
Alton dropped to 0-7 overall and 0-5 in conference play. The Redbirds play Edwardsville at home next week.
“It’s the Southwestern Conference,” Alton coach Eric Dickerson said. “Every week is a battle. We’ll watch film and be ready to play Edwardsville next week.”
Williba suffered a hip injury against Belleville East on Sept. 10 that forced him to miss three games.
On Friday, Williba played tight end. He finished with 56 yards on four receptions.
Williba now has 13 touchdowns. He scored 11 TDs in the first three games before getting injured.
“Kendrick has worked hard for four years,” Granite City coach Carl Luehmann said. “He’s worked his butt off to get back from an injury that most kids wouldn’t come back from. He has accepted what’s going on and he’s a great kid who does what we expect of him.”
Freshman Freddie Edwards, who took over quarterback duties after Williba got injured, finished with 267 yards rushing with three touchdowns. He now has 17 TDs this season.
“He’s a good player,” Dickerson said. “You can’t arm tackle a kid like that. He’s able to run through them and break free. That’s what he did.”
Sophomore Richard Graham rushed for 117 yards on 16 carries with a TD.
Luehmann awarded the game ball to Corey for his strong defense.
“I’m really proud of Trevor,” the Granite City coach said. “Trevor played the best game he has ever played in his life. I’m proud of him. Trevor has put in the hard work. He earned a starting position.”
The Warriors stormed to a 21-0 lead after scoring TDs in their first three possessions. But Alton rallied to tie the game at 21-21 at halftime.
The Warriors outscored the Redbirds 20-6 in the second half to pull off the win.
“I challenged the kids in the second half,” Luehmann said. “We came out and played much better and we showed some growing up. We’ve got a big game next week to get ready for. So we’re proud of the win. It’s the first time in a while that we got a homecoming win. I’m proud of what the kids did tonight.”
Williba gave Granite City a 28-21 lead with a 1-yard touchdown catch with 4:48 left in the third quarter. It ended a seven-play, 76-yard drive.
“When I caught it, I tripped over my feet because I got some nervous,” Williba said. “I said, ‘Please don’t let me fall.’ So I got my balance back. Once I got it, I wasn’t going to stop. I was going to score, no matter what.”
The Warriors boosted their lead to 34-21 after Edwards scored a 79-yard touchdown run with 10:23 left in the fourth quarter. He scored a seven-yard TD run with 6:30 to go in the game to increase Granite City’s lead to 41-21.
Edwards scored his first TD with 10:02 left in the first quarter, when he scored on a 49-yard run to give the Warriors a 7-0 lead.
With 6:50 left in the first quarter, Edwards tossed a 44-yard touchdown pass to Williba to give Granite City a 14-0 lead. Edwards threw for 125 yards.
Graham scored a 14-yard TD run with 5:05 left in the quarter to increase the Warriors’ lead to 21-0.
Quarterback Taylor Price, Kevin Caldwell, Morris Adams and Johnathan Bumpers each scored touchdowns for Alton.
“The kids played with heart,” Dickerson said. “That’s what I told them (after the game). We played with a lot of heart to be down by 21 that early in the game and to fight and claw their way back, I was very proud of them for that. But it takes two halves to win the game.”
With 11.9 seconds left in the second quarter, Adams scored a five-yard touchdown catch to tie the game at 21-21.
Price threw for 164 yards with two touchdowns and rushed for 44 yards with 11 carries before sitting out in the fourth quarter due to an injury.
Alton running back Darrell Smith returned on Friday after being out since Sept. 16 due to an injury he suffered against Belleville East.
But with 9:07 left in the fourth, Smith injured his left leg and sat out for the rest of the game.
“We had the injury bug hit us as most teams have, especially in week seven,” Dickerson said. “We’ve got kids who were able to step in and fill some roles for us.”