As August wraps up, the Alton Knights of Columbus get us ready for fall with the first of their three Quarterback Club banquets. The first was Tuesday.
It means two things — the return of scrumptious fried chicken dinners and the start of the prep football season.
The five Greater Alton schools were on hand Tuesday to eagerly discuss the 2015 versions of their teams and people from the community were there to eagerly listen and offer support.
Three of the programs were introducing new coaches for 2015. Alton hired Eric Dickerson, Marquette Catholic has Darrell Angleton and East Alton-Wood River brought in Garry Herron. All have local ties in the community as coaches and players.
Herron was first to take the podium and address the room. Herron is a 2002 graduate of EA-WR and he’s anxious to make his alma mater relevant again. He’s been an assistant at Roxana for the last three seasons.
The Oilers have not reached the playoffs since 2006. Herron admitted a playoff berth is likely not in the cards for 2015, but there are lots of sophomores out and the program is getting the numbers up in general.
Herron said the staff is getting the players into the weight room and that’s where success begins. For now, he said they are “changing the culture” at EA-WR and time will tell.
The Oilers start the season at 7 p.m. tonight at Columbia. There is no place to go but up from their 1-8 campaign in 2014. EA-WR is playing its 68th varsity season.
Next to the stage was new Marquette coach Darrell Angleton. At the age of 50 Angleton is getting his first head coaching job, but he comes with plenty of experience.
He was an assistant for Matt Bucher with the Explorers the last two seasons, the coach he’s replacing. He also spent five seasons as president of the Alton Renegades.
As a Roxana grad, though, his football roots come from a trifecta of great coaches — Charlie Raich, Bill Smith and Jeff Welker. He pointed to all three as mentors and noted that Smith taught him toughness at Roxana.
He hopes to get Marquette back into the playoffs. The Explorers were 5-4 and narrowly missed the postseason in ‘15. With a slew of talent back, including all-conference quarterback Trey Aguirre, it looks good. They have a total of 47 players out.
Marquette opens with local rival Civic Memorial at 7 p.m. Saturday at home. The Explorers are in their 89th varsity season.
Alton’s Eric Dickerson was next and with departed players at almost every skill position, he preached patience.
The Redbirds haven’t reached the playoffs since 2006 and narrowly missed last year, even with a 5-4 record. Dickerson was the defensive coordinator for the Birds a year ago and has spent a total of five seasons as an assistant at AHS. He’s also worked at Marquette and EA-WR and is a ‘96 grad of Marquette.
He said the program has 110 kids out; it’s just finding ones ready for varsity action.
He will lean heavily on first-team all-conference player Asa Collins, who will play running back/defensive end, and second-team all-conference defensive back Simeon Brown.
Alton is entering its 112th varsity campaign. It begins with Rock Island at 7 p.m. tonight at home.
Now it was onto the grizzled veterans. CM’s Justin Winslow is in his fifth season with the Eagles and looking to get them back to the playoffs, a place they haven’t been since 2010.
He boasted about senior quarterback Adam Hill, who led the five Greater Alton schools in passing last year and looks to be even more experienced in 2015. CM again will run a spread, no-huddle offense and expect to put up points.
The Eagles struggled defensively last year, but Winslow said a second year in defensive coordinator Mike Liljegren’s system will help. They played a slew of sophomores in 2014, too.
Winslow looks forward to meeting Marquette in its opener. CM, which was 3-6 last year, is entering its 64th varsity season.
Finally, Roxana’s Pat Keith came to the stage. Keith enjoyed the most success last season, reaching the second round of the Class 4A playoffs. It was the first playoff berth for the Shells (8-3) since 2003.
Keith, in his seventh season at Roxana, knows what the Quarterback Club banquet is about.
“We eat the most chicken out of all of you,” Keith joked with the other coaches. “We’re 1-0.”
He touched on the challenges of coaching today’s youth with distractions everywhere and the importance of local rivalries and trying to bring them back.
He announced that Smith will be on his coaching staff this season. The former Roxana head coach and longtime assistant under Raich will be a welcome addition.
As for the team, the Shells return six starters on both sides of the ball, including signal caller Chance Foss and running back Blake Vandiver, so he expects another prosperous season.
In its 75th varsity season, Keith hopes Roxana returns to its tradition and makes annual trips to the playoffs. The Shells open with Carlinville at 7 p.m. tonight at home.
As for me, I like making multiple trips to the chicken line. It was two last night and I can’t wait until the first awards banquet on Sept. 29. I also can’t wait for football to kick off this weekend.