Photo by Diane Cox
Roxana’s Randy Skiff slides in safely at second base between EA-WR’s Justin Englar (4) and Tyler Hamby (33). The Shells and Oilers played their rivalry game on April 2 with Roxana prevailing. In the spring there are plenty of matchups in all sports between the five Greater Alton schools.
The spring prep season brings more than April showers and May flowers. It’s the time for local rivalries to blossom.
There’s more head-to-head competition among the five Greater Alton area teams – Alton, Marquette Catholic, Roxana, East Alton-Wood River and Civic Memorial. It’s the nature of the season and the sports: baseball, softball, boys’ and girls’ track, girls’ soccer and boys’ tennis. AHS also has a first-year varsity boys’ volleyball program.
“In the spring, it’s more conducive to it because of the number of games that you are allowed,” Alton director of athletics Jeff Alderman said of neighborhood skirmishes.
Civic Memorial AD Steve Carey seconded that notion. “Our schedule allows for 35 games in both baseball and softball. So you can go outside the box more than you can in football and basketball,” he said.
He added, “The local teams are there for scheduling in spring sports and it’s always nice to stay local. You cut the drive time, and fans and parents can go to the games.
“We want to play all of the local schools.”
Adam Miller, the EA-WR director of athletics, said: “There’s more of a willingness on our part to play an Alton, Collinsville or Edwardsville during the spring. You don’t have that kind of flexibility with your scheduling in the fall and winter.
“It’s always a balancing act, but we do want to play as many local rivals as we can.”
And the spring is the time to enhance those rivalries, Marquette AD Sara Ulrich indicated. “It’s different because you have a different outlook. You can play more games and there are so many sports going on in the spring,” she said.
In fall, for example, the rivalry games are sparse among the schools. Marquette and EA-WR football clash in their annual Prairie State Conference contest and the Explorers have rekindled a nonconference grid affair with CM.
Yet there are no other grid games for backyard bragging rights. The Roxana-EA-WR game has vanished since the Shells participate in the South Central Conference and all of their games are conference ones.
Come winter, you will find more local battles in basketball, particularly when it involves Marquette, EA-WR, Roxana, CM. However, Alton doesn’t play those four schools in boys’ basketball.
And that’s to be expected since AHS (2,037 students) is the only Class 4A team in the IHSA group. CM (745 students), Roxana (532), EA-WR (512) and Marquette (417, but 688 with a multiplier) are either Class 2A or 3A.
“Our biggest rivalry is with Edwardsville because of the proximity with them,” Alderman said of the Tigers. “But we do have more opportunities to play the schools like CM and Marquette more in the spring.”
The spring, as noted, is different. The Redbirds schedule the Eagles in baseball and take on the Shells and Oilers in baseball, too. AHS doesn’t play city rival Marquette in baseball or softball, but they do play in girls’ soccer and boys’ tennis. They’ve already played twice in soccer.
Once an independent, Marquette belonged to the South Central before going with EA-WR to the Prairie State Conference. Roxana still is an SCC member and CM is one of the six Mississippi Valley Conference schools. Alton has always been part of the Southwestern Conference.
Years ago, EA-WR also was cast in the SWC and faced Alton in rivalry games. By the early 1970s, the Oilers and the Shells began to hook up with the Eagles in plenty of memorable MVC scuffles.
That adjusted when the SCC expanded in the 1990s and welcomed in the Shells, Oilers and Explorers. EA-WR and Marquette joined the Prairie State after they were booted out of the SCC three years ago.
Thus as the years change, so do the rivalries, Miller observed.
“When I grew up playing at Roxana, we considered CM and EA-WR as our main rivals,” he said. “Now, Marquette has become a big rivalry for us (Oilers) because of football — and football drives everything in high school sports.”
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