The fall brings with it a transition from summer to winter; the kids head back to school and we all start storing up to get ready for our hibernation.
Best of all, though, the fall brings bone-crushing hits, wild displays of athleticism and frenzied fans because it’s the return of football. Locally that means a return to the high school gridiron.
For five River Bend schools, it means another shot at finding success with their programs. Unfortunately, between Alton, Marquette Catholic, Civic Memorial, East Alton-Wood River and Roxana, only Marquette reached the playoffs last season. Here’s hoping things change in 2014.
Football practices began on Monday, so coaches and players are starting to figure out where they’re at for this season.
The Redbirds are looking to take another step forward in head coach Jeff Alderman’s third season at the helm. AHS compiled a 4-5 mark overall last year and went 3-4 in the Southwestern Conference. That was good for a tie for fifth in the SWC for Alton, but it’s safe to say the Redbirds are making a push to be closer to the top of the conference than the bottom, where they’ve been lingering in recent history.
Keshon Young and his 10 touchdowns were lost to graduation, but running back Justice Pedrero is back, as well as quarterback Lavonte Hobbs and linebacker Ricco Gipson. Throw in transfer Kareem Hamilton, who had 16 TDs for Marquette a year ago, and things are falling in place for Alton. A playoff berth would be the first since 2006 for the Redbirds.
Alton opens the season at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 at Public School Stadium against Pekin.
As for those Explorers, a 7-3 record and flawless 6-0 mark in the Prairie State Conference highlighted 2013. The Explorers have made the playoffs for eight straight seasons and are hungry to continue that streak.
Head coach Matt Bucher is entering his second season with the Explorers. Marquette lost Jordan Harris and Nick Hoefert to graduation, while quarterback Brandon Kizer, who tossed 18 TDs to six interceptions, has transferred to Calhoun, Jackson Morrissey is at Edwardsville and Hamilton is at Alton.
Danny Holtz and his nine offensive TDs and 56 total tackles and four interceptions on defense are back to try and help Marquette push for another PSC championship.
At Civic Memorial, the Eagles are looking to discover a slot in the playoffs for the first time under Justin Winslow, who is entering his fourth season as head coach. CM was 3-6 last year and just 1-4 in the Mississippi Valley Conference.
Zach Klaustermeier and his 112 tackles on defense and eight TDs on offense are gone due to graduation. Kyle Kirkpatrick, a quarterback and two-way standout, also graduated, so the Eagles are left looking somewhat young.
They open their season at home at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 welcoming the Explorers.
The Roxana Shells get another go at it in the loaded South Central Conference after going 3-6 last season. All nine of their games are conference games due to the size of the SCC.
Blake Vandiver and his 1,134 yards and 10 TDs are back as the Shells look to reach the postseason for the first time since 2003.
The biggest loss was Levi Wallace, a jack-of-all-trades for Roxana a year ago.
The Shells kick off the season on the road at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 at Carlinville. They’re not at home until Week 3.
EAWR boasts the biggest change of 2014 by joining the Prairie State Conference. After two years as an independent school, scheduling gets way easier for the Oilers by catching on with another conference. They also rejoin Marquette, which they played in the South Central before the realignments a few years back.
Other teams in the PSC include: Metro-East Lutheran, Bunker Hill, Mount Olive, Nokomis, South Fork Kincaid and newly added Pawnee.
EAWR looks to build on a 2-7 record from coach Joe Parmentier’s first season at the reins. At 6-foot-8 and 340 pounds, raw offensive tackle Anthony Lane looks to help steer the Oilers in the right direction. They are looking for their first playoff appearance since 2006.
Their season opens with Columbia at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 at home.
Let’s just hope for a successful 2014 prep football campaign. Get out there under the lights on Friday nights and soak it all in.