Photo by Diane Cox
The Civic Memorial Eagles and Marquette Catholic Explorers battle in the trenches early in their renewed rivalry game on Aug. 29 in Bethalto. CM won bragging rights with a 49-7 victory.
Those backyard prep rivalry games, once a large part of the River Bend football scene, have almost vanished. They have given way to strict conference play.
That’s why it was heartening to see Marquette Catholic and Civic Memorial renew their neighborhood feud Friday at Hauser Field in Bethalto. Just ask the coaches about it.
“I love the fact that we are playing a local school in our first game,” Explorers’ coach Matt Bucher said. “It’s great for the area.”
Marquette previously opened its season against Priory of St. Louis, but the schools didn’t have much in common. It’s a short drive from Alton to Bethalto, thus making the Explorers-Eagles’ game fan-friendly.
“When you have local schools playing each other, it gets everyone in the community involved,” Bucher said. “The same goes when we play East Alton-Wood River later in the season.
“It means more because it creates a rivalry.”
The Marquette/EA-WR matchup on Sept. 26 at Memorial Stadium serves as a Prairie State game. The Oilers joined the PSC after having to play as an independent, something of a walk in the wilderness.
And they are ecstatic about being a league member. The Oilers previously belonged to the South Central. Beginning in the early 1970s, they were in the Mississippi Valley and before that, it was the Southwestern Conference.
“It’s a great opportunity for us,” EA-WR coach Joe Parmentier said. “So many good things can happen when you are back in a conference.”
CM, which opened at home against Newton last season, also figures playing Marquette is a good way to start the season. The teams hadn’t played each other in 22 seasons until last Friday. The Eagles won 29-26 in 1992 and then scored a 49-7 victory on Aug. 29.
“I like the rivalry games – absolutely,” CM coach Justin Winslow said. “We opened the season against Newton last year and our kids didn’t know anything about them.
“But they know the kids from Marquette and that made it easier to get them ready to play. I hope it’s a rivalry we can continue.”
CM quarterback Adam Hill added: “We looked at the Marquette game as a rivalry game.”
That’s the way Roxana and EA-WR saw it for years. The Shells and Oilers remain rivals in other sports. However, they don’t play each other in football.
The Shells are members of the 10-team SCC and every grid game is a league one. Thus, there are no open dates on Roxana’s schedule to tangle with EA-WR.
Local fans consider that unfortunate because the teams previously played each other annually since the 1940s. Nevertheless, that’s the way it’ll remain — for now. EA-WR is trying to make a new home in the PSC.
CM had football rivalries with Roxana and EA-WR, yet the Eagles most talked-about game in the MVC is usually against Jersey. There is a possibility that the Eagles could play the Oilers again. The same goes for Marquette and Jersey, which used to play in a festive season opener.
And Alton? There’s no true reciprocal rival.
The Redbirds regard Edwardsville and East St. Louis as old adversaries, but they aren’t the main foes for the Tigers or the Flyers. Edwardsville’s chief rival is Collinsville and East Side’s main one is Belleville West, dating to the Turkey Day affair between the Flyers and the Maroons years ago.
At one time, Alton and EA-WR were SWC opponents, but there’s no grid game percolating anymore. The same goes for the Redbirds and Explorers, who used to clash at Public School Stadium. Those rivalries faded away more than 40 years ago.