Members of the 10-0 1970 Alton Redbird football squad who will be honored Friday at Alton’s Homecoming game vs. Granite City at Public School Stadium include (from left) halfback Bobby Everage, linebacker Glenn Lott and defensive back Bobby Rodgers.
The past collides with the present Friday night at Public School Stadium.
When Alton High plays host to Granite City in its homecoming football game, the Redbirds will turn back the clock. They are welcoming back their Glory Days.
At halftime, they will toast the success of the Ed Yonkus era. The former AHS coach guided the Redbirds from 1965-71 and compiled a 44-20-4 record, including three Southwestern Conference championships. The 1970 team, which went 10-0 and is considered one of the best teams in school annals, will be the focal point of the reunion. It featured more than 60 players and was the first AHS undefeated and untied team since the 1935 squad went 9-0.
“We honored members of the 1970 team five years ago for their 40th year anniversary and now we will do it for 45 years,” said organizer Richard Baird. He was a split end on the 1970 squad and a 1971 AHS graduate.
He noted, “It’s all-inclusive for players, coaches, classmates and anybody affiliated with the team.”
Yet unlike the 2010 celebration, this reunion will include those involved in any of Yonkus’ teams. Thus, the 4-5-1 team in 1965, the 4-5 one in 1966, the 7-1-1 squad in 1967, the 9-0-1 one in 1968, the 4-6 unit in 1969 and the 6-3-1 group in 1971 also will be saluted. So will the individuals in any way involved with those teams.
Many of those players from those seven teams went on to play college football and notable careers afterward. Some even went into coaching. Yonkus’ teams showcased All-State and All-America players.
The 1970 team, champion of the SWC and inducted into the AHS Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012, was the last one to go unbeaten. The IHSA didn’t have playoffs at that time — postseason competition started in 1974. The 1968 squad was the first unbeaten one for the Redbirds since 1939, when they finished 8-0-1.
The Birds also fashioned undefeated seasons in 1905, 1912 and 1919. Their program dates to 1904.
Following the 1971-72 season, Yonkus left Alton High to take a grid coaching job at Hillside Proviso West in Chicagoland. He was 14-37-1 there from 1972-77.
After that, Yonkus enjoyed success at Triton Community College in River Grove. He posted a 66-41 record in 12 years from 1978-89. Yonkus died in 1990 at age 55.
Prior to coaching at Alton, he put together a 32-12-1 mark at Flora from 1960-64, including a 9-0 record in 1962 and an 8-1 mark in 1964. Overall he was 156-110-6. Yonkus is a graduate of Collinsville High and Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau. He played football for Vergil Fletcher at Collinsville.
“He was stern, serious, a disciplinarian, fair-minded and just a great leader,” Baird said. “When he coached at Alton High, it was a great era and a great stretch for Redbirds’ football.”
Baird added, “Coach Yonkus paid attention to details, articulated his demands for excellence, required an effort on the field equal to 100 percent, believed in an intense practice and cared about behavior off the field. He mentored athletes and was exceptionally compassionate, sensitive and kind.
“He was such an amazing man.”
Yonkus followed in the footsteps of head coach Ralph McClain, who directed the Redbirds to a 38-18-1 record from 1959-64. Thus, the Redbirds were 82-38-4 from 1959-71. McClain died last month at age 92. Overall, from 1956-71, the Birds experienced just three losing seasons.
Contact Baird at (618) 401-4017 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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