Photo by Bill Roseberry
The Roxana Shells football team breaks through a banner celebrating their home opener at Charlie Raich Field on Sept. 12. Roxana topped Hillsboro 47-25 in its home opener.
ROXANA — The Roxana Shells were welcomed with open arms at Charlie Raich Field in Week 3 for their home opener and they didn’t disappoint anybody.
The Shells routed the Hillsboro Hiltoppers 47-25 to improve to 2-1 on the season and within the South Central Conference. More importantly, they won at home. That was something Roxana failed to do in 2013, dropping all four of its home games at Raich Field, ultimately going 3-6 on the season.
It’s a point of pride for a storied football program that hasn’t had much to gloat about in their recent history.
“Coming off last year, not having a win at home, going 0-4 at home, coming in and getting that first win is big,” Roxana senior running back Logan Reardon said after the win over Hillsboro. Reardon had three rushing touchdowns and forced a fumble on defense that directly led to a score in the game. “We’ve got one next week and we’re going to get that one, too.”
The Shells play Vandalia at 7 p.m. Friday at Raich Field in another SCC showdown. The Vandals enter 2-1 with wins over Gillespie and Southwestern and a loss to Carlinville, the same program that has beaten Roxana.
It’s definitely another challenge for the Shells, but they are hungry to return to some semblance of their past glory days. Roxana hasn’t made the playoffs since 2003. That’s also the last time the Shells enjoyed a winning season, going 10-1.
What followed was a forgettable 2-52 streak in Roxana from 2004-09. Head coach Pat Keith admitted the Shells are starving for success and the win over Hillsboro was a good start on the journey, but far from the overall destination.
“We didn’t win a home game last year and one of our goals was to win some games early in the season and we’ve done that so far,” Keith, the sixth-year head coach at Roxana, said. “But we can’t be satisfied right now. These kids have to have that mentality that we can keep getting better and better.”
The Shells were 3-2 at Raich Field in 2012 and won their home opener, but outside of a 2-2 mark in 2010 at home and a home opening win, it’s been since ‘03 that there was any success in Roxana.
For a program that has 15 total playoff appearances in its history, a lifetime record in the postseason of 16-15 and a second-place finish at state in 1987, it would be nice for the Shells to bring some of those bragging rights back home.
“You can definitely feel that the kids at school are excited about this, too,” Keith said. “That’s a good thing; it’s a good feeling to have. We’ve had some struggles, but so far so good. I’m not happy yet, though, and neither are the kids. We’ve got a plan and we’ve got to get there still.”
The offense will look to lead the Shells again against the Vandals. Through three games, Reardon has 45 carries for 355 yards and seven TDs, while junior Blake Vandiver is right there, too, with 51 carries for 326 yards and five scores.
Chance Foss has been solid under center. The quarterback is 28 of 48 for 354 yards and four TDs to two picks. Trace Gentry and Vandiver are the leading receivers. Gentry has seven snares for 117 yards and a score, while Vandiver has nine grabs, 119 yards and two TDs.
Luke Curtis guides an improving defense with a team-leading 20 solo tackles and 34 total tackles. He also has a sack and a fumble recovery for a TD.
Whatever happens, the Shells are improving and they’re relevant again and that’s where they want to stay, especially when it comes to defending Raich Field.
“The kids know this too; we don’t want to just be satisfied with this,” Keith said. “We want to keep getting better week by week, win by win and going from there.”
Reardon added about playing at home, “It helps a lot; it’s great. It’s a great atmosphere.”