Howl at the moon, Roxana Shells, because you are the lone wolf.
Breaking away from the River Bend pack as the only football team to enjoy a playoff berth in 2014, the Shells deserve it.
For the first time since 2003, a sea of Roxana red will descend upon the football postseason at 7 p.m. in Freeburg for a Class 4A playoff game. The Shells went 7-2 and have been creating quite the buzz on the local gridiron throughout the season.
They snap the longest streak of not qualifying for the playoffs out of the five River Bend schools. Unfortunately, that distinction is now passed on to the Alton Redbirds (2006) after finishing 5-4 in ‘14 but not having enough playoff points to sneak in.
After compiling a pedestrian 15-75 record from ‘03-13, there’s no surprise Roxana is stoked to be back in the playoffs, where it won 16 games between 1976-2003, including a second-place finish in ‘87.
The Shells outscored their opponents 346-260 on the season, scoring points at an impressive 38.4 per clip. They played in a rugged South Central Conference, which didn’t afford them the opportunity to play a nonconference game.
Five SCC schools qualified for the postseason in 2014, with Greenville (9-0), Carlinville (8-1), Roxana, Hillsboro (5-4) and Vandalia (5-4).
Led by the power and finesse ground tandem of Logan Reardon and Blake Vandiver, the Shells don’t look to be cracked easily in the playoffs. The senior Reardon has 1,507 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns, while the junior Vandiver boasts 986 yards on the ground with 14 TDs. Pick your poison.
Seth Chester (246 yards, four TDs) and Jared Foiles (141 yards, one TD) offer some relief, too.
Quarterback Chance Foss runs the show. He’s 58 of 106 for 834 yards and 11 TDs to six picks. Alec Revelle (10 catches, 232 yards, four TDs), Trace Gentry (11 catches, 189 yards, three TDs), Foiles (14 catches, 181 yards) and Vandiver (10 catches, 125 yards, two TDs) are Foss’ favorite targets.
Don’t count the Shells out on defense, either. Luke Curtis has 75 total tackles, three sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception to guide the unit. Add Chester (66 tackles, one INT), Reardon (58 tackles, three sacks, one fumble recovery, one INT), Billy Mathis (71 tackles), Alec Revelle (40 tackles, three INTs) and Jordan Hawkins (26 tackles, nine sacks, one fumble recovery) and the Roxana defense isn’t too shabby either.
The offensive line, consisting of Brennan Harris, Curtis, Ethan Kurth, Mathis, Josh Rudd and Gentry, may be the unsung heroes on the season for the Shells with their uncanny ability to control the tempo in the trenches. Unfortunately, Kurth suffered a serious leg injury in Week 9 and had to be helped off the field. His season is likely over.
But while Roxana owns a formidable bunch, there are no cupcakes in the playoffs.
Don’t let the name fool you, the Midgets will be no small obstacle. Freeburg finished second in the Cahokia Conference to powerhouse Columbia — its only loss on the season — although the Eagles and Midgets were the only two programs from the conference to advance to the postseason.
Freeburg outscored its opponents 261-138, scoring at an average of 29 points per game.
Signal caller Joseph Wolf paced the Midgets in ‘14, going 77 of 123 for 1,050 yards passing and seven TDs to six interceptions. Wolf also carried the ball 70 times for 407 yards and seven scores.
Freeburg’s leading rusher is Robby Vall (92 carries, 549 yards, eight TDs), while its top receiver is Will Hogan (17 catches, 326 yards, one TD). Mitchell Speiser (13 catches, 189 yards, three TDs) is also a big threat.
Defensively Vall leads the attack with 45 total tackles, four sacks and an interception.
The Midgets don’t have quite the playoff drought as the Shells. They were in the Class 3A postseason a year ago, gaining valuable playoff experience. Under current coach Ronnie Stuart, this marks the sixth time Freeburg has made the playoffs in 10 seasons.
This is the first playoff appearance for Roxana head coach Pat Keith in his six seasons.
A win by the Shells would earn them a date with the winner between Carterville (9-0) and Breese Mater Dei (5-4). It would also return them to Charlie Raich Field to play in front of their fans in the playoffs for the first time since ‘03.
That would give lone-wolf Roxana another reason to howl.