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The Alton Redbirds break through their Homecoming banner on Friday at Public School Stadium. AHS' Larry Calvin (4) leads the charge.
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The Redbirds line up in the trenches across from Granite City on Friday.
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Alton's Kareem Hamilton, left, and Justus Pedrero, right, celebrate after one of Hamilton's three first-half touchdown runs on Friday.
ALTON — The Alton Redbird faithful hasn't seen anything like it, or enjoyed anything like it in a long, long time.
On Friday at Public School Stadium Alton raced out to a 49-0 lead at halftime against the Granite City Warriors and ultimately stymied GCHS 56-0.
Six first-half rushing touchdowns paced the running Redbirds. Kareem Hamilton had three, Larry Calvin ran in two and Justus Pedrero punched in the other.
The win propels Alton to 3-2 on the season and raises its Southwestern Conference mark to 1-2.
It was a bit of redemption for the Birds, who lost to O'Fallon 27-0 in Week 3 and Edwardsville 35-7 in Week 4.
“We came out here ready, practiced hard, the line blocked well and everybody did their job,” a smiling Hamilton said after the win. “We really did good. I'm proud of my team.”
AHS head coach Jeff Alderman was proud of his team, too. He said the Redbirds are a team looking to take the next step toward success and possibly the playoffs and he thought they did exactly that on Friday.
“For our kids, our challenge is to get better each week, no matter who the opponent we have to do that,” Alderman said. “I think our kids took a step in the right direction. I thought coming off the ball our execution offensively was great after the first series. Defensively, I think once we got used to the speed and tempo of their offense our defense was good and it was huge keeping them in the hole there two or three possessions early.”
After going three-and-out on its first possession of the game, Alton revved up its offense on the next time it got the ball. Four running plays and a pass interference call against the Warriors set up Hamilton on the 24-yard line. The senior speedster bounced to the outside and raced to the end zone for his first of three scores. Brad Leonard's kick made it 7-0 at the 5:16 mark of the first quarter.
The Redbirds then pinned GCHS back on its 6-yard line on the kickoff and forced them to punt from the 3-yard line. It took just three plays for Pedrero to punch it in from the 1-yard line at the 2:16 mark of the opening frame. Leonard's extra point was good and it was 14-0.
Granite City's next possession resulted in a punt from the 1-yard line. Hamilton struck again on the first play for Alton, racing in from 10 yards out with 17.8 seconds to go in the first. Leonard's kick was good to catapult the Redbirds to a 21-0 lead.
“I told them before the game, the team that makes the most mistakes is going to lose,” Granite City head coach Carl Luehman said. “We not only made mistakes, we didn't tackle, we didn't block. We didn't do a whole lot of good the first half.”
The Redbirds continued to keep the throttle down. At the 5:00 mark of the second quarter Calvin joined the fun, rumbling in for a 13-yard score. Quarterback Lavonte Hobbs connected with Simeon Brown for a 44-yard TD strike with 3:19 left in the half.
Jameyon Alexander then intercepted GCHS quarterback Gabe Jarman to set up Hamilton for the first-half trifecta. Hamilton swept it outside and was off to the races, sprinting 79 yards down the sideline for the score with 1:56 left prior to the break.
“I love bouncing to the outside,” Hamilton said. “I've been doing it my whole life and it's one thing I love doing.”
The Redbirds weren't done in the half though. They recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and found the promise land once more before entering the locker room on a 13-yard run by Calvin. Leonard's kick gave them a 49-0 cushioned lead at the half.
Alderman commended his strong rushing attack Friday, especially the speedster Hamilton who had five carries for 117 yards and three TDs in the first half.
“We have that capability and we have that potential and Lavonte can run it as well,” Alderman said of the running attack. “They can run it well and we were without Demonte' (Wigfall) tonight with a shoulder injury, but they stepped in and did a great job.
“(Hamilton) is very explosive and I believe all his big plays were on sweeps. He's explosive to the outside there's no doubt, and he's stronger than he appears too. He breaks some tackles. He's a threat and we felt like we could bounce him outside tonight and we were able to.”
With a running clock the entire second half went quick, but Alton was still able to enjoy more success.
The Birds went to their bench for much of the second half and were able to stave off a Granite City drive and keep the Warriors off the board at the Alton 9-yard line, forcing an incomplete pass on fourth-and-nine early in the fourth quarter.
AHS added one more score also. On a broken play, signal caller Dalton Hamberg handed it to Tyler Moxey who was stood up at the line of scrimmage. Moxey then pitched it backwards to DeKarlos Haynes who burst to the outside and ran 86 yards to the end zone. Leonard's kick made it 56-0 with 6:53 remaining in the game.
Statistically, Hobbs was 4 of 6 for 81 yards and a TD, while rushing three times for 26 yards. Calvin carried it five times for 46 yards and two scores, while Pedrero had seven carries for 30 yards and a TD. Brown was the leading receiver with two catches for 57 yards and a score. Kenneth Burnett had two snags for 22 yards.
Ricco Gipson, Asa Collins, John Brumfield and Samuel Spangler had sacks on defense for AHS.
Now the Redbirds will prepare for a big SWC matchup at Belleville East in Week 6. With confidence flying high after Friday's win, Hamilton said the Birds will be ready.
“That will be a big game and we're not backing off,” Hamilton said. “We're ready.”
Follow Bill Roseberry on Twitter @broseberry51.
ALTON 56, GRANITE CITY 0
Alton 21 28 0 7 56
Granite City 0 0 0 0 0
A — Hamilton 24 run (Leonard kick), 5:16
A — Pedrero 1 run (Leonard kick), 2:16
A — Hamilton 10 run (Leonard kick), 17.8
A — Calvin 13 run (Leonard kick), 5:00
A — Brown 44 pass from Hobbs (Hamberg to Pedrero), 3:19
A — Hamilton 79 run (kick failed), 1:56
A — Calvin 13 run (Leonard kick), 25.9
Haynes 86 run (Leonard kick), 6:53