It’s some road work for the Roxana Shells in the opening round of the IHSA Class 4A football playoffs.
The 7-2 Shells, earning their first playoff appearance since 2003, travel to 8-1 Freeburg for their postseason debut either Friday night or Saturday afternoon. The time and date will be announced Monday.
Freeburg, a member of the Cahokia Conference, finished second to Columbia, losing only to the Eagles, 31-21. Roxana took third behind champ Greenville and runner-up Carlinville in the South Central Conference.
“We have a game close to home and it feels good to be in the playoffs after we have struggled a little bit,” Roxana coach Pat Keith said. “I’m really happy for the kids and what they have done this season. We’ll see what happens.”
The Roxana-Freeburg survivor plays the Breese Mater Dei-Carterville winner in Round 2. Carterville, 9-0 and the top seed in that eight-team bracket, welcomes 5-4 Mater Dei in its playoff opener. It’ll be 6-3 Belleville Althoff going to 8-1 Columbia and 7-2 Murphysboro heading to 8-1 Herrin in the other games of that bracket. Greenville is in a different bracket and Carlinville is cast in Class 3A.
“I didn’t know if we would be 4A or 3A and I thought we might get a home game, but I wasn’t for sure about it,” Keith said. “It is what it is. But it’s nice to have an opportunity to be in the playoffs.”
With four consecutive victories, the Shells are diving into the playoffs with ample momentum. Roxana is averaging 38.4 points per game, thanks to its potent offense. Running back Logan Reardon has tallied 20 touchdowns, scored 131 points and rushed for 1,315 yards. Teammate Blake Vandiver has 13 TDs and 813 yards rushing. Quarterback Chance Foss has completed 55 of 99 passes for 805 yards and 10 touchdowns.
While the Shells are celebrating their 16th playoff appearance, the Alton Redbirds and Marquette Catholic High Explorers are calling it a season.
Both the Redbirds and the Explorers posted 5-4 records, but that wasn’t good enough to get into the eight-class, 256-team postseason competition. A 5-4 team needed to have at least 39 points to make its case for the playoffs.
The Birds totaled 38 points and the Explorers finished with 35 points. Aurora Christian, which had 39 points and is in Class 3A, won a tiebreaker with four other teams to earn the final at-large playoff berth. Alton was one of six squads with 38 playoff points.
“I feel bad for our kids because we really wanted to make the playoffs,” Alton coach Jeff Alderman said. The Redbirds haven’t advanced to the postseason since 2006.
He added: “But we have nobody to blame but ourselves. We let a couple of games get away from us.”
Alton won its pair of nonconference contests again Pekin and Cahokia, then finished 3-4 in the Southwestern Conference. The Redbirds suffered losses to Edwardsville, East St. Louis, O’Fallon and Belleville West. They beat Belleville East, Granite City and Collinsville.
“I know it’s bitter for the kids to come up short in making the playoffs,” Alderman said. “It would have been a good opportunity for them. I’m proud of what they have done this season.”
Marquette coach Matt Bucher is just as proud of what the Explorers did. They lost nonconference games to Civic Memorial and Quincy Notre Dame before finishing 5-2 in the Prairie State Conference. Marquette beat East Alton-Wood River, Kincaid South Fork, Mount Olive, Bunker Hill and Metro East Lutheran. They lost to Nokomis and Pawnee in league play.
“It’s one of those things where we didn’t take care of business in a game or two and we had to rely on other teams,” Bucher said. “The Nokomis loss (15-14) hurts and so does the one against Pawnee (16-6). We had opportunities in both of those games.”
Marquette had qualified for the playoffs the past eight seasons, the longest string among River Bend teams. They have gone to postseason play 21 times since 1974.
“Even though we missed the playoffs and missed continuing the streak, we saw a ton of good things coming out of this season,” he said.