1 of 3
The Alton defense swarms on the Edwardsville Tigers Friday at the District 7 Sports Complex in Edwardsville.
2 of 3
Alton's Lavonte Hobbs checks down to make a pass Friday in Edwardsville.
3 of 3
Redbird Bradley Leonard prepares to kickoff to start the game against Edwardsville on Friday.
EDWARDSVILLE — The Alton Redbirds gave it their best shot Friday in Edwardsville, but it wasn't enough against the powerful Tigers.
After racing out to an early 7-7 tie with EHS at the District 7 Sports Complex, Alton watched the Tigers score 28 unanswered points to take a 35-7 win. The loss dropped the Redbirds to 2-2 overall and 0-2 in the Southwestern Conference, while EHS is now 3-1 and 2-0 on the league slate.
“I'm proud of our kids the way they competed,” Alton head coach Jeff Alderman said. “We came back from a game last week where we don't feel like we competed (vs. O'Fallon) and they rallied and competed. We just kind of ran out of gas and we weren't able to control the tempo of the game. In the first half I felt we were able to control the tempo.”
Edwardsville head coach Matt Martin commended the Redbirds for their effort on Friday.
“That game was just what we thought it was going to be,” Martin said. “It was a hard fought game and they dress out well. They've got players, they look good and many of those kids are starting for their third year now. This senior class is a good class for them. It was a tough game just like we thought. I want to compliment coach Alderman and his staff, I thought they did a great job getting their kids prepared. They played hard.
“I also want to compliment our kids. It was a close game, we didn't panic, we came out battling and in the second half we executed a little better and put some points on the board.”
The Tigers struck first, scoring on their opening possession with a 88-yard drive that took 11 plays. EHS capped it off with a 13-yard shovel pass from quarterback Dan Marinko to speedy receiver Fontez Davis for a touchdown. Trentan Dailey's kick made it 7-0 at the 9:17 mark of the first quarter.
Alton answered on its second possession of the game with its own 88-yard drive. It took the Redbirds seven plays to find the promise land on a 3-yard plunge by quarterback Lavonte Hobbs at the 11:14 mark of the second quarter. Bradley Leonard's extra point knotted it at 2-2.
Hobbs set up the scoring run by scampering for 58 yards down to the 3-yard line on the play before.
Momentum seemed to be swinging in the Redbirds direction as they had EHS pinned back on its own 15-yard line with a third-and-14 situation. Marinko scrambled toward the Edwardsville sideline and threw back toward the middle of the field in what looked would be an incomplete pass, but Alton was flagged for pass interference, handing the Tigers a first down.
EHS marched down field, but found itself in a fourth-and-six and settled for a field goal. Daley's 38-yard attempt was good, but the Redbirds were whistled again, this time for roughing the kicker. The penalty set up Edwardsville with a first-and-goal at the 11-yard line and with 4:59 to go in the second quarter, Marinko pounded it in for a 1-yard score. Daley's extra point pushed EHS in the lead 14-7.
“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot on the scores in the first half,” Alderman said. “But I can't really fault our kids, those are aggressive penalties. We're trying to make things happen, whether it's the roughing the kicker or the pass interference. That's something where the kids got tangled up and that's going to happen in high school football, but a good team like this, they're going to take advantage of it and punch it in.”
The score would stand at 14-7 entering the break with Alton showing strong play on defense throughout much of the first half, slowing Marinko and the Tigers. It came on the heels of a game where Marinko tossed seven TDs at East St. Louis in Week 3.
“I think our defense is the biggest kept secret in our conference,” Alderman said. “We changed it up and slipped an extra defensive back in there every once in awhile and took a linebacker out. It's what we felt we had to do and obviously (Marinko) is a great runner too and I thought we bottled that up pretty well. He's a great player, probably the best player in our league and you've got to shut him down if you're going to have a chance.”
Senior linebacker Ricco Gipson seemed to be involved in practically every play on the defensive side of the ball for Alton during the first half, making solo and assisted tackles to help slow the potent Tigers.
“He's a good football player,” Martin said of Gipson. “He's been playing three years and they have good players. They're going to win their share of ball games, that's my opinion.”
Alderman added, “(Gipson) is solid. I'm biased, but I don't think there is a better defensive player in the league. He's physical against the run and he's getting much better with his lateral movement. He's all over the field and we'd be sunk without him, there's no doubt.”
The first turnover of the game proved to be the nail in the coffin for the Redbirds. Hobbs was scrambling out of the pocket early in the third when Edwardsville's Jourdyn Jones forced a fumble with Ashton Hickman recovering it for the Tigers. Three plays later Marinko ran it straight up the gut for a 12-yard score at the 8:38 mark of the third quarter. Daley's kick raised the EHS lead to 21-7.
“We needed to,” Martin said of taking advantage of the turnover. “ You've got to finish drives and if you get a turnover you've got to be able to score off of it.”
Martin thought an adjustment to the defense helped EHS' cause in the second half, too.
“We changed some schemes up and that allowed us to keep the ball going a little more east and west instead of north and south,” Martin said. “It was everybody in the backfield we were concerned about.”
Edwardsville found the end zone two more times. Jackson Morrissey rumbled in for a 14-yard rushing TD at the 10:21 mark of the fourth quarter and Marinko added his third rushing TD with 5:30 to go in the game. Daley booted the extra point on both scores.
For the Redbirds, Hobbs was 6 of 12 for 35 yards in the air and a late interception on a tipped pass. He also rushed eight times for 85 yards and a score. Kareem Hamilton added 12 carries for 44 yards and Justus Pedrero ran in nine times for 23 yards. Demonte' Wigfall led the receiving corps with two grabs for 14 yards.
Alton's Tre'von Northern picked up a fumble recovery on defense.
Marinko finished 16 of 23 for 209 yards and one TD. On the ground, he picked up 85 yards and three scores on 20 carries. Morrissey carried the ball 12 times for 83 yards and TD for the Tigers.
Isaiah Michl was the leading receiver with three catches for 78 yards.
Next up for the Redbirds is Granite City at 7 p.m. in Week 5 at Public School Stadium. It will be Alton's Homecoming Game. The Warriors dropped to 1-3 in Week 4 with a 28-27 loss to Collinsville after leading 27-7 in the game.
Edwardsville 35, Alton 7
Redbirds 0 7 0 0 — 7
Tigers 7 7 7 14 — 35
Marinko 13 pass Davis (Daley kick) 9:17
Hobbs 3 run (Leonard kick) 11:14
Marinko 1 run (Daley kick) 4:59
Marinko 12 run (Daley kick) 8:38
Morrissey 14 run (Daley kick) 10:21
Marinko 5 run (Daley kick) 5:30