A promising playoff run by Greater Alton gridders ended prematurely last weekend, but that doesn’t mean 2015 wasn’t a success locally.
The Civic Memorial Eagles lost 34-14 to the Mater Dei Knights, the Marquette Catholic Explorers fell 52-7 to the Rochester Rockets and the Roxana Shells were defeated 52-12 by the Carlinville Cavaliers in Week 1 of the postseason.
It marked the first time three Greater Alton football programs had made the playoffs together since 2006 and it was the first time more than one was playoff-eligible since 2010. So don’t just focus on the end, look at the whole story — it was a good one.
The season will be recapped in style with the Alton Knights of Columbus Quarterback Club Awards Banquet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Alton KC Hall on Fourth St.
Awards will be handed out for the top offensive line of the season, the most prolific offensive back of the season, the top defensive lineman and the best defensive back. Throw in the sensational chicken dinner, salad, baked potatoes and rolls and it will be a great end to a great season.
Alton High grad and retired Edwardsville District 7 Superintendent Dr. Ed Hightower will be the speaker for the evening. Besides a distinguished career in education, Hightower enjoyed a long career in different levels of athletics as a referee, most notably as a NCAA Division I basketball ref.
He’ll have plenty of stories to tell to entertain the crowd. He refereed 12 NCAA Final Fours and was named the Naismith D-I Men’s College Basketball Official of the Year in 1992.
All five Greater Alton football programs — Alton, CM, East Alton-Wood River, Marquette and Roxana — will be on hand to celebrate the strong season.
Recapping the trio of playoff qualifiers’ seasons, I’ll start with the 7-3 Eagles.
CM saw its first 1,000-yard rusher since former Eagles’ star and NFL player Joe Odom in 1998 in John Whitworth. He was impressive for the purple and gold in ‘15.
Whitworth had 299 yards rushing in Week 2 vs. Mattoon, 197 vs. Effingham in Week 3, 162 against Mascoutah in Week 5, 153 vs. Highland in Week 6 and 219 yards in Week 9 playing Mount Zion.
Combined with senior quarterback Adam Hill and wide receivers Brett and David Lane, the offense was very potent for the Eagles. They averaged 36.5 points per game, recording their first winning season since 2005. It was their first playoff appearance since 2010, too.
A solid offensive line and opportunistic defense helped spur CM in ‘15, too.
The Eagles will now say goodbye to a steady group of seniors: Ron Alesandrini, Jacob Brockman, Colton Farrell, Hill, Tim Klocke, Brett Lane, Dillon Lawrence, Austin Reams, Brenden Ricci, Jordan Stagner, Dylan Sutton, Jack Walker and Whitworth.
The Eagles are hoping to create a trend in yearly playoff appearances, much like Roxana is doing.
The Shells found the path to the postseason for a second consecutive season in 2015; unfortunately, there were no playoff victories in the cards for them this year.
A year after going 8-3, with a win in the 4A postseason, Roxana finished 7-3 and bowed out in its opener in the 3A playoffs to Carlinville.
Maybe the biggest story for the Shells was the emergence of sophomore fullback Jordan Hawkins. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound bruiser rumbled for more than 1,000 yards and looked good when senior tailback Blake Vandiver and senior quarterback Chance Foss were lost to injury.
Vandiver returned in Week 9 and picked up two TDs in the playoffs to cap his stellar career. Seniors Jarod Foiles and Talon Pile were great complementary pieces in the run game as well.
Junior signal caller Zach Golenor received a little experience with Foss’ injury, too.
Roxana finished up averaging 32.3 points per game and allowing 23.1 per game.
The Shells will lose a talented senior class of Nathan Custer, Dreyton Daugherty, Kyle Dewerff, Foiles, Foss, Trace Gentry, Ethan Johnson, Brady Lewis, Billy Mathis, Alex Noble, Pile, Kyle Pontow, Vandiver and Andrew Westbrook.
The Explorers drew the toughest road in the 4A playoffs this season in five-time defending 4A state champ Rochester. It wasn’t pretty, but fittingly it was one of first-year head coach Darrell Angleton’s talented seniors scoring the lone TD.
Jesse Simmons rumbled back a 70-yard kickoff return in the second quarter. But as much stock as Angleton put into his senior class during a solid 6-4 campaign, the future is bright with a plethora of underclassmen returning to the program.
Marquette only loses five seniors off the ‘15 squad: quarterback Trey Aguirre, Sam Dooling, James Jerrigan, Simmons and Brock Terry. An injury kept Terry sidelined the entire season.
Stalwarts like Brady McAfee, Brian Nagy, Liam Maher and D’Avion Peebles should fuel the Explorers next season as they try and get back on the track with playoff appearances. They broke a string of eight straight postseason showings by missing in ‘14.
Make sure to come out and support these talented local gridders on Tuesday, listen to Hightower share some anecdotal stories and most importantly, chow down on some savory fried chicken at the Alton KC Hall. It’s the place to be.
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