It’s that time of the year; bowl season is upon us.
College football fans are ramping up to watch plenty of games over the holidays. I just wanted to remind all you pigskin fanatics that there is plenty of local flavor representing the Metro East on the gridiron this college football season. The standout just happens to be an Alton native working his way toward a national championship.
Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott is far from the home where he grew up on Brown Street in Alton. Most people probably don’t know the star back for the Buckeyes is even an Alton native because he never played a down for the Redbirds or the Marquette Catholic Explorers.
Elliott showcased his skills at John Burroughs in St. Louis, where he was a highly touted running back. His senior year for the Bombers under former NFL quarterback Gus Frerotte, Elliott had a whopping 3,061 all-purpose yards and 50 total touchdowns. He had 2,155 of those yards come on the ground, along with 40 of the TDs. John Burroughs finished second in the state playoffs three consecutive years with Elliott hauling the rock.
Now he’s the workhorse for one of the four teams vying for a national championship. Elliott and the No. 4-seeded Buckeyes will battle No. 1 seed Alabama in the All-State Sugar Bowl at 7:30 p.m. on New Year’s Day in New Orleans. The winner earns a spot in the national championship game on Jan. 12 in Arlington, Texas.
The other semifinal game pits No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Florida State at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., at 3:30 p.m. on New Year’s Day.
Elliott is a major reason why Ohio State is in the mix for the national title. He definitely showed up in the Big Ten Championship game, rushing for 220 yards on 20 carries and scoring a pair of TDs. His first TD run was 81 yards and came at the 4:06 mark of the first quarter to put the Buckeyes up 14-0. They went on to massacre the Wisconsin Badgers 59-0 to earn their date with the Crimson Tide.
While Elliott — No. 18 on the national rushing list — was going off, Ohio State was containing Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon to just 76 yards. Gordon is the nation’s top rusher with 2,336 yards. Elliott has accumulated 1,402 and 12 TDs on the season. He has a 6.5 yards per carry average.
So keep an eye on the burgeoning star that we can claim as our own. His father, Stacey, and mother, Dawn, remain in Alton. Stacey is a native of the East Coast and played football at Mizzou. Dawn ran track at Mizzou and her father is former AHS standout basketball player Leon Huff from the late 1960s.
If you get a chance to see the Boca Raton Bowl on Dec. 23, you might get the chance to see an Alton native who did don a Redbird uniform. Former AHS quarterback Craig Harmon is the tight ends and fullbacks coach for Northern Illinois. NIU will be battling Marshall. Harmon is a 1998 graduate of Alton High.
There is plenty of other local flavor to look for in bowl games, too.
On Dec. 24 Western Kentucky will be represented by long snapper Nolan Dowling (Belleville East) and quarterback Todd Porter (O’Fallon) vs. Central Michigan in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl.
On Dec. 26 Illinois has defensive back Darius Mosely (O’Fallon) in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl against Louisiana Tech.
On Dec. 27 Nebraska is represented by offensive lineman Tanner Farmer (Highland) and defensive lineman Vincent Valentine (Edwardsville) in the National University Holiday Bowl against USC.
On Dec. 30 Louisville has wide receiver Matt Milton (Mascoutah) facing Georgia in the Belk Bowl.
Wisconsin defensive lineman Warren Herring (Belleville East) will see Auburn in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day.
The Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day pits Mizzou, with O-lineman Stephen Carberry (Mascoutah) and receiver Jimmie Hunt (Cahokia), against Minnesota and defensive back and punt returner Craig James (Edwardsville).
D-lineman Dwayne Hendrix (O’Fallon) of Tennessee will battle Iowa in the Tax Slayer Bowl on Jan. 2.
Finally, defensive lineman Rodney Coe (Edwardsville) of Akron will play in the Go Daddy Bowl vs. Arkansas State on Jan. 4.
I just wanted to give you a head’s up to keep an eye out for some local guys who cut their teeth on the gridiron in the Metro East while you’re watching these bowl games. Especially keep an eye on Elliott, the Alton native who is gaining national acclaim for the Big Ten champs.