Edwardsville Opens With Blockbuster Game At DeSmet, Alton Takes On Althoff With High Hopes Coming Into Season, Marquette Hosts CM In Local High School
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Edwardsville travels to DeSmet in an early blockbuster between two of the top teams in the St. Louis area, Alton has high hopes for the season going as they travel to Belleville Althoff Catholic and both Civic Memorial and Marquette Catholic also have the same high hopes for their teams as they meet in the 2021 football season openers Friday night.
The games mark the return to the regular fall season of Illinois High School Association football after having an abbreviated six-week season this past spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The three games are part of a full slate, as almost all the Riverbender.com area teams get underway.
The entire week one schedule, with all games starting at 7 p.m., has Cahokia at St. Louis Cardinal Ritter Catholic, Collinsville going to Belleville East, O'Fallon opening at Normal Community West, Sparta at Freeburg, Hillsboro at Greenville, Gillespie is at Litchfield, Mascoutah playing at Columbia, Jersey playing at Granite City (which will be livestreamed on Riverbender.com), Mattoon playing at Triad, Breese Mater Dei Catholic is at Waterloo, Eureka is at Roxana, Kirkwood, Mo. plays at Belleville West, in another blockbuster game, East St. Louis plays at CBC, Madison travels to East Alton-Wood River, Breese Central plays at Trenton Wesclin, Washington is at Highland, Winchester West Central plays at Concord Triopia, Greenfield Northwestern goes to Beardstown, Mendon Unity is at White Hall North Greene, Carrollton is at Camp Point Central, Pleasant Hill is at Jacksonville Routt Catholic and Mt. Sterling Brown County plays at Hardin Calhoun. On Saturday, Metro-East Lutheran opens its third eight-man season at Galva in a 2 p.m. kickoff, while Carlinville is at Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley and Dupo plays at Oblong in a 3 p.m. kickoff.
One other scheduled game, Staunton at Piasa Southwestern, was cancelled as Staunton schools went to remote learning after a spike in COVID-19 cases in the district. The Piasa Birds will pick up a 2-0 forfeit win over the Bulldogs.
The Tigers and Spartans are two of the area's top schools, with Edwardsville ranked number four and DeSmet number two in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's large school preseason poll. The Tigers will have a very tough schedule this season, including their Southwestern Conference opponents, and the team will need to be at its best every week.
"We're playing quality teams, so we'll have to be at our best," said Edwardsville head coach Matt Martin in a recent interview.
The Tigers will have junior running back Jordan Bush starting in the place of the graduated Justin Johnson, Jr., who will be playing at West Virginia this season, while sophomore Jake Curry gets the start at quarterback on Friday. Defensively, senior Nasim Cairo heads up a unit that will be tough on opponents.
The Redbirds open their season with much optimism and are looking forward to the 2021 campaign, and will have junior Graham McAfoos at the helm of the offense, with running back Keith Gilchrese and receivers Julian Caffey and Aiden Belchik ready to contribute behind a solid offensive line and a defense that will fly all over the field to make plays and get the job done.
"It's the start of the season, we've got a good group of kids and we're ready to roll," said Alton head coach Eric Dickerson in a recent interview.
Meanwhile, the Explorers are hoping to use their spring season success as a springboard to a great 2021 season. Sophomore quarterback Michael Allen developed very well during the spring season, and hopes are high for him going into the fall, while running backs Sage White and Derrick Thomas, both transfers, look to give Marquette a powerful running game. The defense returns sophomore Jack Robinson, a first-team all-Prairie State Conference linebacker.
The schedule will be difficult, but Marquette will be up to the task of the weekly challenges, and optimism is also high.
"We have a very, very tough schedule, but we're up to the task," said Explorer head coach Leon McElrath III during a recent interview.
The nine-week regular season ends on the weekend of Oct. 22-23, with the IHSA playoffs in the traditional eight classes are set to begin the weekend of Oct. 29-30, with the championship games set for Northern Illinois University's Huskie Stadium on Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 26-27.
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