Alton, Ill. – The Alton Redbirds answered a Collinsville fourth-quarter touchdown with an 80-yard kickoff return to break the Kahoks’ spirits on the way to a 29-6 victory.
Collinsville (1-7, 1-5 Southwestern Conference) struggled to move the ball most of the game on a field still muddy from a week of rain and playing against linebacker Rocco Gipson, who Collinsville head Coach John Blaylock said caused problems for the Kahoks’ running game.
“He’s very, very good,” Blaylock said. “He did a great job.”
Despite their struggles, Collinsville was given a chance to make it a game when, with 11 minutes 7 seconds remaining and the Kahoks trailing 16-0, Alton (5-3, 3-3 SWC) muffed a punt at their own 33-yard line. The Kahoks managed only three yards on the first two plays of the drive, but an Alton facemask penalty gave Collinsville the ball at the 20. Senior Jamal Wellmaker then took a pitch, raced around the right end, broke a tackle and sprinted into the end zone to cut the deficit to 16-6. The two-point conversion attempt failed.
Any momentum Wellmaker gave his teammates disappeared on the next play when Joshua Lovings returned the kickoff 80 yards to the Collinsville 5-yard line.
“It kind of takes the wind out of the sails,” Blaylock said. “When you get some momentum going and then it comes right back, that never helps.”
Larry Calvin’s touchdown run two plays later sealed the game for Alton. After the point after attempt was blocked, the Redbirds held a 22-6 lead with 8:41 remaining in the contest. A Dalton Hamberg quarterback sneak with 3:41 provided the final margin of victory.
Hamberg got the start for Alton in place of injured starter Lavonte Hobbs. Kareem Hamilton, the Redbirds leading rusher, was lost for the game to injury in the first half.
Before Hamilton departed, he got Alton on the scoreboard with a 19-yard touchdown scamper early in the second quarter. A 34-yard Brad Leonard field goal in the final minute of the second quarter provided the 10-0 halftime lead for Alton.
Still trailing 10-0, the Kahoks were given a great opportunity when the Alton punter dropped the ball at the Redbird 20 with 9:21 to go in the third. Collinsville managed one first down, before going backwards and eventually turning the ball over on downs at the Alton 26.
A Calvin 39-yard run highlighted a nine-play, 75-yard drive for Alton on the subsequent possession. Justus Pedrero capped the drive with a one-inch burst into the end zone. The extra point attempted clanked off the left upright, keeping the Redbird lead at 16-0.
With the fifth win of the season, Alton is now playoff eligible. If they defeat Belleville West next week, Alton will be assured of a playoff spot.
Collinsville finishes its season next Friday at home against East St. Louis. Kick-off is at 7 p.m.