ALTON — Given the winning culture his Alton High football team created this season, Redbirds coach Eric Dickerson has been someone inclined to look forward. But after Saturday’s 42-13 second-round playoff loss to Lincoln-Way West Dickerson said he wants to take a little time to look back on the 2017 season.
With good reason.
Alton’s Redbirds were like the legendary Phoenix in 2017, rising from the ashes of an 0-9 2016 and a 1-9 a season earlier to a 6-4 record and a second-round playoff game at Public School Stadium following a 32-12 first-round win over Chicago Lincoln Park on the cold, windy north side of Chicago.
Saturday’s contest, played in balmy 70-degree temperatures, marked the Redbirds’ first playoff game at home since they lost to Lisle Benet Academy 40-14 in a 2006 first-round game. In the other home playoff appearance in 1992, AHS quarterback Andre McMurray scored on a 10-yard touchdown run on the first play of overtime in a 28-21 victory over Pekin.
“This group of seniors has been through so much,” Dickerson said, ‘but they never gave up, not once. And there have been plenty of times they could have.”
When reminded that the seeds for future success were planted this season and that enough players will return to continue the Redbird renaissance, Dickerson said, “True, but I want to take a little time to think about this one and appreciate all these players did. Things have been pretty hectic.”
The Redbirds, who finished 6-4, ran into a solid Lincoln-Way West team Saturday that presented a myriad of challenges. Offensive and defensive lines that dominated, a big and fast running back and a quarterback who seemed unflappable.
“They dominated us on the line pretty good today,” Dickerson said. “We knew they were a solid team and we did the best we could to prepare for them, but that’s just a really good football team over there.”
Lincoln-Way West will advance to the quarterfinal round of the Class 7A playoffs and will play host to Batavia next Saturday.
“Our offensive line played great today,” Lincoln-Way West coach Dave Ernst said. “Our line controlled the game. We wanted to run the ball and control the clock. We did that.”
Sophomore running back Caleb Marconi had 123 yards on 28 carries, many of which were of the in the three- to five-yard range. His longest carry was 15 yards. And quarterback Anthony Senerchia was 7-of-12 for 104 yards, despite two interceptions.
Alton got a 130-yard rushing performance from senior running back Darrell Smith, something Dickerson said was anything but a surprise.
“Darrell Smith had another great day,” Dickerson said. “He’s been like that all season. He and the rest of our seniors left everything they had out on this field today.”
Alton quarterback Andrew Jones was 6-of-17 for 98 yards, but threw four interceptions.
Overall, the Warriors outgained the Redbirds 265 yards to 149. West ran 61 plays to Alton’s 48. Alton had the ball for 30 minutes to Alton’s 18.
Despite the outcome, Dickerson will include Saturday during his trip down memory lane.
“I’ve never seen so many people in this stadium,” Dickerson said. “The way the community has rallied around this team all season, but especially since we got in the playoffs, has been amazing”