After a fairly reasonable summer with relatively mild temperatures, the metro-east football season got slapped with a major heat wave just in time for Friday's season openers.
"I knew it was too good to be true," said Althoff coach Ken Turner, whose team plays host to Collinsville in a 7 p.m. game Friday at Lindenwood Stadium. "We've got guys going both ways so we've got to make sure we keep our guys fresh. We've been drinking a lot of fluids the last couple weeks to stop the cramping that usually affects the first game."
Friday's game: Collinsville vs. Althoff at Lindenwood Stadium in Belleville, 7 p.m.
This will be the first game as Collinsville's head coach for John Blaylock, an assistant under three previous Kahoks head coaches.
"It's certainly exciting in a lot of different ways," Blaylock said. "From the football aspect not much has changed. It's a first game so you're excited and you've got a few butterflies. But from a head-coaching standpoint, there's a whole lot more detail and organization."
Last meeting: Althoff wiped out an early 13-0 deficit and came back to beat Collinsville 20-13 on a 4-yard TD run by Garland Henley with 5:59 remaining.
Althoff Coach Turner: "We want to come out and play a sound, disciplined game and not turn the ball over. You know you're going to make mistakes, but you don't want to make the big mistakes that can cost you."
Collinsville Coach Blaylock: "We haven't changed a whole lot defensively, a couple tweaks here and there. Offensively we've made quite a few changes and I can't wait to see it in action against somebody not wearing a purple helmet. We're a lot stronger than we were a year ago."
What to watch for: Althoff returns its entire backfield and most of its receiving corps from a 10-4 team that finished second in the state in Class 2A, so the Crusaders hope to establish a balanced attack led by three-year starting quarterback Eric Mertens.
Collinsville has hit the weight room hard and believes the strength edge can make a difference. The Kahoks' huge offensive line could make an impact given Althoff's inexperience on both sides of the line.
Althoff key players: QB Eric Mertens; RB Dennis Jackson; WR Keenen Young; WR-DB Luke Frazier; LB Bret Silvestri.
Collinsville key players; QB Connor Zabala; RB Jordan Miller; RB-DB Jamal Wellmaker; WR Duane Ackins; OL Harry Uyehara (6-4, 285).
Fun facts: This marks the Althoff debut for receiver-defensive back Collin McClellan, a senior transfer from Virginia. ...This has been an entertaining series in recent years, including Althoff's unusual 6-5 victory over Collinsville in 2011. "That was an absolute nail-biter," Blaylock said. "I think everybody got their money's worth that night, including me." ... One of the 2012 highlights was a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown by Althoff's 340-pound lineman Merrick Jackson.