After slugging it out with one of the top Class 8A programs in the state last weekend, the O'Fallon Panthers return to the Southwestern Conference with a few bruises and some great experience.
The Panthers dropped a 44-20 decision to Loyola Academy, a perennial playoff powerhouse from suburban Chicago with a 75-19 record over the past eight seasons.
"It was a great game from a sense of playing a high quality opponent who definitely showed us some things we needed to work on," O'Fallon coach Brandon Joggerst said. "It was a quality opponent that didn't make many mistakes. I thought we really competed, we came back from 21 points and made it a one-score game."
Friday's game: Alton (1-1) at O'Fallon (1-1), 7 p.m.
Last meeting: O'Fallon cruised to a 48-13 victory over Alton last season, as current Western Kentucky quarterback Todd Porter threw for 402 yards and five TDs.
Sophomore at the controls: In only his second varsity start, O'Fallon sophomore quarterback Camden Bauer completed 22 of 44 passes for 311 yards and two TDs against Loyola. He also tossed three interceptions, one of which was returned for a TD, but continues to accelerate the learning process.
"He never played as a freshman because he was hurt, so he never took a snap in high school until two weeks ago," Joggerst said. "There's going to be some highs and lows and the key is for him to continue to protect the ball and keep things steady."
What to watch for: Look for O'Fallon to establish things on the ground behind sophomore Kentrail Moran, who had 90 yards on 19 carries against Loyola. Alton also has a ground-oriented attack, which may not serve the Redbirds well against the aggressive defense of O'Fallon led by Division I recruit Dewayne Hendrix.
"Physically they look like a Big Ten team that we're getting ready for," Alton coach Jeff Alderman said. "Defensively they fly around -- and they've got big bodies that are flying around. They present a lot of problems because they definitely put a lot of pressure on you defensively."
Alton's ground attack is led by Keshon Young, who had a strong game in a 26-8 win over Cahokia.
"He's an explosive runner, but he's a strong runner, too, and he's versatile," Alderman said.
With former O'Fallon all-stater Darius Mosely now at Illinois, Tae'Mon Franklin and Klayton Gettis are the next wave of scary Panther receivers.
Alton key players: RB Keshon Young (30 carries, 167 yards, 2 TDs); RB Justus Pedrero (21 carries, 118 yards, 1 TD; 1 catch, 39 yards); QB Lavonte Hobbs; LB Ricco Gipson (18 tackles, 1 sack).
O'Fallon key players: DE Dewayne Hendrix (16 tackles, 3 sacks); RB Kentrail Moran (38 carries, 184 yards, 1 TD; 5 catches, 39 yards); QB Camden Bauer (38 for 67, 391 yards, 4 TDs, 3 int.); WR Tae'Mon Franklin (6 catches, 139 yards, 2 TDs); Kicker Tucker McCann (6 FG, 6 XP).
Fun fact: O'Fallon's Tucker McCann is the second-ranked sophomore kicker in the nation according to KohlsKicking.com. He is off to a blazing start with six field goals and six extra points in the first two games, including field goals of 46 and 51 yards vs. Loyola.
"He's 6-for-6 and I think three of them were over 45 yards," Joggerst said. "He's very special."