High visibility recruiting visits for Pinkel; impressive numbers for metro-east teams

News-DemocratSeptember 16, 2013 

With the Missouri Tigers not playing last weekend, head coach Gary Pinkel made sure he had high recruiting visibility throughout the St. Louis region.

Among the games he visited were at O'Fallon and Edwardsville. At O'Fallon, a helicopter dropped in just behind the scoreboard at the north end of the field during the first half with Pinkel taking in a portion of the game while watching Panthers' defensive lineman Dewayne Hendrix and others.

"That's a positive to see and good for the program for him to come in," O'Fallon coach Brandon Joggerst said of the high-profile visit. "It's always nice to have someone of that stature here."

Have any other Division I coaches made similar visits?

"Not in a helicopter like that dropping in," Joggerst said. "That's a first."

Althoff passing record in danger

Former Althoff High quarterback Dale Fink holds the school's all-time record for passing yards, reaching exactly 5,000 while completing 318-of-480 attempts with 56 touchdowns.

Fink went on to more success at a starter at Division I Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, where he set 13 career passing records including yards (8,803), completions (653), attempts (1,359), TD passes (82) and many more.

He now is an assistant coach at Mater Dei High in Breese.

But Fink's career passing mark could fall as early as Friday night when Althoff plays host to the Mount Vernon Rams with senior Eric Mertens needed just 62 yards to break the record.

Mertens, a three-year starter, is sitting on 4,939 yards and 48 touchdowns. He has completed 362-of-661 passes during his career and Mertens helped lead Althoff to a second-place finish in Class 2A last season as a junior.

Legion of doom

After three weeks the Highland defense has held opponents to just 28 points, the lowest total in the area. Right behind are Mater Dei and Belleville East (allowed 30 points), Carlyle, Columbia and Edwardsville (allowed 34 points) and Belleville West (37 points).

Freshman has huge night

East St. Louis freshman receiver Jeff Thomas caught 11 passes for 193 yards Friday in the Flyers' 29-28 loss to Edwardsville. He was the favorite target of quarterback Dominic Nelson, who was making his first start.

Nelson was 23-of-37 for 310 yards against the Tigers.

Highland's relentless offense

Highland (3-0) also has the area's highest scoring total with 152 and the Bulldogs are averaging 50.7 points per game.

They also have two of the region's top three rushing yards leaders in Andrew Winning (393 yards, 13.6 yards per carry, five touchdowns) and Gage Geiger (358 yards, 9.9 yards per carry, nine TDs).

But fellow unbeaten Jerseyville (3-0) has just as many impressive weapons and the Mississippi Valley Conference rivals clash Friday night in Highland.

Jerseyville has the area's rushing leader in Austin Lolos (422 yards) and the second-leading quarterback in Billy Ritchey. Ritchey has completed 50 of 89 passes for 760 yards and 12 TDs.

Right behind Ritchey is Highland quarterback Mack Waldman, who is completing an eye-opening 71 percent of his passes. Waldman is 27-of-38 for 584 yards and five TDs.

Upon further review

The game time for O'Fallon's Southwestern Conference contest at East St. Louis on Saturday has been changed to 2 p.m.

Belleville East-Belleville West tickets

Advance tickets for the Belleville East at Belleville West game at 1 p.m. Saturday will be on sale at each school's bookstore Wednesday through Friday.

Belleville West ticket sale times: 8 a.m.-1:15 p.m. and 3:15-3:45 p.m.

Belleville East ticket sale times: 7:40-10 a.m.; 10:15 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and 2:30-3:45 p.m.

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or on Twitter @NormSanders

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