After watching his Althoff football team suffer back-to-back meltdowns in the final five minutes in crushing defeats to Mascoutah and Mount Vernon the past two weeks, coach Ken Turner knows exactly what the Crusaders must do to get back on track.
Finish the job.
"The disappointing thing about it is that in watching the films, we could just as easily be 3-1 and here are at 1-3," Turner said. "What it comes down to is in the last five or six minutes the last two weeks, we've made mistakes. We've had turnovers and penalties and they've ended up costing us football games.
"We've just got to do a better job of putting games away when we have the chance."
Turner and the Crusaders hope for a better finish Friday when they host undefeated Centralia in a South Seven Conference game. The Orphans opened league play last week with a 28-27 win over Carbondale and are tied at 1-0 with Mount Vernon and Cahokia for the conference lead.
Despite three straight losses, Turner doesn't want his team to view this game as a must-win.
"We can't think like that," Turner said. "We just need to focus on what we need to do to execute on each play on both sides of the football and on special teams."
What to watch for tonight? Offense and lots of it.
Today's game: Centralia (4-0) vs. Althoff (1-3) at Lindenwood Stadium, 7 p.m.
Last meeting: Centralia defeated Althoff 38-35 when Orphans quarterback Dyman Sodsaikitch fired a 5-yard touchdown pass to Mason Wathan on the final play of the game. Quarterback Eric Mertens went 14-of-23 for three touchdowns for Althoff
Centralia players to watch: RB Matese Scott, WR Chase Alcorn, QB Brodric Green, WR Ryan Shipley.
Althoff players to watch: QB Eric Mertens (78 of 136 passing for 1,011 yards, 12 TDs, 5 Int.); RB Dennis Jackson (54 carries for 265 yards and 1 TD); WR Luke Frazier (22 catches for 329 yards and 5 TDs); WR Keenen Young (24 catches for 308 yards and 2 TDs) and LB Aaron Medina (52 tackles, 41 solos, 1 fumble recovery).
Crusaders bouncing back: Despite back-to-back heartbreaking defeats, Turner said his team remains upbeat heading into the game with the Orphans.
"The kids are still up. We've had two very good days of practice so far this week," Turner said on Wednesday. "We just have to stay focused on playing four good quarters of football on Friday night.
Fun facts: Spectators for the Althoff-Centralia game should be prepared for a long night full of offense. In splitting their last four meetings, the Crusaders and Orphans have combined to light up the scoreboard in staggering fashion. ... In addition to its 35-32 win over Althoff a year ago, Centralia defeated Althoff 32-27 in 2011. The Crusaders won the previous two meetings -- 35-33 in 2010 and 51-26 in 2009.