EDWARDSVILLE — The Edwardsville football team is making a statement in the Southwestern Conference --and the Tigers' actions were especially loud Friday night.
After opening league play two weeks ago with a 29-28 win over East St. Louis and beating Alton 49-6 on Sept. 20, Edwardsville improved to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the SWC with a 48-0 victory over visiting Collinsville.
"It's maturity - you have to prepare for each game like it's a state championship," said senior wide receiver/cornerback Craig James, who opened the second half with a long kickoff return for a touchdown. "You can't slack off at all."
A roughing the kicker penalty extended Collinsville's opening possession, but the Kahoks couldn't take advantage, as a 28-yard field-goal attempt by Josh Calvin was partially blocked with 6:12 remaining in the first quarter.
"The small things can make a difference in a game like that, but the bigger things are going to be what show up on film," said first-year Collinsville coach John Blaylock, whose team dropped to 1-4 and 0-3. "We got driven off the ball most of the night and it's the difference between four years of a really good weight program and seven months of a weight program."
Edwardsville responded by taking the lead on a 3-yard quarterback keeper by Dan Marinko with 4:26 to play in the quarter. On the previous play, Marinko connected with Isaiah Michl on fourth down for a 36-yard completion down the right sideline.
"He reads the field pretty well," Edwardsville coach Matt Martin said of Marinko, who completed 21 of 29 passes for 308 yards. "For the most part, he makes pretty good decisions and the guys benefit from that."
The Tigers capped an 11-play, 89-yard drive on a 13-yard pass from Marinko to Curt Mueller with 10:11 left in the second quarter. The PAT by Riley Patterson made the score 14-0.
Marinko continued to shine on Edwardsville's next drive, completing passes of 35 yards to Brian Crowe and 28 yards to Michl before finding Darius Crochrell in the right corner of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown pass with 5:53 remaining in the quarter.
"(Marinko) has a very accurate arm and his receivers don't drop the ball," Blaylock said. "They're going to get a few positive yards even on short stuff."
Collinsville's defense was able to solve Marinko on the Tigers' next possession, as Ryan Brunton intercepted a pass on the Kahoks' 33.
Any momentum that may have generated for Collinsville didn't last long. A 38-yard punt return by Tommy Maxwell put the ball at the Kahoks' 22, and three plays later, Marinko had his third touchdown pass of the first half, a 14-yarder to Crochrell with 19 seconds on the clock. Patterson's extra point was no good, leaving the halftime score at 27-0.
On the third-quarter kickoff, James dodged several defenders on the left sideline, ran to the right sideline and sprinted into the end zone for a 99-yard touchdown for Edwardsville.
"Defensive-wise, I wasn't getting that much because they weren't throwing it my way. Offensive-wise, I just got back from being sick," James said. "I told myself 'I'm going to make a play right now.' I took off, went to the other sideline and the guys did a really good blocking. You can't do it without the front and back walls."
James' big moment was no surprise to Martin.
"First of all, he's got a lot of guys working hard for him. There weren't a lot of white shirts running around free," Martin said. "Second of all, Craig just needs a couple inches and he's pretty special with the ball."
A 50-yard touchdown by Maxwell on a punt return, plus the PAT by Patterson, made the score 41-0 with 4:08 to play in the quarter and put the remainder of the game on a running clock.
The Tigers closed out the scoring on a 33-yard run by Crochrell with 11:15 remaining in the fourth quarter.
"The defense did a great job. Any time you get a shutout, you're happy," Martin said. "Collinsvlle did some good things and they had some good schemes running the ball, but our kids settled down and got used to it."