Separated by 1,000 miles and millions in annual salary, Belleville East football coach Tim Funk nevertheless discovered this week that he has something in common with New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin.
Struggling football teams.
While Coughlin is dealing with endless questions from the often merciless New York media about his 0-4 team, Funk is dealing with a 2-3 Lancers squad trying to regroup from a 52-3 loss to East St. Louis and remain in the hunt for a Class 8A playoff berth.
"I heard Tom Coughlin say that he's watching a lot of game film and just working hard on getting better each week. That's what we're doing,'' Funk said. "It's tough to come back mentally from the way that East St. Louis beat us last week.
"But we've had two good days of practice and the kids continue to have a good attitude. I still believe we're a good football team.''
Today's game: Belleville East (2-3, 1-2 in the SWC) at Alton (2-3, 1-2), 7 p.m.
Last meeting: East defeated Alton 35-21 last year. The Lancers got a pair of touchdown runs from Brandon Mason and a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Anthony Garza to key the win.
East players to watch: QB Ryan McDonald (31 of 84 for 354 yards, 3 TDs and 4 Ints.); RB Demarius Ward (67 attempts for 354 yards and 2 TDs); WR Parker Hendricks (10 receptions for 106 yards and a TD); WR Josiah Bergt (12 receptions for 99 yards and 2 TDs); LB Markee Thompson (44 tackles, 37 solos and 2 fumble recoveries).
Alton players to watch: QB Lavonte Hobbs (15 of 49 for 280 yards, 1 Int.); RB Keshon Young (53 attempts for 337 yards and 5 TDs); RB Justus Pedero (46 attempts for 168 yards and 3 TDs; 3 receptions for 111 yards and a TD); LB Ricco Gipson (44 tackles, 33 solos, 2 fumble recoveries and 3 sacks)
East coach Tim Funk on Alton: "They are very athletic. In watching the films, they have good speed and quickness. And I was very impressed with their quarterback (Hobbs), and the two running backs complement each other very well. (Coach) Jeff Alderman does a great job of getting his kids ready to play.''
Alton coach Jeff Alderman: "We're coming along. We had a nice win last week against Granite City and a win against a very good East squad this week would be big for our kids. It would put us at .500 (3-3) and that hasn't happened much around here in recent years. The thing that concerns me most about East is their size advantage up front. Those kids are big and physical. But I think we're quicker.''
What's at stake? The winner of the East-Alton game still has realistic playoff hopes heading into the final three weeks of the season. Both teams would need to pull off at least one upset as Alton has games with state powers East St. Louis on Oct. 11 and Belleville West on Oct. 25. East plays at Granite City on Oct. 11 and at Edwardsville on Oct. 25. The Lancers will host O'Fallon on Oct. 19.