Althoff hoping to turn season around quickly

News-DemocratOctober 10, 2013 

Somebody is going to win the South Seven Conference football championship, but none of the six teams has managed to break away from the pack even at this late stage of the season.

Heading into Friday's games, three teams are tied for first and three are tied for second.

Althoff (2-4), Carbondale (4-2) and Centralia (4-2) have lost two of three league games, while Mount Vernon (4-2), Marion (4-2) and Cahokia (2-4) have won two of three with three games remaining.

"We're still fighting for a chance to play in the playoffs," Althoff coach Ken Turner said. "It's wide open right now. Whatever team can string together a couple wins will probably win the South Seven."

Friday's game: Carbondale (4-2) vs. Althoff (2-4), 7 p.m. at Lindenwood Stadium in Belleville.

The Crusaders have lost four of their last five games. They were victimized by mistakes and turnovers last week in a 38-22 loss to Marion, including four interceptions.

"We've gone through stretches where we're playing really good football, then we make a mistake here or there and things turn for the worse," Turner said. "We played a complete game two weeks ago to beat Centralia, then we turned the ball over and had too many costly penalties against Marion."

Last meeting: Althoff won 29-0 last season at Carbondale as the Crusaders ran the ball 46 times for 290 yards.

New coach at Carbondale: An all-stater in football and basketball at Du Quoin High and a former star quarterback at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Nick Hill is the new head coach at Carbondale.

He had stints with the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers in the NFL and in the Arena Football League.

"I'm having a lot of fun," said Hill, who also coached previously at Du Quoin. "I kind of got thrown into the fire here, I got the job less than a month before the season started. I feel like we're still kind of finding our way as a complete team.

"I don't feel like we've put four quarters together yet."

What to watch for: Althoff quarterback Eric Mertens likes a quick-tempo passing game and despite the loss of injured senior standout Luke Frazier still has strong targets in sophomore Keenen Young and senior Austin Mueller.

"He's the best quarterback we've faced so far," Hill said of Mertens. He's a big kid that can make all the throws."

Carbondale has a quick-strike offense loaded with talent at the skill positions led by senior quarterback Justin Hoffmann.

Running back Lindell Gaston has battled a leg injury, but ran for 125 yards last week in a loss to Mount Vernon and had 278 yards against Herrin.

Wide receiver Shamarc Bursey tied a state record with a 20-catch game two weeks ago.

Carbondale won four of its first five games before losing on the road to Mount Vernon last week.

Carbondale players to watch: QB Justin Hoffmann (96-of-145, 1,589 yards, 17 TDs, 5 Ints.); RB Linell Gaston (110 carries, 739 yards, 7 TDs); WR Shamarc Bursey (51 catches, 825 yards, 12 TDs); WR Devontavius Payne (15 catches, 333 yards, 3 TDs); LB Mitch Lauder; DL Don Johnson.

Althoff players to watch: QB Eric Mertens (110-of-189, 1,381 yards, 19 TDs, 9 Ints.); WR Keenen Young (38 catches, 454 yards, 3 TDs); RB-WR Dennis Jackson (79 carries, 405 yards, 1 TD; 9 catches, 130 yards, 4 TDs); WR Austin Mueller (15 catches, 200 yards, 3 TDs); LB Aaron Medina (74 tackles); LB Bret Silvestri (40 tackles, 3 sacks).

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or on Twitter @NormSanders

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