After finally getting the better of longtime South Seven Conference nemesis Marion last week, Althoff coach Ken Turner and the Crusaders are closing in on an undefeated regular season and probable top seed in the Class 4A playoffs.
But the key to a possible long postseason run doesn’t rest so much on the shoulders of the Crusaders high-powered offense but rather a defensive unit which has showed improvement in the last few weeks.
“We thought coming into the season that defensively we had a chance to be pretty good and the last three weeks we’ve played well,’’ Turner said. “The shutout against Mount Vernon gave us a little confidence just because they are just so physical.
“Then we played well against Centralia in the first half and last week against a very good Marion team I thought we also did a good job on defense. The win over Marion was big just because hadn’t beaten them in so long. I’ve said it all along, that we just want to continue to get better each week.’’
Junior linebackers Bryson Strong (80 tackles, eight sacks) and Chris Branson (65 tackles, 2 sacks) will be tested again this week when Althoff hosts Carbondale in a South Seven Conference game. The Terriers, although winless, feature an athletic squad.
▪ Friday’s Game Carbondale (0-6) at Althoff (6-0) at Lindenwood Stadium, 7 p.m.
▪ Last week: Mount Vernon defeated Carbondale 36-6; Althoff defeated Marion 37-20
▪ Rankings: Carbondale is unranked; Althoff is ranked first in the News-Democrat Small School and is currently ranked fourth in the Associated Press Class 4A State Football Poll.
▪ Last meeting: Althoff defeated Carbondale 24-21 last year.
Looking to clinch a tie for the South Seven Conference title, Althoff will take on a winless Terriers team which has lost each game by at least 15 points and given up at least 35 points every week. Still Turner will make sure the Crusaders don’t look past Carbondale to long time rival Cahokia next week.
“I thought the kids may have taken them (Carbondale) to lightly last year and it almost came back to burn us in the second half,’’ Turner said. “They are going through some growing pains with their new system, but with Carbondale, the one thing you can be sure of is that they are extremely athletic. We need to be ready to play.’’
The Crusaders high-powered offensive machine has been unstoppable this season, wracking up 284 points in six games. Quarterback Jordan Augustine has been the catalyst, completing 71 percent of his passes (113 of 159) for nearly 1,900 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Among the Crusaders major offensive weapons are wide receivers Keenen Young (38 receptions, 558 yards and 9 TD’s) and CJ Coldon (34 catches, 740 yards, 6TD’s). The Crusaders have also relied heavily on running backs Jaylon Bester ( 60 carries, 536 yards, 6 TD’s) and Malik Easley (60 carries, 523 yards, 8TD’s).