The Watch List: Local sports stories to keep an eye on in the coming week


Crusaders seek the Holy Grail

The Althoff Crusaders will be playing for the fourth state football championship in their history when they travel to Dekalb and the campus of Northern Illinois University to take on Chicago Phillips. Both teams come into the game undefeated and with high-scoring offenses — the Crusaders average 45.2 points per game while Chicago Phillips averages 44.8 points per game. Althoff has won three prior championships, all under legendary coach Glenn Schott. It took consecutive Class 3A titles in 1989 and 1990 and a 4A champions in 1980. Chicago Phillips placed second at state once, losing last year's 4A championship game to Rochester, the team Althoff eliminated in an epic quarterfinal battle last week. Tickets are on sale at the Althoff athletic office from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.

Quarterback controversy?

Quarterback Nick Foles, acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles when Sam Bradford wore out his welcome in St. Louis, was sent to the bench after the Rams got wiped out by the Bears last week. Head coach Jeff Fisher turned to backup Case Keenum to breath new life into the sputtering offense that struggled even as the Rams worked their way through a tough schedule to 3-3. Did it work? Hardly. Keenum completed just 12 of 26 pass attempts for 136 yards. And he turned the ball over four times. He even held a 10-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, but a Justin Tucker field goal as time expired — set up by another Rams’ fumble — left the Rams in no better position than they could have been under Foles. So who will start for the Rams next week against the AFC North-leading Bengals in Cincinnati?

Cougars v. Butler and Mr. Jones

Under first-year head coach and Edwardville High School graduate Jon Harris, the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Cougars are off a 1-2 start to their 2015-16 season. The Cougars have a home game against the Campbell Fighting Camels Tuesday at 7 p.m. Then they're on the road to Indianapolis for a non-conference game against No. 22 Butler. The Bulldogs are led by 6-4 senior guard Roosevelt Jones, who formerly starred at O'Fallon High School. At 12 points per game, Jones is one of seven sharp-shooting Bulldogs who averaged in double figures through the first three games. SIUE is led by guard Burak Eslik's 14.7 points. A third Southwestern Conference product, Alton's Carlos Anderson, starts as a freshman for SIUE and is averaging 7.3 points per game.

Boys hoops get under way ...

High school boys basketball begins in earnest this week with tournaments in Alton, Centralia, Granite City, Waterloo and at Metro East Lutheran High School in Edwardsville. The Lebanon/Wesclin Thanksgiving Tournament begins Saturday. Belleville East will open its season in Centralia Monday, as will the Mascoutah Indians. In Waterloo will be Althoff, Edwardsville and Highland. Collinsville heads south to open its season at the Herrin Tournament and Granite City will open its own tournament with a game against Triad Monday.

... And the girls continue

The second full week of the 2015-16 girls basketball season features Thanksgiving Holiday Tournaments at sites throughout the metro-east for local hoops fans to feast on. Play continues at the O’Fallon Tournament through Wednesday with O’Fallon, Belleville West and Central competing while the final day of the 15th annual Salem Tournament will take place on Saturday with Belleville East, Highland and Civic Memorial among local teams in the field. The Nashville Thanksgiving Tournament — which features local teams Collinsville, Mascoutah, Freeburg, Nashville, Okawville and Wesclin — begins it week long run at Nashville High School’s Assembly Hall on Monday. The title game is set for 8:30 p.m. on Saturday. The new-look Althoff Crusaders will travel north to compete in the Morton Tournament this week, while the metro-east area’s top team — Edwardsville, along with East St. Louis, are competing at the Springfield Southeast Tournament which will be held Friday and Saturday.