High School Football

Granite City loses quarterback to injury; Central off to 3-0 start

Edwardsville High graduate and former Nebraska standout Vincent Valentine (99), shown here playing for the New England Patriots against Carolina in a preseason game, collected a sack Sunday in his NFL debut against the Arizona Cardinals.
Edwardsville High graduate and former Nebraska standout Vincent Valentine (99), shown here playing for the New England Patriots against Carolina in a preseason game, collected a sack Sunday in his NFL debut against the Arizona Cardinals. TNS

While the Granite City Warriors are excited about hanging 63 points and 547 yards of offense on the Belleville East Lancers, their 63-49 Southwestern Conference victory Saturday came at a price.

That price was the loss of senior quarterback Kendrick Williba for an unspecified time frame because of a dislocated hip injury he suffered on a running play early in the second half.

“He was having a good game and he was having a good year,” Granite City coach Carl Luehmann said of Williba, who ran for 111 yards and three touchdowns against East and also threw a pair of TD passes. “We don’t know the whole prognosis right now or how long he’ll be out.”

Finishing up at quarterback against the Lancers was freshman Freddy Edwards, the projected starter at the position for the next three years. Edwards also enjoyed a big game against East with 177 rushing yards and two TDs to go along with two TD passes he caught from Williba.

“He’s been working at quarterback since the beginning of the season,” Luehmann said of Edwards. “He’s got a long way to go, needs to work on his progressions. (Playing) a freshman in the Southwestern Conference is tough, so, but I think he’ll do fine.”

Williba was off to a strong start for the Warriors, throwing for 466 yards and six TDs in a little over 2 1/2 games while leading the team in rushing (232 yards) and scoring (11 TDs). The 11 TDs tied him for third in scoring in the St. Louis region.

Edwards and the Warriors are off to a respectable 2-1 start, but will be thrown into the fire Friday night at home against unbeaten East St. Louis (3-0). The Flyers are second-ranked Class 7A team in the state and are No. 1 in the Belleville News-Democrat Large-School rankings.

“He’ll have his mistakes, but he’s got four years to get better at it,” Luehmann said of Edwards, who has 199 yards rushing and seven TDs on 15 carries. “We project him to be our QB down the road. He’s a three-sport athlete and is just skilled in running and throwing the ball. He’s got to grow and mature.”

Luehmann also said Granite City middle linebacker Kyle Thompson is day-to-ay after suffering an ankle injury in the East game.

“We had a chance at being 3-0, but we’re happy with where we’re at,” said Luehmann, whose team lost 39-35 to Jerseyville in the season opener.

Edwardsville Tiger in the NFL

Edwardsville High graduate and former Nebraska defensive line standout Vincent Valentine had three combined tackles and a quarterback sack in his NFL debut Sunday with the New England Patriots.

The 6-foot-3, 320-pound rookie was the Patriots’ third-round draft pick earlier this year.

Central Cougars off to 3-0 start

During the preseason, the Cahokia Conference team garnering the most attention from other coaches was the Central Cougars. Loaded with talent, depth and experience, coaches felt this might be a special year — and those coaches weren’t just blowing smoke.

Central is 3-0 and hammered a solid offensive Freeburg team 47-0 last weekend.

“We had some things to clean up after Week 1 and we know we’ve got a big test coming up this week in Carlyle,” Central coach Brian Short said “I wouldn’t start the parade any time soon, but I’m excited about the way we’ve been playing.”

A quick glance around the Cahokia Conference shows three unbeaten teams with Central, Columbia and Red Bud. Conference defenses are being run ragged by all three of those teams and several others, including Freeburg, Carlyle and Wesclin.

“There’s a lot of teams putting up a lot of points and we’re a team that takes a lot of pride in our defense,” Short said. “The next four weeks we’ll see somebody that’s capable of scoring 40 every game, so we’re going to have to do our jobs.”

Central running back Collin Thomas helped lead the way against Freeburg with 166 yards and three TDs on only nine carries. Thomas and Ben Rakers (328 yards, five TDs) are doing plenty of damage behind a huge, experienced offensive line.

“Collin’s an extraordinary kid, extremely gritty,” Short said. “He flies around the field on offense, defense and special teams and just enjoys being a football player.”

Brice Haselhorst was a force on defense with seven tackles, 2.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss.

“He’s a very athletic kid for a defensive lineman and he’s got a lot of ability,” Short said of Haselhorst. “He’s a dynamic athlete and he’s really bought into doing his job first and trying to make plays second. We told him if he did that, he’d have an opportunity to make a lot of plays.”

Quarterback Hunter Toeben provides a steady hand at the controls. He’s passed for three TDs and run for two others.

Ex-SWC players making an impact for Salukis

Former Belleville East kicker Matt Sotiropoulos, who made Southern Illinois University Carbondale as a freshman walk-on, tied the Salukis’ school record with three field goals Saturday in a 30-22 win over Southeast Missouri State. Sotiropoulos, who also made all three of his extra point tries, was the 24th SIU kicker to boot three field goals in a game.

Former Lancers standout linebacker Chase Allen forced a fumble that led to a touchdown and his eight tackles overall moved him past Clint Smothers and into 18th place on the school’s career tackles list.

Allen leads the Salukis with 19 tackles while Markese Jackson (East St. Louis) isn’t far behind with 15 tackles.

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders

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