High School Football

Respect runs deep between O’Fallon, Edwardsville

Edwardsville defensive end A.J. Epenesa recovers a loose ball during a game last season against Belleville West. He and the Tigers meet O’Fallon in Southwestern Conference play Friday.
Edwardsville defensive end A.J. Epenesa recovers a loose ball during a game last season against Belleville West. He and the Tigers meet O’Fallon in Southwestern Conference play Friday. BND File

O’Fallon coach Brandon Joggerst is no stranger to the rigors of the Southwestern Conference.

Joggerst no sooner completed his review of the film from the Panthers’ 34-23 loss to Belleville West on Saturday before he began preparing for another difficult assignment.

Friday’s game: O’Fallon (1-2 overall, 0-1 SWC) at Edwardsville (3-0, 1-0), 7 p.m.

The host Tigers have scored at least 35 points in all three of their games against Quincy, Rock Island and Collinsville.

“It’s very consistent what they do, and they do things very well,” Joggerst said of Edwardsville. “Defensively, they have a couple of big-name players on that side of the ball that have been productive. Offensively, they just put up points. They’ll find your weakness and try to exploit it, whether it’s through the run or the pass.”

It’s very consistent what they do, and they do things very well. Defensively, they have a couple of big-name players on that side of the ball that have been productive. Offensively, they just put up points. They’ll find your weakness and try to exploit it, whether it’s through the run or the pass.

O’Fallon coach Brandon Joggerst on the Edwardsville Tigers

Edwardsville opened league play with a 49-0 victory over Collinsville on Saturday. The Tigers expect things to be more difficult against O’Fallon, which also features a multidimensional offense capable of attacking on the ground or through the air.

“They’re pretty balanced on offense,” Tigers coach Matt Martin said. “They throw the ball well and they have two of the best running backs we’ve faced all year in No. 34 (junior Richard Cosey) and No. 5 (senior Mason Hewitt). They’re solid. Their O-line always does a good job against us every year. Their kids are fast and physical.”

Last week: The Panthers fell behind 17-7 to the Maroons, rallied but fell short.

“We didn’t finish some drives,” Joggerst said. “We had four times inside their 30 with first down and didn’t score. We gave up some big plays on fourth down. Really, it was (allowing) big plays and not finishing drives.”

They’re pretty balanced on offense. They throw the ball well and they have two of the best running backs we’ve faced all year in No. 34 (junior Richard Cosey) and No. 5 (senior Mason Hewitt). They’re solid. Their O-line always does a good job against us every year. Their kids are fast and physical.

Edwardsville coach Matt Martin on the O’Fallon Panthers

The Tigers, meanwhile, were in control throughout against Collinsville, rolling to a big lead in the first quarter. Senior quarterback Brenden Dickmann was 8-for-12 for 125 yards and two touchdowns, while sophomore tailback Dionte Rodgers rushed for 66 yards and two TDs.

Scouting O’Fallon: Hewitt is coming off a 113-yard performance against West and already has racked up 476 yards rushing, including 275 against Normal West in the second week of the season.

“He rarely gets tackled by one guy,” Martin said. “I think that’s the sign of a great back when you don’t get tackled one-on-one.”

While the Tigers will be keenly aware of Hewitt, they also have to be concerned about the throwing ability of Panthers junior quarterback Christian Perez.

“He throws a very good ball,” Martin said. “And they have speed that can run and get it. It poses challenges for defenses.”

Perez is 43-for-85 for 563 yards and four TDs, and has a game-changing receiver in junior wideout Ronald Anthony (14 catches, 172 yards, one TD).

“We’ve got great confidence in (Perez),” Joggerst said. “He’s made good decisions back there with the ball. If we’re fortunate enough to get in the red zone, we’ve got to get some points.”

Scouting Edwardsville: The Panthers will try to get more pressure on Dickmann than they were able to mount last week against West quarterback Logan Betz, who passed for 199 yards and two TDs.

“He’s got a great understanding of what they’re trying to do,” Joggerst said of Dickmann. “He sort of takes what the defense gives him. He makes really good decisions and I’m sure they’re pretty pleased with how he’s progressed so far.”

Dickmann is 20-for-33 for 289 yards and three TDs.

“Our running game has been solid and I think our passing game will improve,” Martin said. “That will make us more balanced on offense. Time will tell.”

O’Fallon also will be aware at all times of senior defensive end A.J. Epenesa, an Iowa recruit who also will run the ball out of the backfield on occasion. Epenesa has 12 tackles, five of them for losses.

“Obviously, you have to be aware of where he is on the field,” Joggerst said. “They do a good job moving him around, so it’s hard to pinpoint where he’s going to line up.

“You have to be careful because their defensive line is extremely talented. You can’t have all your horses try to avoid him because their other guys are very capable, too. He’s a special player. He’s one of those kids that come around once in a while in your coaching career.”

Rodgers is off to a tremendous start with 470 yards and nine TDs.

“That sophomore kid is very productive,” Joggerst said. “He’s got great speed and he also makes a lot of people miss. They always have a great back.”

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm

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