Centralia Orphans football coach Bobby Brenneisen was never able to play against Althoff in his days as a star quarterback with the Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin Cyclones, but he knew all about the rivalry.
The teams used to face each other in the regular season, but the last time they met was in the 2002 Class 5A quarterfinals in a game known as “The Holy War.” Althoff came from behind to beat the Cyclones 35-31 in dramatic fashion.
“I remember always being there with my cousins playing there so I followed them,” said Brenneisen, a former SHG water boy who went undefeated as a quarterback on back-to-back state championship teams in 2005 and 2006.
Game time: Althoff (4-0) at Centralia (4-0), 7 p.m. Friday in a South Seven Conference game.
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State rankings: Centralia is 4-0 and the Orphans are fourth in the new Class 5A state rankings, the highest mark they have reached in school history. Althoff (4-0) is ranked first in Class 4A.
“The rankings add a little bit more to maybe people outside the immediate area, but for us and them we don’t need a ranking because it’s Althoff and Centralia,” Althoff coach Ken Turner said. “We’re fired up because it’s a rivalry game and they’ll be fired up also.
“We’re going to their house and we go in knowing we have to be ready to play from snap one.”
Series history: Althoff has won the past three meetings 58-7, 39-26 and 59-26 after Centralia won in 2012 (38-35) and 2011 (32-27). The Crusaders have won eight of the last 10 meetings.
In his first year as head coach, Brenneisen and his staff must find a way to slow down or contain an Althoff team averaging 51 points per game with the ability to score at any time.
“They’ve just got so many weapons,” said Brenneisen, who played quarterback at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Quincy University. “They do what they do and they do it really well. They’ve got so many great players they can get the ball to on offense and a lot of great players on defense, too.
“We’ve really got to be on point with everything we do and all of our reads. On defense we’ve got to try to eliminate the big play.”
Althoff senior running back and Miami (Ohio) recruit Jaylon Bester has been shredding defenses all season. He has 660 yards and nine TDs on only 42 carries, a 15.7-yard average.
A year ago, Bester helped key Althoff’s 59-26 win over Centralia in Belleville with a 99-yard TD run and a 91-yard kickoff return. The Crusaders rolled up 562 yards of offense, including more than 300 yards rushing, and opened the game by grabbing a 24-0 lead.
“I just didn’t think we got off the bus ready to play,” Brenneisen said. “It was almost like a shell-shocked kind of deal. We’re definitely the David in this David and Goliath fight and there’s probably not many people that think we’ve even got a chance.
“Coming back this year we’ll be more prepared and we’ll know what to expect.”
“We were able to jump out to a three-score lead and our defense did a great job of slowing them down the first few drives,” Turner said. “It kind of snowballed on them and that happens sometimes.”
Scouting Centralia: Brenneisen replaced former Centralia coach Ray Kauling, whose team was 9-2 last season. The Orphans have a high-powered offense led by 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior quarterback JaVon Williams.
Williams, who already is drawing interest from Purdue and Illinois State, has complete 40-of-64 passes for 679 yards and nine TDs with one interception. He’s perhaps an even bigger threat as a runner and leads the Orphans with 435 yards and three TDs on 37 carries.
“He throws it well and runs well and runs with power,” Turner said. “He’s the best quarterback we’ve faced to this point. He’s improved on his arm strength and he’s a better player than he was last year. He definitely has our eye as one of the players we have to slow down.”
Brenneisen has seen steady improvement in Williams.
“I think he’s just more comfortable,” Brenneisen said. “He’s trusting his line more, he’s sitting in the pocket a little bit more and not just fleeing out of there right away, which is good. He’s almost like a fullback when he runs it.”
Centralia also features running back Keshawn Marshall (422 yards and eight TDs on 43 carries( and receivers Dawson Berry (10 catches, 323 yards four TDs) and Jordan Maines (10 catches, 147 yards, three TDs).
Marshall is also a standout cornerback on a defense led by Sean Clark (36 tackles, 10 tackles for loss), Will Henegar (29 tackles) and Caleb Shipley (26 tackles).
Scouting Althoff: Along with Bester, the Crusaders boast an elite passing attack headed by senior quarterback Trey Mosley (46-of-72, 662 yards, 10 TDs, one interception).
Mosley has several talented targets to choose from including Jordan Goodwin (16 catches, 221 yards, three TDs), C.J. Coldon (14 catches, 225 yards, two TDs) and Edwyn Brown (eight catches, 112 yards, five TDs).
Turner feels this is one of the best defenses he’s had and the early results show he may be right. Christian Wills (33 tackles, three sacks) and Devyn Nash (26 tackles, one sack) create intense pressure up front and senior linebacker Bryson Strong (35 tackles, one sack) is a sideline to sideline playmaker.
Coldon, Brown (three interceptions) and Justin Strong (three interceptions) anchor the defensive backfield.