With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Cahokia Comanches and first-year coach John Clay stand on the doorstep of their first high school football playoff berth since 2009.
To cinch it, though, Cahokia (4-3), coming off a 47-0 win over Mount Vernon last week, needs either a win on Friday against South Seven Conference foe Althoff or next week against Chicago power Crete-Monee. Both Althoff (Class 4A) and Crete-Monee (Class 6A) reached state title games last season.
“I’ve looked at the (playoff) points. We will have enough points. We just need another win,” Clay said on Wednesday. “We’ve got Althoff, which was second in (Class 4A) last year and is ranked No. 1 this year and Crete-Monee was second in Class 6A last year and ranked seventh this year. The kids know what’s at stake and that we have a major challenge in front of us. I trust that these kids will do their best to meet that challenge.”
The Comanches (4-3, 2-2) challenge this week will be to beat an Althoff team which hasn’t been challenged much this season. The Crusaders (7-0, 4-0) have scored 40 or points in each of their seven wins and have only been pushed by Centralia (40-21) in a league win two weeks ago.
Still, Crusaders coach Ken Turner knows beating the Comanches on Friday won’t be easy and for a number of reasons. For one, the game on Friday at Lindenwood University-Belleville will be Althoff’s homecoming.
“There is a lot going on around here this week with it being homecoming. I just want to be sure that our main focus is on the business at hand which is getting ready to play a very good Cahokia football team,” Turner said. “This group has done a good job of staying focused, but (Cahokia) coach Clay has done a good job and it’s always a big rivalry game when we play because the kids all know each other.”
Friday’s Game: Cahokia (4-3, 2-2) vs. Althoff (7-0, 4-0) at Lindenwood University-Belleville, 7 p.m.
Rankings: Cahokia is unranked; Althoff is ranked first in the Associated Press Class 4A state poll.
Last Meeting: Althoff defeated Cahokia 48-12 last year
Last week: Cahokia beat Mount Vernon 47-0; Althoff defeated Carbondale 49-6
The Comanches feature a good, aggressive defense which has been solid for the most part all season. But as usual, Cahokia relies on speed and plenty of it. Senior running back Marquis Murray is a solid and productive running back, but the key to the Comanches is senior quarterback Wayne Grant.
Since an opening week win against Highland, Granite has been nothing short of spectacular this year, completing 62 percent of his passes (88 of 145) for over 1,600 yards and 22 touchdowns. Junior wide receiver DeMarion Hinkle (39 catches, 400 yards) is one of the best in the St. Louis area.
“When I think of Cahokia, I think of athletes and speed. They have that again this year,” Turner said of the Comanches. “And the (Wayne) Grant kid is having a great senior season. Our job is to keep him in the pocket. If you give him room to scramble and get outside, he can make things happen. He’s a playmaker.”
While Grant has the Comanches in playoff contention, Althoff quarterback Trey Mosley has been just as impressive. Mosley (85-of-132) has thrown for nearly 1,300 yards with 18 touchdown passes. In receivers Jordan Goodwin (25 catches, 430 yards, 4TD’s) and CJ Colden (28 catches, 511 yards, 7TD’s), the Crusaders have perhaps two of the top receivers in the St. Louis area.
But in senior running back Jaylon Bester (86 carries, 1,368 yards, 17 TD’s), Althoff has the preimier running back in the South Ssven Conference and one of the best Class 4A running backs in the state.
“Althoff is a pretty complete football team,” Clay said. “They have a very balanced offense with the run and the pass. The key for us on Friday is that we just need to be able to tackle. And on offense we have to be able to establish our running game. We need to be able to run the football.”