With the bulk of a senior class that has been playing varsity or on the roster since their freshman year, Senior Night should indeed be a special one Friday for the Althoff Crusaders.
Linemen Christian Wills and James Townsend have started every game for four years, while linebackers Bryson Strong and Chris Branson have also been playing the majority of the games since they were freshmen.
Add in Miami (Ohio) running back recruit Jaylon Bester, Saint Louis University basketball recruit Jordan Goodwin , Division I receiver-defensive back prospects C.J. Coldon and Edwyn Brown and quarterback Trey Mosley, and it’s easy to see why this is going to be such a tough group for coach Ken Turner to send out the locker room door for the final time.
“A lot of these kids have been playing since their freshman year, so it’s special for the whole program,” said Turner, who has 17 seniors on the roster — many of whom are starters or key contributors. “They’ve done a lot of special things at this school and this is their last regular-season home game. It’s going to be a great night.”
Friday’s Game: Triad (6-2) at Althoff (8-0), 7 p.m. at Lindenwood Stadium in Belleville.
“I just feel like our program’s at a point where we’re right there where we need to be to compete with the top teams — and Althoff is one of the top teams in the state,” Triad coach Paul Bassler said. “They’re loaded, it’s like an all-star team from St. Clair County. They just have athletes and players at every single position. Coach Turner’s got a really good group of kids and they are coached up well. They’re as good as it gets.”
Althoff has won 17 straight regular-season games dating back to a 27-22 loss to Triad in the 2014 regular-season finale. The Crusaders are 5-4 in their previous last nine games against the Knights, whose only losses this season have come against Mississippi Valley rivals Waterloo and Highland.
Last meeting: Althoff beat Triad 33-21 last year in a game of big plays, with every TD scored by either team covering 24 yards or more. Triad running back Adam Nelson was among the most dangerous players on the field with 205 yards rushing, but a key interception by Brown sealed the win for Althoff. This will be the final game of the series.
State rankings: Althoff is ranked first in Class 4A; Triad is 12th in Class 5A.
Scouting Triad: The Knights have thrown the ball 10 times all season, completing two attempts, so they make no secret about their desire to run the option. They ran for more than 300 yards on Althoff last season.
Senior quarterback Tommy Bauer leads the way with 981 yards rushing and 18 TDs on 149 carries.
“He’s their guy, everything goes through him,” Turner said. “We need to know where he’s at the whole game.”
Bassler is impressed with the way Bauer has run the show.
“It’s his leadership on the field and his understanding of our offense,” Bassler said. “He gets it. He understands that the weight of the world is not his shoulders, to take what the defense gives us and make good decisions. He’s made great decisions in his two years with us.”
Triad also gets good production from fullback Tom Kraudel (777 yards, eight TDs) and running backs Trevor Nott (397 yards, five TDs) and Devin Towns (299 yards, two TDs).
Linebacker Nathan Clark (63 tackles, six sacks) helps anchor the Knights’ defense along with defensive ends Beau Barbour (52 tackles, four sacks) and Chris Berg (29 tackles, six sacks).
Scouting Althoff: The Crusaders have beaten teams on the ground and through the air, but Bester (1,572 yards, 19 TDs) has been a highly effective weapon all season.
The weapons arsenal also includes Mosley (97-of-158 passes for 1,510 yards and 22 TDs with three interceptions) and receivers Coldon (33 catches, 574 yards, eight TDs), Goodwin (27 catches, 447 yards, four TDs) and Brown (18 catches, 241 yards, seven TDs).
Defensively, the Crusaders are led by Division I prospects Christian Wills (69 tackles, eight sacks) and Devyn Nash (44 tackles, four sacks) on the line and Strong (68 tackles, four sacks) at linebacker along with Coldon, linebacker Branson (48 tackles, one sack) and defensive backs Justin Strong (23 tackles, five interceptions) and Brown (five interceptions).