High School Football

Sophomore quarterback, defense help Belleville West dash Alton’s playoff hopes

Making just the second start of his varsity career, sophomore quarterback Alex Poettker and the Belleville West Maroons played the role of spoiler to perfection Friday against the Alton Redbirds

Poettker threw a pair of touchdown passes three minutes apart early in the fourth quarter then set up the go-ahead scored with 24-yard completion to senior Joey Kossina as the Maroons rallied for a 28-21 victory.

Looking to keep its IHSA playoff hopes alive, Alton (3-5) led 21-7 after three quarters. But Poettker, filling in for injured senior Jack McCloskey, brought the Maroons back.

After cutting the Maroons’ deficit to 21-14 with his second scoring pass of the night, Poettker connected with Antonio Winters on a 12-yard scoring play. When junior Logan Seibert added the extra point, the game was tied with 8:48 remaining.

The drive, which covered 26-yards on three plays, was set up by an interception and 30-yard return by senior defensive back Henry Walker.

“We just kept working and believing that we could come back,’’ Poettker said. “ “We just kept trying to make plays and stay with the game plan.’’

Four plays after tying the game, the Maroons were in position to take the lead. Following a poor Alton punt, West took over on the Redbirds 31-yard line with just under seven minutes remaining.

Playing with poise and confidence, Poettker made another big throw. His completion to Kossina set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Jordan Bruce with 6:03 remaining to give West its first lead.

“Am I surprised he (Poettker) has come in and played so well? I’m really not,’’ West coach Bryan Edgar said. “He came in during camp this summer, took his reps and learned. He’s patiently waited for his chance and now that its come, he’s making the most of it.

“Alex has a strong and he’s got a lot of poise in the pocket. Plus he’s had Jack (McCloskey) in his ear helping him along. This is a big win for for this football program.’’

McCloskey suffered a shoulder injury in the Maroons loss at Edwardsville. His status for the Maroons season finale next week next week is questionable.

Alton, led by senior quarterback Andrew Jones marched inside the West 35-yard line on its nest possession. But with under four minutes left, Jones was intercepted by Maroons senior defensive back Tyreace Wilbourn in the end zone.

The loss, coming after a loss at home a week ago to Belleville East, ended the Redbirds’ playoff hopes.

“Very disappointing,’’ Redbirds coach Eric Dickerson said. “We’ve played this way for the last three years. We just didn’t execute in the fourth quarter.’’

But the Maroons (3--5) did. Trailing 21-7, West made big plays when it needed to in the second half..

“It’s all about execution. It’s all about finishing. We hadn’t done that well most of the season. We finally played well in the second half,’’ Edgar said. “Offense, defense.... we made plays.

“I was kind of hoping Alton would come out and take a lead. I wanted to see how we would react to adversity. We responded well. I’m proud of the kids.’’

Dean Criddle has worked at the Belleville News-Democrat for 32 years as a sports writer. Dean graduated from SIUE with a double major in journalism and English, is married and lives in Belleville.