The list of unbeaten metro-east football teams has dwindled to nine, but several of them have streaks that might last a while longer.
Posting wins in each of their first three games are Edwardsville in the Southwestern Conference and Mississippi Valley Conference teams Triad, Highland and Civic Memorial. Cahokia Conference rivals Columbia and Central each are 3-0, as are Althoff from the South Seven Conference and River-to-River Conference foes Nashville and Sparta.
The Highland Bulldogs have a streak of 21 regular-season games without a loss on the field; the streak excludes a 1-0 forfeit loss to Mattoon last September because of a teacher’s strike.
Highland is enjoying another prolific offensive season led by the rushing attack of Andrew Winning (519 yards and 12 touchdowns; averaging 10.6 yards per carry), Trent Rakers (201 yards and one TD; averaging 11.8 yards per carry) and quarterback Garrett Marti (169 yards and three TDs; averaging 15.4 yards per carry.
The Bulldogs, who open MVC play Friday at Mascoutah, have piled up at least 45 points in wins over Cahokia, Salem and Mattoon.
Edwardsville should be tested the next two weeks against O’Fallon and Belleville East with East St. Louis (2-1) awaiting the Tigers the following week.
Success has to be even sweeter at Sparta, where the Bulldogs and coach Rob Kirk are trying to finish off their first winning season since going 5-4 in 1994. Sparta’s four wins last season were the highest by the school since being reached only twice before that (2005 and 2003) since 1994.
One of the keys to Sparta’s 3-0 start has been the play of senior quarterback Drew Kordys, who threw for six TDs and ran for three others in the first two weeks with 567 yards of total offense.
Nashville’s quick start
Asked to pinpoint a few reasons why the Nashville Hornets are 3-0, coach Tim Kuhn might as well just hand you a roster. Kuhn is extremely proud of his team’s overall balance on both sides of the ball.
Running backs Hunter Schultze (332 yards, two TDs), Kyle Schnitker (211 yards, four TDs) and Jaris Dalman (134 yards, one TD) have been a load out of the backfield while Schultze is also the top receiver with nine catches for 151 yards and another TD.
Quarterback Andrew Kash has thrown for 246 yards and three TDs while senior tight end and Missouri offensive line recruit Royce Newman has eight catches for 89 yards and two TDs.
“Everybody’s contributed and it’s being a little more diverse than we have been in the past,” Kuhn said, mentioning senior guard Nick Brown, who moved from tight end. “On the offensive line it’s a whole new group from tackle to tackle. We were blessed last year with a very big and athletic offensive line, but it’s a little different this year and we’re still getting the same result.”
The 6-foot-7, 260-pound Newman basically becomes another offensive tackle if he’s lined up tight, but also makes an inviting target at split end. He’s also been a force at defensive end along with Dalman with the Hornets taking advantage of a quick and aggressive group of linebackers.
“(Newman) just seems to get better every season,” Kuhn said of the Hornets’ all-state basketball player. “This is the first year he’s really had an extended amount of time in the weight room and it definitely shows.”
On Friday, Nashville knocked off previously unbeaten Wesclin 24-13 on two second-half TDs.
The Edwardsville Tigers and coach Matt Martin continue to pile up wins in what is sure to be another memorable season, including a 33-7 win Friday over Collinsville in the SWC opener.
The Tigers scored 33 unanswered points to overwhelm the winless Kahoks (0-3).
Running backs Jackson Morrissey and Kendell Davis and quarterback Riley Jones give the Tigers a multifaceted ground game that keeps defenses guessing.
Morrissey had 19 carries for 131 yards and two touchdowns against Collinsville, while Jones had 22 carries for 126 yards and one TD and Davis added 11 carries for 62 yards and one TD. Jones, who replaced the graduated Dan Marinko, also threw a TD pass.
“Being able to keep running backs with fresh legs in there helps,” Morrissey said. “And Riley is getting better and better with his decision-making, knowing when to run and when to throw. He’s putting us into good situations. ... This was the best Collinsville team I’ve ever played. They have a great quarterback (Jordan Reichert) and they never give up.”
Defensively, Edwardsville forced four turnovers and turned two them into TDs. Seniors Chrys Colley, Jourdyn Jones and Grant Bradley had interceptions, and junior end A.J. Epenesa had a fumble recovery.
“Coach Pick (defensive coordinator Kelsey Pickering) does a great job year after year and week after week,” Martin said. “And Coach (Alec) Holler with the DBs has just done a tremendous job.”
Belleville West adjusting to change
After three years of Sherand Boyd under center, the Belleville West offense now belongs to quarterback Logan Betz. The junior was an efficient 11-for-19 for 201 yards Friday in a 13-12 conference win over O’Fallon. He completed a 47-yard touchdown pass to TeAntez Anthony and hit Jarell Anderson with a 54-yard pass to set up the winning score.
“I’ve been comfortable for three years. Coach (Cameron) Pettus brought me up as a freshman on varsity just to watch Sherand Boyd. I really got the hang of the offense, just watching somebody. I came in and it wasn’t even really a struggle. It’s my offense and nothing has really changed.”
West used eight running backs in the game. Reginald Coleman led them all with 21 yards on 10 carries. All the others were injured along the way, including sophomore Kriston Davis.
(David Wilhelm and Todd Eschman also provided information for the football notebook).
News-Democrat Large-School (5A-8A) Football Rankings
Rankings for metro-east teams; voting by area coaches and News-Democrat staff. First-place votes are in parentheses.
Large school rankings (Class 5A-8A)
East St. Louis (3)
Also receiving votes: Triad (3-0), Granite City (2-1), O’Fallon (0-3), Collinsville (0-3), Waterloo (1-2)
Small school rankings (Class 1A-4A)
Also receiving votes: Nashville (3-0), Carlyle (2-1), Wesclin (2-1), Freeburg (1-2)