Althoff rallies past Collinsville in 20-13 win
August 28, 2012By Chris Kusnerick of Collinsville High School
COLLINSVILLE • Althoff coach Ken Turner didn’t like the way his team started Friday night, but he had to like the way it finished.
Trailing 13-0 after one quarter, the Crusaders rallied for a 20-13 non-conference win at Collinsville in the season opener for both teams.
“We talked about not coming out and starting here like we did two years ago, and that’s exactly what we did,” Turner said. “We fumbled the ball, and they got an interception and they got points off it.
“But the thing about these guys that’s a little different is they’re tough-minded and strong-willed. But we’ve got a lot of things we can work on to get better.”
On the third play from scrimmage, Collinsville's Dennis Kress intercepted a pass from Eric Mertens and returned it 35 yards to the Althoff 20-yard line. Four plays later, with 9:48 remaining in the first quarter, Falando Wilkinson connected with Damien Birkla over the middle for a 19-yard touchdown pass to give the Kahoks a 6-0 lead. The extra point attempt by Josh Calvin was no good.
Another Althoff turnover led to Collinsville's second touchdown. A botched shovel pass from Mertens to Nick Hawthorne turned into a fumble recovery by Nick Reichert at the Crusaders' 15-yard line, leading to an 8-yard touchdown run by Wilkinson with 10 seconds left in the quarter. This time, the PAT by Calvin was good, boosting the Kahoks' lead to 13-0.
“We have a pretty good defense, but I also think we have a pretty good offense, and I’m a little upset we gave the ball to them in situations where they could score,” Turner said. “They caught us off guard. It seemed like they were fired up for opening their stadium (with new artificial turf), and they started off hot, and we started off too slow.”
Althoff bounced back with a 10-play, 87-yard drive capped by a 9-yard touchdown run by Dennis Jackson with 6:11 to play in the second quarter. Mertens, who misfired on his first five passes, got the offense rolling by completing four of five passes for 58 yards. Reichert's extra point attempt was wide right, leaving the score at 13-6.
With 2:31 remaining in the quarter, Althoff scored its second touchdown in unlikely fashion. On a third down and 10 from his own 46, Wilkinson attempted a pass over the middle, but 6-foot-3, 340-pound Merrick reached up, snared the ball and rumbled all the way into the end zone. Reichert's PAT tied the score at 13-13.
“You guys didn’t expect it, but I’ve seen it before,” Turner said. “In a JV game, he picked the ball off and ran it in, and he picked up a fumble and ran it in. He’s a playmaker -- he caused about six fumbles last year by slapping the ball out of people’s hands.”
After a scoreless third quarter, Collinsville started a drive from the Althoff 27-yard line with 10:58 remaining in the fourth quarter. But after a 10-yard penalty against the Kahoks, Althoff got the ball back on an interception by Hawthorne.
With the momentum swinging back their way, the Crusaders drove 81 yards in 10 plays, with Garland Henley scoring on a 3-yard run with 5:59 to play. Key plays in the drive were a 19-yard pass from Mertens to Hawthorne (including a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty) and a 23-yard pass from Mertens to Henley. Reichert's extra point put Althoff up by seven.
“When you block and tackle and force turnovers, you see what happens, and we put the ball in the end zone twice,” Collinsville coach Mike Liljegren said. “When you throw interceptions and fumble the ball and make crucial penalties and don’t tackle on defense, you see what happens, too, and they stick the ball in the end zone.”
Althoff had a chance to pad its lead when Aaron Medina recovered a fumble on the kickoff at the Collinsville 42, but the drive stalled and the Crusaders had to punt from the 43.
Given another chance, Collinsville couldn't pick up a first down and had to punt from its own 25, and Althoff was able to run out the clock for the final two-plus minutes.