It was your typical week one match-up for Friday night football. Except it was homecoming, in March, in a school year that has been anything but typical.
But the one thing that was typical in Nokomis’ game versus East Alton-Wood River on March 19, was the Redskins’ effort, which yielded a 18-6 victory over the Oilers.
“Our defense was outstanding. We were hitting and popping, and that’s what we’ve been preaching to them,” said Coach Paul Watson. “It was nice to see on the field.”
And it wasn’t just the defense, which recovered three fumbles and an interception against the Oilers, who spent the majority of their time with the ball on their own side of the field. The offense ran 52 times for 273 yards, with a steady diet of junior running backs.
“We have a good group of juniors who are fast and they play physical. If we get Jake Johnson in there, he’s been limited with basketball, we have a good rotation of him and Landon (Engelman) and Matt (Hill),” Watson said. “Jake Watson’s not very big, but he’s running up the middle. Five-foot-five, 150 pounds, but our goal is just three yards every time he touches the ball.”
Early on, it was the special teams that provided the biggest highlights, with Engelman recovering an onsides kick on the Oiler 45 to start the game. From there the running back rotation marched down the field, with Isaac Satterlee eventually recovering a fumble in the end zone on a two yard run for the game’s first score.
The special teams wasn’t done on kickoff number two as the kick popped up high and was recovered by Engelman once again, allowing Nokomis to start from Oiler territory for the second time before their opponents ever had a chance to touch the ball.
That possession would end shortly after due to a fumble, Nokomis would lose three in the game (all in the first half), but the Redskin defense stepped up and forced a four-and-out on the Oilers first possession.
Starting near midfield, Nokomis went back to work and marched the ball down the field, with Engeleman scoring on a two-yard run with 1:36 to play to cap off the drive. The two-point run failed, but Nokomis still led 12-0 before the clock ran out on quarter number one.
The defense would allow just five first downs in the first half, while recovering two Oiler fumbles. Only the last would prove costly as senior quarterback Kenny Beachum found Spencer Slayden over the middle after Slayden beat the Redskin coverage for a 75-yard touchdown.
The play was reminiscent of the last time Nokomis and East Alton-Wood River played, when Nokomis’ Alex Tosetti connected with Engelman for a 50-yard touchdown with 35 seconds to play, which sealed a 15-14 Nokomis victory and a return to the playoffs for the Redskins.
Unlike that play, Slayden’s touchdown didn’t do much for the Oilers’ chances as the Nokomis defense clamped down. East Alton-Wood River’s second half possessions read like a linebacker’s dream: punt, turnover on downs, fumble, interception and turnover on downs, with Dylan Hayes and Cooper Bertolino putting the exclamation point on the final drive with a sack of Beachum.
The production on defense turned into offense in the fourth quarter as well, with a fumble recovery by Bertolino leading to Engelaman’s second score of the game and an 18-0 lead.
The junior would then contribute on the defensive end, seemingly coming out of nowhere to make a diving interception on Beachum’s pass near the EAWR sideline that snuffed out any potential Oiler rally before it could start.
All told, it would be as good of a start to the season that the Redskins could hope for, considering the limited practice time and uncertainty of this season due to COVID-19. Still, Watson sees the win as just the first step in the Redskins’ final goal.
“We don’t have playoffs so our goal is to win the Cahokia Conference,” said Watson, whose team is in the Metro-East area league for the first time. “Each week is a step. Step one, step two, until we get to step six and win the conference.”
For the first time in a while, there are more unknowns than knowns on the Redskins’ schedule, including next week’s opponent, Trenton-based Wesclin High School. Watson’s looking for to that challenge though, and will fix a few things from this week and get ready for the Warriors on Friday.
“They threw us some things with some blitzes and slamming into some gaps that we weren’t able to pick up, so we’ll work on that,” Watson said. “We’re not sure what Trenton has. Going into the Cahokia, we’ve got a couple teams that we haven’t played in a long time. It should be fun.”
If it’s anything like week one, it definitely will be for Redskin fans.
March 19 at Nokomis
EAWR 0 6 0 0 6
Nokomis 12 0 0 6 18
1st - 8:22 - Nokomis - Isaac Satterlee fumble recovery in endzone (kick failed)
1st - 1:36 - Nokomis - Landon Engelman 2-yard run (run failed)
4th - 7:35 - Nokomis - Landon Engelman 3-yard run (pass failed)
Passing (3-3-31): Connor Overby 3-3-21, 0 TD, 0 INT.
Rushing (52-273): Matt Hill 10-90, Landon Engelman 20-88, Jake Watson 15-51, Jake Johnson 2-34, Connor Overby 4-13, Isaac Satterlee 1-1.
Receiving (3-31): Cooper Bertolino 1-13, Nolan Ernst 1-11, Isaac Satterlee 1-7.
Tackles (25 solo/31 assists): Dylan Hayes 6/4, 1 sack; Isaac Satterlee 3/6; Wyatt Dooley 3/5; Jake Johnson 0/5; Landon Engelman 2/2, 1 INT; Matt Hill 2/2; Craig Bertolino 1/3; Braeston Brummet 3/1, 1 sack; Connor Overby 2/0; Tanner Woolard 1/1; Cameron Engelhart 0/2; Nolan Ernst 1/0; Cooper Bertolino 1/0, 1 sack.
Record: Nokomis (0-1).