It all begins at the line of scrimmage. With two former offensive linemen as head coaches, it was pretty easy to decide where the game was going to be decided Friday at Almquist Field in Rock Island.
Rushing for 308 yard as a team, Alleman controlled the line of scrimmage most of the night when it had the ball en route to a 35-21 win over Rock Island in the Western Big Six opener for both teams.
“There was huge holes every time I touched the ball to run,” said Alleman fullback John West, who rushed for 142 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns. “After last week, we were really fired up. We had a good week of practice. Conference opener, rivalry, you want to show up for that.”
Alleman (3-1, 1-0) also got 45 yards rushing, a touchdown and a touchdown pass (to Josh Timm of 17 yards) from quarterback Sam Mattecheck. Mattecheck also intercepted a pass in the final three minutes to put the win on ice.
“It was all our line tonight,” Mattecheck said. “We played good team football, good, hard Alleman football. I think we won the battle up front, and I think that’s what won it for us.”
The Pioneer ground attack ruined Rock Island’s homecoming and along with 13 penalties for more than 100 yards, left Rock Island coach Ben Hammer exasperated.
“They are a physical football team,” Hammer said. “Disappointing in the loss, no. Disappointed in the way we handled adversity, yes. You are going to lose football games.
“Alleman is a tremendously physical football team. They had a great game plan, but when adversity struck we did not respond.”
Hammer refused to comment on the officiating. “We got to make sure we do our job.”
Alleman, to its credit, responded after Rock Island scored to close the gap to 21-14 early in the third quarter. West went in from 11 yards out with 8:12 left in the fourth quarter, capping an eight play, 58-yard drive.
“I think it shows a lot,” West said. “Our offense shows up when we need it. Our defense shows up when we need it. When you have that, your are going to be a good team.”
“We knew we had to weather the storm a little bit and we stuck with it,”Mattecheck said. “We played good team football.”
The Pioneers also got a clutch catch of an onside kick by Mikey Scarpinato late in the fourth quarter and a Mattecheck interception. The latter came after a Timm TD run of 15 yards, capping a 7-play, 57-yard drive after the failed onside kick.
In the first half, Alleman jumped to a 21-7 halftime lead thanks to strong offensive line play and a strong rushing attack that netted 183 yards.
West led the way on a night when six backs contributed, carrying the ball 11 times in the first 24 minutes for 74 yards and one touchdown.
Rock Island marched 98 yards on 14 plays for its lone first-half score, an 8-yard burst by Davion Wilson over the left side. Rock Island had 76 yards rushing in the first half and 66 yards passing.
"I think the main thing we talked about last week was responsibility," Alleman coach Todd Depoorter said. "Fundamentally we put that behind us and learned from our tough situations."