You had to be a pretty astute Western Big Six football fan to figure the Moline-Alleman game in Week 8 of the 2017 football season would be such an important game.
Both teams finished 2-7 a year ago with Moline having only one win in the Western Big Six.
But sure enough, Friday's game at Almquist Field at Rock Island High School Stadium will have major conference title implications.
If Moline (5-2, 4-0) wins, it’s the outright league champion. If Alleman (5-2, 3-1) wins, it earns a share of the title with Moline and likely Quincy, which also has one loss heading into its game at United Township on Friday.
Making Moline’s rise to earning at least a share of the Big Six title even more impressive is that the Maroons started 0-2 and lost their opener 49-21 to DeKalb at Browning Field.
Mike Morrissey is in his first year as Moline’s head coach, but second on the staff. He was a head coach for six seasons at three stops while producing five playoff teams prior to coming home to the Quad-Cities.
All of that experience had to help. After that 0-2 start, he kept the faith and made sure his coaching staff took a positive approach.
“We talked about it after our second game,” he said. “There’s no reason we can’t win out the rest of the way and be competitive, and get after it and make a run at things.
“Obviously at that time, we had a lot to work on and still have to work on to get there, but it wasn’t an unthinkable thing for us.”
It also was believable to his players, who thought they were playing on a good team as far back as the preseason.
“I knew even before our Week 1 game,” said defensive lineman Tommy Parrish, who’s having a strong season for the Maroons. “I believed we could be a pretty good team because of the athletes we have and all the morning lifting during the year and over the summer. I think that helped us a lot to come together as a team and strengthen ourselves to be a good football team.”
Having a coach like Morrissey did not hurt either.
“He’s always really motivational,” said Parrish of Morrissey. “He’s really precise on what to do. He knows what to do and when to do it.
“He’s a nice guy and good guy and just a great coach overall.”
Morrissey made some moves offensively, concentrating more on the run before balancing things out offensively a bit more of late.
“I think it was more just kind of figuring out what our identity was,” Morrissey said.
The Maroons have gone to a more unbalanced look that he believes made them more difficult to defend. And with the passing game improving it’s made them even more difficult to defend, Morrissey said.
Alleman coach Todd Depoorter admits he was hopeful at the beginning of the season. Alleman started 2-0, so that helped.
“You have to have the same goals that we always have,” he said, meaning a Big Six title and reaching the playoffs. “The fact of the matter is players make plays. And at each point in time during the season, the kids have stepped up and made those plays. It’s hard to predict that.”
Key factors for the Pioneers this year include better tackling, a major issue a year ago, and improved play out of Alleman’s secondary.
“They are extremely well coached,” he said. “And they are doing a great job.”
A more experienced coaching staff has also given the team a lift he said.
“We’ve hired coaches who have helped kids with individual skills,” he added. “It’s been a big part of it.”
As for Friday, he believes containing Moline’s explosiveness will be a huge key.
“Rock Island had two or three times first downs than (Moline) did,” he said of Moline’s win two weeks back. “But Moline had explosive plays. And that’s what they did against Quincy. They are very explosive. We need to limit those big plays.”
Moline coach Mike Morrissey sees Alleman as a disciplined team that has been tested by good teams.
“For us, it’s making sure we take care of the little things that we can control,” he said. “Don’t worry about what happened last year (a 35-20 Moline loss). None of that stuff matters.”
Week of the QB: Did we call it the year of the running back in last week’s column? Likely so, but last week was definitely the week of the quarterback.
- Alleman’s Sam Mattecheck rushed for three touchdowns including TDs of 57 and 44 yards while rushing for 194 yards on 18 carries.
- Rock Island’s Nickolas Roessler also rushed for three touchdowns on runs of 35, 8 and 8 yards, while completing 4-for-7 passes for 39 yards in addition to kicking a 38-yard field goal in the second quarter.
- Moline’s Eric Maffie threw the game-winning score late in the fourth quarter for 31 yards to Xavier Scritchfield in addition to tossing a TD pass of 40 yards to Javon Foy in the second quarter. He finished 5-for-12 for 142 yards while also rushing for 53 yards on nine carries.
Each led their team to wins, so it was definitely the week of the quarterback in the Big Six.