COLLINSVILLE • Tristan Underwood needed a spark.
It didn't take long for him to find one.
A sophomore defensive end and offensive guard for the Alton football team, Underwood didn't feel sharp Saturday afternoon when the Redbirds resumed their Southwestern Conference matchup with Collinsville. Severe weather Friday night caused the game to be postponed with 2 minutes and 23 seconds to play in the second quarter.
On the first play Saturday afternoon, Underwood pounced on a bobbled punt in Collinsville's end zone for his first varsity touchdown and jump-started Alton to a 35-6 win at Collinsville.
“I felt like I came out a bit dull, but as soon as I got it everything sprouted,” Underwood said. “It was a great game.”
Alton (2-1 overall, 1-0 league) dominated on both sides of the ball in the dry conditions. Junior quarterback Andrew Jones, who completed 2 of 7 passes in Friday night's downpour, came back Saturday to hit on 9 of 12 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown. Not battling Mother Nature made life that much easier for Alton.
“It's a lot better when we can get our receivers in open space,” Jones said. “We got to get to the outside on the bubble (screens) and when we ran the bubbles it opened up the passing lanes deep.”
Jones found junior receiver Lonnie Tate for a 42-yard touchdown pass. He also connected with senior receiver Ahmad Sanders five times for 68 yards.
“It makes a difference for our offense. We have a lot of weapons out wide and we try to spread the ball out,” Alton coach Eric Dickerson said. “When you're running all the time they're able to stack the box, so we were able to spread them out. It worked out pretty well today.”
Alton sophomore running back Tim Johnson was the workhorse Friday night as he rushed for 170 yards on 15 carries. He finished with 28 carries and 227 yards rushing.
The Redbirds got a pair of rushing scores. Jones dove in for a 3-yard score. Senior linebacker Izeal Terrell, all 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds of him, plowed in for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal at the 1 with 4:12 to play to make it 35-7.
“We had drives we should have scored at the beginning of the game (on Friday),” Jones said. “We got stopped twice on the goal line. We came back harder today.”
Collinsville (1-2, 0-1) hung tough through much of Friday's first half but was sandbagged on Saturday right out of the chute, beginning with the bobbled punt that turned into an Alton touchdown.
“I think it was my nightmare, that cannot happen on that first play,” Collinsville first-year coach Mike Popovich said. “We have a Division I long snapper. It was a perfect storm. It just happens.”
The Kahoks tried to rally on their ensuing drive. Junior quarterback Chris Chi found senior receiver Ron Woods for a 22-yard pass deep into Alton territory. Junior running back Kameron Sloan scampered for 11 yards to give the Kahoks first-and-goal at the Alton 3 with just under a minute to play in the first half.
Collinsville ran three plays but couldn't score. Sloan took a pitch to the left side that was just short of the end zone as time expired in the second quarter.
Chi put Collinsville on the board when he scrambled 35 yards on fourth-and-11 for a touchdown with 5:25 to play in the third to cut Alton's lead to 21-6. But the Kahoks wouldn't threaten again.
Alton intercepted a Chi pass to the end zone and then turned Collinsville over on downs when it held deep in Kahoks' territory.
Despite taking a 15-hour break between Friday night's postponement and Saturday afternoon's restart, Alton was on point.
“It was a little worrisome. We get so used to a routine of practice Monday through Thursday and playing on Friday and Saturday practice,” Dickerson said. “I'm very proud of the way they came ready today. They showed up ready to go.”