WOOD RIVER – Coming off of one of the better seasons in recent memory, Garry Herron and his East Alton-Wood River football team aren’t exactly expecting to run it back.

The program graduated a whopping 16 seniors last season, primarily starters.

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“We’re a lot younger,” Herron said after practice Thursday evening.

“A little inexperienced at the varsity level, we only have two or three guys with varsity experience, but even our JV guys have been playing junior since they were freshmen. Our guys have had pretty good competition since being in high school.”

According to Herron, the bulk of his team is freshmen and juniors. The team had 18 freshmen come out so far this year looking to fill the void that was the 2023 graduating class.

With that being said, a playoff appearance isn’t totally off the table.

“It's definitely going to be tougher, just with that inexperience factor of guys that haven’t been in that situation before,” Herron said. “Those seniors last year had two seasons before that where almost everybody played varsity, so they had a lot of experience. It’s going to be different, more different than anything.”

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Last year’s team won their first four games before ending the regular season at 6-3, good enough to play in Week 10. They eventually lost on the road at Coal City to end the season 6-4 overall. It was the first time since 2004 the Oilers started off the season 4-0.

Herron recognizes that his program is now going through a rebuild, and just has one goal, to be competitive.

“Our numbers are okay, our compete level is all right as of right now, but our kids are practicing hard, and they’ve been going at it since the end of May. A lot of these kids out here tonight have been here all summer long, so that’s definitely going to help them come week one. We just got to keep working on being competitive and being aggressive and I think we’ll be just fine.”

The team will wrap up week one of practice with a special midnight training session on Friday. According to Herron, it’ll be a quick one-hour hitting session under the lights on the main field.

He said that it’s been a tradition for nearly 10 years and that the players really enjoy it.

The Oiler’s schedule is mainly similar to last season with two exceptions, Week 1 and Week 3, both of which happen to be Saturday afternoon games against Gateway STEM and Marquette Catholic.

Wood River’s complete schedule goes as follows:

  • Saturday, August 26 @ Gateway STEM - Noon
  • Friday, September 1 vs. Civic Memorial – 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, September 9 @ Marquette Catholic – 1 p.m.
  • Friday, September 15 @ Salem – 7 p.m.
  • Friday, September 22 vs. Breese Central – 7 p.m.
  • Friday, September 29 @ Columbia – 7 p.m.
  • Friday, October 6 vs. Freeburg – 7 p.m.
  • Friday, October 13 @ Roxana – 7 p.m.
  • Friday, October 20 vs. Red Bud – 7 p.m.

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