Playoff primer: Central’s stout defense squares off with Althoff’s electric offense


The Camp Point Central football team is looking to return to the state semifinals, but will have to sidestep Belleville Althoff in Saturday's Class 1A state quarterfinal in Camp Point, Ill. | Photo courtesy Mike Pritchard

CAMP POINT, Ill. — This isn’t the first time in the postseason the Camp Point Central football team has faced Belleville Althoff.

In 2012, the Panthers reached the state semifinals for the first time in program history, only to lose 28-7 to Althoff in the Class 2A semis on Lindenwood-Belleville’s candy-stripe field. The Panthers have been a Class 1A school every season since and have not played a private school in the postseason since then either.

That changes Saturday when Althoff travels to Camp Point for a Class 1A state quarterfinal., Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Here is a closer look at what to expect from the quarterfinal matchup:

Belleville Althoff (10-1) at Camp Point Central (11-0), 2 p.m.

Radio: No broadcasts planned

Livestream: Central Illinois Sports on YouTube

Scouting the Crusaders: Belleville Althoff will bring more highly recruited players to Camp Point than any team that has ever played there. Dierre Hill Jr., a 5-foot-11, 180-pound junior speedster, has rushed for 1,660 yards and 26 touchdowns and is considered a top-100 recruit nationally in the Class of 2025. He already holds offers from Notre Dame, Oregon, Michigan and a host of schools throughout the Midwest. Antwan Strong has rushed for 1,160 yards and 22 touchdowns, including a season-high 369 yards against Tuscola. Quarterback Jayden Ellington has thrown for 1,489 yards and 16 touchdowns with five interceptions. Charleston Coldon has 37 catches for 832 yards and 13 touchdowns. Coldon, a junior, has received an offer from Iowa State to play cornerback. Jason Dowell, a 6-foot-4, 275-pound junior defensive lineman, holds offers from Oregon, Auburn, USC and others. The Crusaders are averaging 47.5 points per game and have not scored fewer than 38 points in any victory.

Scouting the Panthers: Central’s balance and explosiveness offensively has overshadowed the defense, but the Panthers have been as stingy as ever. They are allowing 6.8 points per game with four shutouts. In two meetings this season, Calhoun, which Central beat in last week’s second round, scored 36 of the 75 points Central has allowed. Junior linebacker Elijah Genenbacher leads the Panthers with 87 total tackles, while sophomore lineman Kadin Niekamp has 72 tackles and 20 tackles for loss, while senior lineman Reese Wilkey has 59 tackles and 10 tackles for loss. Central senior running back Drew Paben is on the verge of a 1,000-yard season with 984 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns. Genenbacher has 697 yards and 17 touchdowns as the Panthers have rushed for 3,429 yards and 62 touchdowns. Senior quarterback Nick Moore has thrown for 507 yards and six touchdowns, completing 64 percent of his passes.

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