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By Andrew Harner

The Vandalia High School football team on Friday night opens its season at East Alton-Wood River.


Vandalia, which finished last season 4-5 and defeated the Oiliers, 24-21, with a last-second field goal in week one, return several starters this season, including senior running back Levi Ulmer and senior linebacker Blake Mills.

They, combined with the rest of the veterans, are expected to build a strong core that will allow the Vandals to better their 2010 record and move back into the top half of the South Central Conference.

“I think our kids know what we can do,” said longtime coach John Stout, “and I don’t mind sneaking up on people.”

The Oilers, which have gone 0-18 the past two seasons, are under the direction of a new coach, Travis Williams, who graduated from EAWR and concluded a playing career at the University of Illinois in 2006.

Quarterback Aaron Ragusa, a junior, and senior linebacker Scott Gibbs are back for the Oilers, and the team will be looking to get revenge on the Vandals, Williams said.

“This year, we have a little chip on our shoulder,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “These kids are more knowledgeable about the game, and they are hungry.”

The game is set to begin at 7 p.m.

Weather report

The weather report looks promising for Friday’s game.

In the afternoon, the high in Wood River is forecasted at 85 degrees under sunny skies.

The hourly forecast from www.wetherunderground.com listed a temperature of 79 degrees for 7 p.m., with a light breeze.

Last time

Senior Daniel Bell kicked a game-winning, 26-yard field goal with 4 seconds left in the game to give Vandalia a 24-21 win.

Last five

2010: Vandalia 24, EAWR 21
2009: Vandalia 40, EAWR 0
2008: Vandalia 37, EAWR 0
2007: Vandalia 27, EAWR 19
2006: N/A

Preseason predictions

In a coaches poll published by The Dispatch, Vandalia was selected to finish seventh in the SCC, and EAWR was selected to finish last.

Greenville, Carlinville, Marquette Catholic and Pana are all expected to battle for top honors in the SCC.