BELLEVILLE — When the Althoff Crusaders needed a big play Friday night, they called the number of sophomore receiver Keenen Young.
Young faked a defender at the line, then finished off a fade route by leaping high to grab a 17-yard touchdown pass from Eric Mertens with 3:36 remaining as Althoff edged Collinsville 23-21 in the season-opener for both teams.
The game-winner came on a fourth-and-17 play not long after the Kahoks had taken a 21-17 lead.
"(The defender) was playing up close, so I gave him a little move at the line," said Young, who finished the night with five catches for 137 yards and two TDs. "I had a little space and my quarterback put it in there. We were battling cramps like crazy, but we fought through and found a way to get that victory."
That play capped a 10-play, 79-yard scoring drive that included a 40-yard pass from Mertens to Luke Frazier that got the Crusaders to the 9-yard line.
After a sack by Collinsville's Cody Reynolds pushed Althoff back to the 17 on fourth down, Young came up with a little more magic on a fade route from Mertens.
"We've got a lot of good skills guys, but we feel like he's that guy that's a matchup problem for everybody," Althoff coach Ken Turner said. "He was able to gut it out on that series and make the play that we thought he could make."
The play spoiled the debut of Collinsville coach John Blaylock.
"I didn't think our coverage was horrible, it had to thread the needle and it did," Blaylock said. "He made a great catch and got his foot in. Not much we can do there, but we can't let them drive that ball down the field."
Mertens completed 14-of-29 passes for 270 yards and three TDs.
It was a bitter defeat for the Kahoks, who wiped out a 17-6 deficit and came back to take the lead on a 21-yard TD run by Jordan Miller with 8:37 to play.
That capped a huge second half by Miller, who finished with 150 yards on 17 carries. The Kahoks wore down the Crusaders on the ground in the second half with Miller, Jamal Wellmaker and Devin Burch doing much of the damage.
Burch scored on a 21-yard run early in the fourth quarter and Wellmaker added the two-point conversion.
Collinsville got the ball back one more time, but the drive stalled at midfield.
"I think the kids saw enough in the first half, they started believing and having a little faith," said Blaylock, whose team ran for more than 340 yards. "Then in the second half we rolled up an awful lot of yards on the ground against a very good football team. Obviously we didn't finish, we've got to learn to do that."
Mertens passed for 186 yards in the first half, including three long gains on tosses to Young.
A 22-yard field goal by Donovan Gagen put Althoff on top 3-0, but the Kahoks answered right away on a 43-yard touchdown run by Wellmaker.
The extra-point try was wide and Collinsville led 6-3.
The back-and-forth scoring continued when Althoff scored on its next possession, with Mertens hooking up with Young on a 43-yard TD pass.
An interception by Frazier helped set up a 1-yard TD plunge by Mertens early in the second quarter as the Crusaders led 17-6.