BELLEVILLE — Junior quarterback Tim Parks and many of the young Mascoutah Indians grew up Friday night at Lindenwood Stadium.
Parks threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Alex Oltmann with 32 seconds left as the Indians came from behind to beat the Althoff Crusaders 26-24.
The Indians trailed 24-14 in the fourth quarter, but scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes to pull out the win.
"Our kids hung in there," Mascoutah coach Scott Battas said. "We had a lot of reasons to maybe at the time to get a little down, but the kids fought hard. I'm just so proud of the way they executed at the end of the game. That's a tough situation to execute in with all the pressure and a first-year quarterback, but they answered the bell."
Parks threw for 265 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 111 yards and one touchdown.
"Our kids are growing up every day, and tonight Timmy took some more steps," Battas said. "He's a pretty good player."
The Indians improved to 2-1 and snapped a four-game losing streak against the Crusaders.
After the game, Battas gave a brief talk and then let his players rush down to the corner of the field to celebrate with the Indians cheering section.
"It was looking really rough and we were getting frustrated, but somehow we did it," Parks said. "We've been talking about this team since we've been in the fourth grade. We've all grown up together, and it's becoming a reality right now. It's the best feeling."
Oltmann fumbled trying to pitch the ball on the opening kickoff of the second half, but the senior made amends with the touchdown reception and then an interception that sealed the victory with 16 seconds remaining.
"He's one of our smartest kids, and there's a lot of times on the field that we want him involved in what is going on," Battas said. "He made a mistake there -- he knows it -- but's also the guy who ices it with the big interception there at the end, too. Those things have a funny way of working themselves out."
The Crusaders fell to 1-2. They committed four turnovers, including three fumbles in Mascoutah territory.
"I talked all week about not taking these guys lightly, and I feel like we came our flat," Althoff coach Ken Turner said. "That's my fault. We picked up the momentum in the second half. They didn't quit, to their credit, but we made far too many mistakes to win this game, far too many."
The Crusaders received the opening kickoff and marched to the Mascoutah 5 before a fumble gave the ball to the Indians.
Althoff still got on the scoreboard first thanks to a 27-yard field by Donovan Gagen early in the second quarter.
Parks threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to junior Barry Richardson and then ran 7 yards around the right side for a TD to put the Indians ahead 14-3 with 2:46 left in the second quarter.
The Crusaders put together a 10-play drive that was capped by 14-yard touchdown pass from Eric Mertens to Luke Frazier with 20 seconds left in the first half.
The touchdown cut Mascoutah's advantage to 14-10.
The Crusaders pulled in front 17-14 on a 2-yard TD pass from Mertens to Young after Oltmann's miscue on the kickoff.
Mertens threw his third touchdown pass of the game -- a 10-yarder to Austin Mueller -- to put Althoff ahead 24-14 with 11:49 left in the fourth quarter.
Parks' 8-yard touchdown pass to Richardson closed the gap to 24-20 with three minutes on the clock.
The Indians' final drive started at their own 24 with 1:55 to go. The key play of the drive was a 28-yard pass from Parks to Andy Norrenberns that moved the ball to the Althoff 8.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.