BELLEVILLE — Two of the staunchest defenses in the Southwestern Conference will collide at 1 p.m. Saturday when the Belleville East Lancers play at Belleville West.
East (2-1 overall, 1-0 SWC) has permitted a league-low 30 points; the Maroons (3-0, 1-0), ranked eighth in the Class 7A state poll, have allowed 37.
"Our defense is pretty good," said Lancers coach Tim Funk. "Both offenses can move the ball, but the defenses are what people are talking about after the first three games. West's offense has been much more explosive than ours, so it will be interesting."
Maroons coach Cameron Pettus is concerned about the Lancers' suffocating defense and their running game that has been led by junior Demarius Ward (328 yards, two touchdowns).
"They've got some great-looking guys on defense," Pettus said. "They run a defense very similar to ours. And on offense, they've got some big 'hosses' up front. They've got guys who can take it to the house. It's going to be a challenge in all three phases of the game."
Today's game: Belleville East (2-1, 1-0) at Belleville West (3-0, 1-0), 1 p.m.
Last meeting: West ripped East 38-6 last Sept. 22 at West, breaking open a tight game with a 24-point outburst in the third quarter.
Lancers to get lift: Senior Brandon Mason, who led the Lancers with 676 yards rushing last season, is expected to see his first action of the season after suffering a broken leg in June.
"He's been practicing the last couple of weeks and looks real good," Funk said. "If he's able to go and give us some key carries a few times, that's going to make us that much better.
"But Demarius Ward and Lawrence Butler have done a good job picking up the slack for when Mason's been gone. Everyone knows we like to run the football. We're going to have to be able to control the football and keep the ball out of their hands."
Players to watch: West junior quarterback Sherand Boyd is a threat to run or throw, and tailbacks Antoine Davis (342 yards, three TDs) and Brian Hill (306 yards, seven TDs) have been outstanding, as has junior receiver Brendan Saak (nine catches, 204 yards, two TDs). On defense, linebackers Hill and senior Tori Millender are game-changers. East prefers to run, but if senior quarterback Ryan McDonald puts the ball in the air, chances are he's targeting seniors Parker Hendricks (five catches, 76 yards, one TD) or Josiah Bergt (six catches, 65 yards, one TD).
"Sherand has played well," Pettus said. "Our skills guys have really stepped up and done a good job. We've got some new faces on defense, but we're anchored with Tori and Brian and (defensive back) La'Vante (Smith).
Field position: Special teams could loom large in the outcome. Both teams have punters that can pin down opponents and kickers that deliver if necessary.
"With any football game, that's a key," Funk said of the field-position battle. "They have a very good kicker and punter and I think we have a good kicker and punter. Special teams will have a big part of it."
West junior Austin Seibert averages just under 44 yards per punt and already has five field goals.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.