COLLINSVILLE — There were plenty of nervous moments for Granite City coach Carl Luehmann in the second half Friday.
The Warriors mustered just 22 yards of total offense after halftime, but their recently beleaguered defense proved up to the task in a 21-20 victory over Collinsville in a Southwestern Conference game.
"The defense won the game in the second half, and I'm proud of that," Luehmann said. "We couldn't do a lot (offensively) the second half. They were home and they were fired up the second half. ... We've got to have a better effort out of the offensive line."
Senior Quinton Jackson, sophomore quarterback Gabe Jarman and sophomore Willie Beckwith scored first-half touchdowns and Beckwith sealed the victory with an interception late in the fourth quarter to lift Granite City (2-2 overall, 1-1 SWC).
The Warriors' defense --which had allowed 92 points in their last two games, both losses --made a key fourth-down stop with 5:55 remaining in the game before Beckwith's big interception on Collinsville's next possession.
"We came out here, knuckled down (and got) a one-point win," senior linebacker Anthony Ragnetti said. "The defense played good, the offense played great (and) we had the big pick. We just made tackles and did what we had to do to get the win.
"They beat us last year and we watched our seniors go into that locker room. It's a great feeling to even up that record."
Collinsville coach John Blaylock bemoaned his team's ill-timed mistakes. Granite City recovered a Kahoks fumble that led to Beckwith's 1-yard TD run that put the Warriors ahead 21-14 with 2:20 to play in the first half.
The Kahoks also had an apparent third-quarter touchdown called back by an illegal-shift penalty. They settled for senior Josh Calvin's 26-yard field goal that cut Granite City's lead to 21-20.
"We couldn't pop it in when we needed to pop it in," Blaylock said. "Well, we did pop it in. The illegal-motion penalty pulled us back. ... We scored the touchdown we needed to score, but unfortunately, it got pulled back."
The fumble that led to Beckwith's touchdown was equally critical. Senior quarterback Connor Zabala and junior Jordan Miller got crossed up on the exchange and Warriors senior Juan Gregory fell on the loose ball.
"We've got to stop mistakes," Blaylock said. "That was a very simple inside counter play to our fullback and we had a bad exchange. Then (the Warriors) walk into the half feeling pretty good about themselves."
Collinsville took a 7-0 lead on Miller's 2-yard run on the first possession of the game. Granite City struck back on Jackson's 27-yard run that made it 7-7.
The Kahoks went ahead 14-7 on junior Jamal Wellmaker's 18-yard run late in the first quarter. The Warriors answered two possessions later on Jarman's 1-yard run with 3:45 left in the second quarter.
Beckwith's score made it 21-14, and a pair of 26-yard field goals by Calvin was the Kahoks' offense in the second half.
"It's a good confidence-builder," Luehmann said. "Any time we get a conference win, it's a big boost for the kids. They need stuff like this because they do work hard. A lot of them are still learning football."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.