EAST ST. LOUIS — O'Fallon ended a long losing streak against the East St. Louis Flyers on Saturday and Dewayne Hendrix was a big reason why.
One of the nation's top defensive end recruits, Hendrix picked up three sacks and forced two fumbles as the Panthers held on for a 10-6 Southwestern Conference victory.
It was O'Fallon's first on-field win over East St. Louis since Sept. 24, 2004, a 23-20 victory that also was at Clyde C. Jordan Stadium. The Panthers also gained two Illinois High School Association-mandated forfeit wins over the Flyers in 2009.
"This is my first time beating them since I've been at O'Fallon," Hendrix said. "It was really just a big win. We've always wanted to beat them and we've always had the talent to beat them, we just got it done this year."
O'Fallon sophomore Kentrail Moran ran 33 times for 132 yards and sophomore Camden Bauer tossed a 31-yard touchdown pass to Tae'Mon Franklin, but the Panther defense also played a big role in the victory.
"Defensively we were lights out for the most part," O'Fallon coach Brandon Joggerst said. "We got tremendous pressure and were able to get pressure just sending four (rushers), so that got us a little help in the secondary.
"The offense just put enough points up and it became a little bit of a time possession game in the second half just trying to keep it away. I can't say enough about the defense."
The 6-foot-5 265-pound Hendrix collected three of the Panthers' five sacks and also forced two fumbles.
"He just plays hard every down," Joggerst said. "That's what he does. He's not a very vocal kid, he just comes in and puts in a great day's work. We talk about every play, taking it to the limit as much as you can.
"That's the reason why he's as highly rated as he is."
Playing without injured star running back Natereace Strong, the Flyers (1-3 overall, 0-2 in the SWC) were held without an offensive touchdown by O'Fallon's aggressive defensive scheme.
East St. Louis dropped its second Southwestern Conference game in a row, also losing 29-28 last week at Edwardsville, and third straight overall, having fallen to Chicago suburban power Lombard Montini 34-6 in Week 2.
All of O'Fallon's scoring came during a seven-second span late in the first half. The Panthers (3-1, 2-0) got a 37-yard field goal by Tucker McCann with 2:46 remaining before a Hendrix hit on Flyers quarterback Dominic Nelson forced a fumble that was recovered by A.J. Paul-Torres.
Taking over at the East St. Louis 31, the Panthers scored on the next play when Bauer's high pass into the wind was hauled in by Franklin.
The Flyers fought back on a 90-yard punt return for a touchdown by freshman Jeff Thomas, who bounced in and out of traffic before reaching the end zone with 9:05 left in the fourth quarter. Thomas had nearly broken another punt for a TD earlier in the game.
Flyers' coach Darren Sunkett called Thomas' touchdown "electrifying. The kid's been electrifying all year. He's probably been our only bright spot offensively. He's been doing a tremendous job."
The East Side ground game was limited to 60 yards rushing on 27 carries, while Nelson completed only 4-of-12 passes for 31 yards.
"I'm not surprised, they've always had a pretty good defense," Sunkett said when asked about the Panthers' defensive performance. "We just didn't do what we were supposed to do."
Strong's absence hurts, but the Flyers were able to build little consistency on offense.
"We've had problems all year, it's nothing new," Sunkett said. "It's been a constant struggle. I don't know, I guess it's the coaches. I guess we're doing something wrong. It's not us, it's not what we're accustomed to."
Both teams had scoring chances in the first half that ended on an interception.
O'Fallon's Klayton Gettis tipped a ball near the goal line and held on, returning it to the Flyers' 28-yard line. Just as quickly, East Side got the ball back on an interception by Kansas recruit Kyron Watson.
The Flyers' defense slammed the door shut on Moran and the Panthers for much of the second half.
"It's pretty ironic we had Darius (Mosely) here today and some of the other guys who were here two years ago," Joggerst said. "We were up 13 points with four minutes left and lost by one, so with them obviously it's never over 'til it's over. It's always special to come here and win. They have a great tradition and Darren does a great job."