Fresh off big win, Triad set to face Highland

News-DemocratSeptember 23, 2013 

The number of unbeaten metro-east football teams continues to dwindle, but several of those powerhouses show no signs of slowing down.

Belleville West (4-0) and Edwardsville (4-0) have displayed the best offenses and defenses in the Southwestern Conference while Highland (4-0) is taking dead aim on its first Mississippi Valley Conference title since 1989.

The Bulldogs took apart Jerseyville 45-18 on Friday, a team many felt was the only one that could challenge Highland this season. Awaiting Highland this week is a date with archrival Triad (1-3), which stunned Civic Memorial with a thrilling 41-32 comeback victory to claim its first win.

Trailing 28-14 after three quarters, the Knights roared back with four fourth-quarter touchdowns. Adam Nelson led the way with a 90-yard TD run and 40-yard TD pass, while Jason Barbour and Bryce Wiedemann also ran for TDs.

Civic Memorial scored with 2 minutes, 50 seconds remaining on a 63-yard TD pass from Kirkpatrick to Caleb Buhs, but the 2-point conversion pass failed that would have tied it and Triad tacked on a late score.

Triad withstood a 415-yard, two TD passing performance by Civic Memorial's Kyle Kirkpatrick to nail down the win. The Knights rolled up 380 yards rushing on 50 carries led by Barbour (133 yards, 22 carries) and Nelson (125 yards, two carries).

Columbia (4-0) and Carlyle (4-0) have been the best in the Cahokia Conference. Something has to give Friday when former Carlyle quarterback Scott Horner faces his old assistant coach, Carlyle coach Randy Dooley.

O'Fallon still learning

Despite a 10-6 road victory at East St. Louis, the O'Fallon Panthers (3-1) are still a work in progress.

"We definitely have seen improvement each week and there's a lot of places where we're starting kids that are still trying to figure out what to do," said O'Fallon coach Brandon Joggerst, who has talented sophomores at quarterback and running back and underclassmen at other positions. "We've seen some flashes of things, which is positive, but we've got to be more consistent."

Sunkett needs to see more

East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett has a talent gem in freshman wide receiver Jeff Thomas. Thomas returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown against O'Fallon, conjuring up memories of former Flyer stars Homer Bush and Terry Hawthorne with his flashy moves and on-field confidence.

But right now, Sunkett is more concerned with veteran players that need to perform better to get the 1-3 Flyers back in the win column.

Three-game losing streaks don't go over well for a tradition-rich program with seven state championships. Since 1977, the Flyers have endured two losses or fewer 21 times.

They lost a total of three games in each of the last two seasons, going 9-3 in 2011 and 8-3 last season.

"Right now I think our main guys, the guys with the (scholarship) offers, they just haven't put out the way they should," Sunkett said. "When you get offers, you have to show that you are that type of athlete that the college coaches are looking for. I think our kids are laid back; we've already got the scholarship offer and think we don't have to put out the 110-percent effort that we have in the past.

"They have to realize those scholarship offers can go away just as quick as they came by you."

Area official will be missed

Many in the metro-east football officiating community are mourning the loss of one of their own after John "Fred" Betten died of cancer on Sunday.

Betten, also the O'Fallon Police Chief, stopped officiating several years ago because of his illness. Before that was a regular on the regional high school and college circuit.

"This is something that I wanted to do, I would do it even if they didn't pay me," Betten said when profiled in a News-Democrat feature story. "I don't play golf, I don't fish or hunt, but this is something I love to do."

A former Belleville West lineman, Betten enjoyed the on-field and off-the-field camaraderie of officiating.

"John was just as nice as can be to everybody," said one of his former crew members, Southwestern Illinois Officials Association President Jim Broadway.

Broadway recalled the time he went to watch his son, who played quarterback at Granite City, in an underclass game at O'Fallon.

When Broadway showed up at the game, he was a bit surprised to see Betten officiating in a game where his own son, John Betten, was the starting quarterback.

"Here's a guy that's from O'Fallon, and the police chief in O'Fallon, and he's working the game," Broadway recalled. "At halftime, he saw me and called me over and said 'Somebody didn't show up, I'm just doing this as a favor and they're not paying me.' He was just as professional as could be, just like always. I always enjoyed working with him."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or on Twitter @NormSanders

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