O'FALLON — O'Fallon broke numerous passing and receiving records Saturday, moving the ball up and down the field with regularity. The Panthers were up 14-0 four minutes into the game.
But there was one more hill to climb and it was a big one in Belleville West senior safety Brian Hill, who had two of the Maroons' five interceptions, eight tackles and scored three touchdowns during a defensively-inspired 55-38 Southwestern Conference victory.
Hill's scintillating 97-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the second quarter wiped out a 21-17 O'Fallon lead and West (5-0)never trailed again.
He added a 19-yard TD run three minutes later and another pick in the second half as part of West's heaping helping of seven turnovers.
"Brian Hill's just ... he's Superman," proclaimed West linebacker Tori Millender, who had a 45-yard interception return for a TD late in the third quarter. "He just adds another incredible dimension to out defense, a playmaking safety with range of sideline to sideline and (from) each stand to stand.
"He's got great hands, great run-stuffer, everything. He's perfect. I love having him back there behind me, having my back."
West coach Cameron Pettus believes Hill is a potential Division I playmaking safety.
"He's a stud, absolutely," said Pettus, whose team is 3-0 in the SWC. "Then we still had him on offense to throw him the ball and we could run him, too."
O'Fallon sophomore Camden Bauer broke the school record for passing yardage, completing 32-of-52 passes for 555 yards and record-tying five TDs.
However, he also threw five picks and two of those were returned for TDs. Others led to West points, but the Maroons' defense didn't limit its damage just to Bauer.
It controlled the line of scrimmage as well with three sacks and forced two fumbles by Panthers' back Kentrail Moran.
"The DBs, D-line, LBs ... everybody fought back, that was the biggest thing," Millender said. "We were down 14-0 and we just came back and won. It was a total-team effort."
O'Fallon's Klayton Gettis (11 catches, 164 yards) and Tae'Mon Franklin (nine receptions for an impressive 215 yards) also rewrote some school records. Patrick Riley had seven catches for 143 yards.
West ran for 126 yards and threw for 87, collecting only six first downs to O'Fallon's 13. O'Fallon's Dillon Weiss even recovered two onside kicks.
Add Bauer's fantasy football-pleasing stats to that equation and someone not watching the game would have to assume O'Fallon (3-2, 2-1) won.
"How many turnovers did they have? That's the key," Pettus said. "They're a great team, they've got some talent and they're tough to do a lot of things on. Offensively we worked for everything we got against them."
O'Fallon allowed only six points to East St. Louis seven days earlier, but turnovers and field position helped turn the tide considerably.
"It was a back and forth game early with a lot of scoring, but I'm sure coming in none of us would have thought this would be the scenario," O'Fallon coach Brandon Joggerst said.
"Field position was a little bit of a battle and turnovers at inopportune times. Give them credit, they made plays when they had to -- and they were big plays. That was the key difference."
Franklin had 142 yards in receiving and two TDs in the first four minutes, taking short passes on scoring runs of 80 and 62 yards. West tied it on two TD passes by Sherand Boyd, but Bauer tossed a third TD pass in the first quarter --a 45-yarder to Patrick Riley.
West rode the momentum of Hill's interception return and a fumble recovery by N'adja Sherrill that set up a 19-yard TD run by Hill.
Boyd sprinted 34 yards for a TD run late in the third quarter and less than two minutes later Millender returned an interception for another score.
The Panthers kept fighting back, but couldn't overcome the turnovers.