CAHOKIA — Desperation seems to bring out the best in Althoff Crusaders.
Faced with a must-win situation for the second straight week, Althoff got a pair of touchdown runs from Malik Easley on Friday and went on for a 25-6 win over Cahokia in a South Seven Conference game.
Senior quarterback Eric Mertens added an 80-yard scoring pass to Keenen Young, while Easley scored on runs of 9 and 7 yards for Althoff, which broke open the game with two scores in a four-minute stretch during the third quarter.
Following a poor snap from center on a Cahokia punt attempt which gave Althoff the ball inside the Comanches 40-yard line, Easley scored from 9-yards out, stretching Althoff's lead to 22-6.
Donovan Gagen then booted a 27-yard field goal for the Crusaders (4-4), who kept their playoff hopes alive with the win.
Althoff closes its regular season next week with a nonconference game at Triad.
"That's the way we've approached the last two weeks. Each week has been a must-win game and the kids have responded,'' Crusaders coach Ken Turner said. "Cahokia was in the same situation as we were tonight and every time we play, we know it's going to be a battle.
"We just told the kids it's going to be about will and simply who wants it more. We showed a lot of will out there tonight.''
Cahokia, which got a touchdown from sophomore Tyron Lyons, proved to be its own worst enemy. The Comanches committed four turnovers and also shot itself in the foot several other times with missed assignments and penalties.
"It always seems like we're playing for something when we play Althoff. We're going to have to do something different earlier in the season,'' Cahokia coach Antwyne Golliday said. "We did some good things, but you can't turn the football over four times.''
Althoff's defense had something to do with the Comanches' offensive woes.
"Keenan (Hogan) is one of the best running backs in the area,'' Turner said. "We felt if we could slow him down just a little bit, it would be a factor in the game. We did that."
Battling for its playoff life, Althoff broke out its entire offensive arsenal in the first half. The Crusaders converted on a pair of fourth-and-long situations and made good on a two-point conversion following its first score.
But as usual, it was the strong right arm of Mertens which keyed the Crusaders' offense.
On Althoff's second possession, and buried at its own 20, the Mertens-Young combination hooked up.
Mertens found Young open on the right side of the field. After catching the pass, Young broke three tackles and went in for an 80-yard scoring play.
The two-point conversion was good and with 8:39 remaining in the quarter, Althoff led 8-0.
Mertens, who was 9-of=22 for 175 yards in the first half, then set up Althoff's next score with a 31-yard completion to Austin Mueller.
Easley made it 15-0 seconds later with a 7-yard run.
The Crusaders defense did its part early, holding Cahokia to a minus-22 yards of offense on its first four possessions.
Cahokia finally got its running game going late in the first quarter. With Hogan gaining 27 of his 38 first-half yards, the Comanches marched 48 yards on 12 plays to get back in the game.
Lyons made it 15-6 on a 1-yard run with 9:06 left in the first half.