BELLEVILLE — Hoping to take that next step as a football program, the Belleville West Maroons got tripped up by Oswego East in the first round of Class 7A playoffs.
Running back Kalil Driver scored all three of Oswego East's touchdowns as the Wolves beat the Maroons 21-14 on Saturday.
Driver had touchdown runs of 2 and 1 yards, and he also caught an 18-yard touchdown pass.
The Maroons ended their season at 7-3.
"I'm proud of the effort of our guys stepping in through adversity, but I'm not happy with us not winning in the playoffs,'' said West coach Cameron Pettus, whose team played the second half of the season without starting quarterback Sherand Boyd. "We have to take that next step as a program, and we have to win in the playoffs. We have to expect to win in the playoffs. When you lose like we did, it's very disappointing.''
The Maroons had the ball inside Oswego East territory twice in the final three minutes, but both drives stalled.
The first drive ended at the Oswego 34, but West's Brian Hill stripped the ball out of Driver's hands on the Wolves' first play from scrimmage.
"We talked about ball security before we went back out there and we fumbled,'' Wolves coach Tyson LeBlanc said. "If we get one first down and hang onto the ball, the game is over, and of course we come out the first play ... credit to them, they were able to strip the ball out.''
The Maroons took over at the Oswego 35. They got to the Oswego 19, but then ran out of downs.
"I was thinking, 'We've got a shot here,''' Pettus said of Hill's takeaway. "We still have to put the ball in the end zone. We had our opportunities.''
The Wolves struck for a big gain on their third play from scrimmage. Ryan Garrigus caught a short pass from quarterback Tyler Kennedy and broke a tackle as a he ran down the sideline for 74 yards to the West 4.
Two plays later, Driver ran into the end zone from 2 yards out.
The Maroons tied the score at 7-7 on a 32-yard touchdown run by quarterback TeAntez Anthony, who burst straight up the middle on a keeper.
The Maroons went ahead 14-7 on a 65-yard touchdown pass from Anthony to Hill with 1:22 left in the first quarter.
The Wolves tied the score at 14-14 when Driver caught a screen pass in traffic, but burst loose for an 18-yard touchdown with 6:13 left in the second quarter.
Oswego East, playing with the wind at its backs, put together a 52-yard touchdown drive late in the second quarter.
Driver caught another screen pass for a 36-yard gain to the West 1, and he ran the yard for the touchdown on the next play as the Wolves pulled in front 21-14 with 32 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
"I think they underestimated us a little bit, and for every reason,'' LeBlanc said. "They're coming out of a pretty tough league. Our league is pretty tough, too. I think we put them back on their heels a little bit.
"At halftime when we went in (the locker room), I said, 'They're trying to figure out what to do what right now.'''
Neither team would score in the second half as the game turned into a defensive struggle.
"We knew that if Boyd couldn't play they were going to be a little more one-dimensional, and all year our defense has been good against the run,'' LeBlanc said. "Outside of one game, we've been really solid against the run, especially spread run teams.
"We're a spread team ourselves, so it's something we practice against quite a bit. We did a good job outside of one or two plays of stopping them.''
The Wolves (7-3) advance to play (Frankfort) Lincoln-Way East in the second round of the playoffs.
Driver ended up with 24 carries for 89 yards. Kennedy completed 14 of 30 passes for 233 yards.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.