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August 29, 2014

Maroons come up short against Wildcats

While Belleville West quarterback Sherand Boyd proved slippery all evening, Normal West defensive lineman Drake Bertrand's grip was airtight when it counted.

Bertrand hauled Boyd down for a 1-yard gain on fourth-and-10 from the Wildcats' 14-yard line late in the fourth quarter to preserve Normal West's 30-23 season-opening victory over the Maroons, the No. 8-ranked team in Class 7A.

After TeAntez Anthony returned a kickoff 51 yards to the Normal West 35-yard line, the Maroons drove inside the Wildcats' 20.

A dropped pass on third down led to Bertrand's key tackle when Boyd tried to run up the middle under a heavy rush.

''That last goalline stand was huge for us,'' Normal West coach Darren Hess said. ''We've got a lot of young guys. I just loved how our kids fought that entire game.''

Belleville West kicker Austin Seibert brought the Maroons within 27-23 on a 40-yard field goal with 6:28 to play. On a drive keyed by the running of Dave Watson, the Wildcats countered with a 38-yard Tim O'Brien field goal with three minutes showing.

After turning Belleville West over on downs, Normal West ran off the final two minutes with the help of a Watson rushing first down.

''It was a tough game,'' Maroons coach Cameron Pettus said. ''They came out on top. They were the better team tonight. We just shot ourselves in the foot a couple times. When you're playing a good team, you've got to play good football.''

Normal West opening the scoring on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Arion Worthman to Jack Coakley. Belleville West matched that with a 16-yard scoring run by Antoine Davis.

Watson, who finished with 118 yards on 18 carries, bulled over for a 1-yard touchdown after Mitch Fairfield had found Dante Ruffin with a 22-yard completion down to the 1. The extra point was blocked and the Wildcats led 13-7.

A 29-yard field goal from Seibert, an Oklahoma recruit with a massively powerful leg, cut the Normal West lead to 13-10. Ruffin outleaped a Maroons' defender for a 31-yard TD pass from Worthman with 3:59 left in the first half for a 20-10 Wildcats' margin.

''Dave Watson really played well, and Dante Ruffin had some great catches for us,'' Hess said. ''Arion and Mitch both played really good games. We had a lot of mistakes, but we'll build from it.''

Seibert boomed a 50-yard field goal that cleared the crossbar by at least 10 yards to start the second-half scoring. Normal West seized a 27-13 lead when Worthman took a direct snap up the middle for a 4-yard touchdown plunge.

A 43-yard Anthony kickoff return set up a 23-yard touchdown jaunt by Davis that sliced the Wildcats' lead to 27-20 at the 4:10 mark of the third quarter.

Worthman, a transfer from University High, alternated at quarterback with Fairfield. Worthman completed 9 of 19 passes for 125 yards and one interception, while Fairfield was 5 of 7 for 81 yards.

Davis paced the Maroons with 128 yards rushing on 19 carries, while Boyd netted 112 yards on the ground on 25 attempts.

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