There was little pomp and circumstance but still plenty of excitement Friday as Althoff unveiled the brand-new George Martz Field behind the school on West Main Street.
But the Centralia Orphans, motivated by a physical South Seven Conference loss last season, spoiled the house-warming party by shocking the Crusaders 21-14.
Senior quarterback JaVon Williams seemed to make all the big plays for the Orphans, having a hand in all three of their touchdowns including the game-winner on a 9-yard run with 1:58 remaining.
“We definitely remembered it,” said Williams, referring to that 40-21 loss of a year ago. “They came into our place and spoiled their first game on our new field — made a big deal about it — and we just wanted to pay them back.”
Williams, who rushed for 166 yards and passed for 257 more Friday, said the Orphans’ confidence grew as their game against the No. 2-ranked team in Class 4A continued.
“It didn’t take long to figure out we could play with them,” said Williams. “We actually should have scored more than we did.
“We were able to complete some big plays there at the end.”
Williams tallied on a 13-yard run in the first quarter that evened the game at 7.
On the Orphans’ first possession of the second half, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior connected with Jordan Maines on a 37-yard touchdown pass that evened it at 14.
“We’ve played against him (Williams) for three or four years,” said Crusaders coach Ken Turner, whose team dropped to 4-1 and 1-1 in South Seven Conference play. “We know he is a great player. You know he is a great player. We don’t need to talk about it.
“I am just glad he is gone.”
Althoff put together a drive in the final minute and moved deep into Centralia (3-1, 2-0) territory. But the Crusaders came up empty with the game ending on an illegal-motion penalty at the Orphans’ 19-yard line.
“First home or not, that really does not matter,” said Turner. “We did not play like we are capable of. We felt like they beat us up front, and that was shocking to us.”
A fumble recovery on the opening kickoff led to Althoff taking an early lead, as quarterback Connor Sheehan connected with Melvin Brock on a 12-yard touchdown pass. It was the first score in the new stadium.
After Willliams’ scoring pass to Maines evened it, Richard Cosey sent the Crusaders into the break with a 14-7 lead scoring on a 21-yard run. Cosey seemed penned up for a short gain, only to spin free and fight his way through the middle of the Centralia defense for the score.
Cosey would finish with 163 yards rushing on 25 carries, but only 27 of those yards would come after halftime, as Althoff’s offense sputtered through most of the final two quarters.
The Crusaders (4-1) are on the road next week with a South Seven contest at Marion. Centralia (4-1) will host Cahokia.