After watching his Belleville West defensive unit give up 59 points in the first two weeks of the season, Maroons coach Cameron Pettus didn’t panic.
The Maroons allowed 24 points in a wild, high-scoring 48-24 week one victory at Quincy before facing down Timber Creek (New Jersey) High School quarterback Devin Leary in a 35-21 loss at the Gateway Scholars Classic in East St. Louis in week two.
Since that time, the Maroons defense has been nearly flawless. Led by an athletic front seven — spearheaded by standouts Khari Kollore and Lamondre Carter — the Maroons have allowed just 12 points in its last three games and are coming off a 41-0 shutout win over Granite City on Friday.
The wins, which have come against Southwestern Conference foes O’Fallon, Alton and Granite City, have the Maroons sitting at 3-0 in league play and 4-1 overall heading into a showdown at home Saturday against defending Class 7A state champion East St. Louis.
Like always, Pettus knows stopping the Flyers offense will be the Maroons’ toughest chore of the season.
“We always love playing East St. Louis; they are a excellent program and a rivalry for us which goes back almost 100 years,” Pettus said. “They are defending state champs and we are looking forward to the challenge. They are always well coached and have great players.
“We have excellent defensive coaches and they’ve done a great job with this group of kids this season. The front seven have really stepped up the last three weeks and our four defensive backs have also done well. Its fun coaching these guys on defense and watching them play.”
While the Maroons’ defense has played lights out the past three weeks, the offense has also been productive. In the Maroons’ win over Granite City, sophomore quarterback Jack McCloskey, filling in for an injured Matt Schmidt, threw for nearly 200 yards and four touchdowns.
Schmidt, who bruised his thumb last week in practice, is expected to be healthy enough to play this week against the Flyers.
“McCloskey is a sophomore and we are excited about him. He has a lot of potential,” Pettus said. “I’m looking forward to the QB competition this week.”
Leave it to Bieber
The Columbia Eagles were dealt a severe blow when they lost standout running back Colton Byrd to an ACL injury two weeks ago in a loss to Cahokia Conference foe Wesclin.
But on Friday in Carlyle, Donovan Bieber stepped up. The sophomore rushed for 200 yards and scored three times in a 64-28 Eagles victory.
“We have known Donovan is a special talent and knew he could get the job done,” Eagles coach Scott Horner said. “Our line gave him holes and he was able to get to the second level where he is tough to tackle, especially with his speed.”
Panthers bouncing back
The O’Fallon Panthers got off to a rough start to the 2017 season, losing their first three games in which they were outscored 34-3 against Hazelwood Central then to Normal West (41-7) and Belleville West (27-6).
But wins the past two weeks against Collinsville (34-31) and a see-saw 43-40 win over Belleville East on Friday have the Panthers sitting at 2-3 heading into a league game Friday at Edwardsville.
And while the execution hasn’t been perfect for a Panthers program — which lost its two-year starting quarterback Christian Perez with his transfer to East St. Louis for his senior season — coach Brandon Joggerst team has gotten itself back in the playoff run with four weeks remaining in the regular season.
“Our kids have continued to get better in practice and I am so happy for them that has translated to wins on the field. It is a great group of young men to be around who give very good effort,” Joggerst said. “We have to continue to show growth in all areas of the game.”
Quarterback Christian Curtis, making just the fifth start of his Panthers career, led the way for O’Fallon against Belleville East. Curtis was 13 of 20 through the air for 310 yards and four touchdowns.
Belleville East field dedication set for Friday
The Belleville East Lancers will have the official dedication of Charles Woodford Field on Friday prior to taking on the Alton Redbirds in a Southwestern Conference game. Woodford, a WWII veteran and longtime Belleville East athletic booster, will be honored during a pregame ceremony in which the Lancers football field will be named in his honor.
East athletic director Mark Larsen said there will be a reception will begin at 6 p.m. under the tent nearest the concession stand. The unveiling ceremony will begin at about 6:50 p.m.
Belleville West will rename its field in honor of former Masters champion and Belleville native Bob Goalby on Oct. 13 when the Maroons take on Edwardsville.