Carterville probably needed to play a perfect game to beat Althoff on Saturday. The host Crusaders made sure in a hurry that wouldn’t happen.
Eighth-seeded Althoff scored on its first possession, then made a goal-line stand that helped propel it to a 42-0 win over the ninth-seeded Lions in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Junior quarterback Hayes Taylor threw two touchdown passes and rushed for one, sending Althoff (9-1) into a second-round game at top-seeded Rochester (10-0). The Rockets ended the Crusaders’ season 48-47 in the quarterfinals last season en route to their sixth Class 4A state championship in the past seven years.
“It’s going to be a good fight,” said Taylor, who was at Ladue High School last year.
Both of Taylor’s touchdown passes were to senior Burke Watts — one in the first quarter that covered 60 yards, and one in the second quarter that went for 45 yards. It was Taylor’s first two touchdown passes of the season to Watts, a transfer from O’Fallon.
“We’ve been running the ball all year, just grounding and pounding,” Taylor said. “Today we just thought we would open it up a little bit and get Burke the ball.”
Taylor’s 7-yard touchdown run with 10:52 left in the third quarter followed an interception by sophomore Nick Alberico that made it 42-0 and began a continuous running clock.
Senior Melvin Brock had a 69-yard touchdown run to open the Crusaders’ scoring. Senior Richard Cosey had a 1-yard touchdown dive in the second quarter, and senior Justin Strong matched Brock with a 69-yard run later in the second quarter that made it 35-0.
“They stacked the box with a three-four and tried to take away our power,” Crusaders coach Ken Turner said. “On film, we were running it pretty good in the middle. We’ve got quick guys, and we were able to get to the edge and let those guys do their thing.”
Turner was pleased to see the Taylor-to-Watts hookups.
“They’ve been working hard the last couple of weeks, trying to get their continuity together and get their flow (going),” Turner said. “Their hard work paid off today. They connected on a couple of passes, and they looked good. It was good to utilize both of them as weapons.”
Carterville coach Dennis Drost said Althoff had too many playmakers for the Lions.
“When Althoff’s athletes get out in the secondary and get into the open field, they’re very elusive and very good,” Drost said. “They continued to make the big play. We stopped them a couple of times on first or second down, then they would have a big play on third down and would either break it for a long score or get the first down.
“That’s demoralizing to your defense when they have the potential to do that every series.”
The Lions (7-3), after falling behind 7-0 on Brock’s long run, moved to the Althoff 4 on a 42-yard pass play from senior Harley Vaughn to senior Justin Johnson.
On first down, senior Markas Lazdinis gained 3 yards to reach the 1, but the Crusaders stuffed Lazdinis two consecutive times, then swallowed up Vaughn on his attempt up the middle.
“It was definitely a momentum swing,” Drost said. “We needed all the momentum we could get. We felt the strength of their team was their down-four linemen. They stepped up on the goal line, and the linebackers filled in. We just couldn’t get it in. Give their line credit.”
Althoff took firm control following the stop as Taylor hit Watts with the 60-yard strike, advancing the lead to 14-0.
“That was great,” Turner said. “To stop them right there at the goal line, that was big for our confidence — both for our defense and our offense. Then we were able to go right back down and put one in. That probably changed the whole game right there.”
Carterville senior tight end Luke Ford wasn’t much of a factor. Ford, who has offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Arkansas and Georgia, among others, had just one catch for 4 yards.
Brock rushed seven times for 111 yards, Strong added six carries for 91 yards and Cosey had 12 runs for 65 yards.
David Wilhelm: @DavidMWilhelm