It had the competitive glow of a playoff game, but there were constant reminders Friday that both Belleville West and Normal West are far from being finished products.
Senior Dave Watson scored on a 4-yard touchdown run with 3:11 to play in the fourth quarter, and Normal West made the lead hold up in a 34-30 victory over the Maroons.
“Our effort was good. We’ll give credit there,” West coach Cameron Pettus said. “But we didn’t play very disciplined at times. We made some mistakes we’ve definitely got to get corrected before we move forward to week two.”
Normal West coach Darron Hess exhaled after junior quarterback Logan Betz of West was 1 yard shy of a first down that would have extended a Maroons drive in the final minute.
Never miss a local story.
“Going into this, I think both teams knew they could put points on the board,” Hess said. “This was two teams that are gifted athletically. Belleville West, my goodness, they’ve got athlete after athlete after athlete. It took everything in our power to get that game won. It’s a big tribute to us against a great football team and I’m so proud of our kids’ effort.”
The Maroons led 30-27 and had the ball with 5:52 to play. But they went three-and-out, giving the ball back to Normal West with 4:31 to play. The Wildcats used the possession to go ahead for good in a game that had seven lead changes.
Belleville West: Senior TeAntez Anthony had five catches for 79 yards. Betz was 13-for-24 for 233 yards passing, and sophomore Kriston Davis rushed 21 times for 98 yards.
Normal West: Watson had 22 carries for 87 yards and three touchdowns. Senior quarterback Mitch Fairchild was 21-for-36 for 244 yards and one TD.
More from Hess
Hess had trouble pinpointing a hero, since there were many on both sides of the ball.
“That’s what’s so special about this senior class,” Hess said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who are unselfish and play every down. When they get their chance, I guess tonight we made the most of those opportunities. (Fairchild) is like having a coach on the field. He’s extremely intelligent and does a nice job.”
More from Pettus
Pettus bemoaned injuries to senior Nick Foster and junior Parris Johnson. Foster was pressed into service at running back after a second-quarter knee to Johnson, but Foster was injured in the third quarter and was limping noticeably after the game.
“Hopefully, we’ll get both those guys back,” Pettus said. “We’ll have to see what the doctors say. I hope it’s nothing severe with Parris. Obviously, he’s a dynamic element of our offense and we definitely don’t want to use him. He was doing a good job when we were getting him the ball in the first half before he went down.”
Belleville West will play at Normal at 7 p.m. Friday in the final tuneup before beginning the Southwestern Conference portion of its schedule.