Belleville West did a good job keeping Normal Community High School’s offense off the field in the first half of Saturday’s postponed game.
The Ironmen made sure they weren’t kept off the scoreboard in the third quarter.
NCHS scored three touchdowns in the third quarter, two on Grant Price passes to Riley Rahuba, and the Ironmen survived an outstanding performance from Maroons’ sophomore tailback Kriston Davis to earn a 26-14 nonconference victory.
“We knew they were physical and a well-coached football team,” said NCHS coach Wes Temples. “We didn’t capitalize on some things. I think a lot of our breakdowns were from a mental aspect, but when that happens you have to give credit to the guys you’re playing.”
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NCHS, ranked No. 6 in Class 7A, improved to 2-0.
Davis didn’t wear down in the oppressive humidity. He had 35 carries for 272 yards and scored both touchdowns for the Maroons (9-2), who had to travel back to the Twin Cities on Saturday after Friday’s game never started because of lightning.
“That’s a positive out of it. You’ve got to take what they give you,” said Belleville West coach Cameron Pettus of Davis’ effort. “Our O-line did a great job opening up holes and getting seams. That’s what they (the Ironmen) gave us, and that’s what we had to do.”
Price completed 7 of 10 attempts for 156 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 110 yards on 16 carries to lead the Ironmen. But NCHS lost three fumbles and was penalized for 82 yards.
“I just told them congratulations on being 2-0. No matter how ugly it was, we are 2-0,” said Temples. “The great thing is we’ll come in Monday and we’ve got a lot of film to watch and where we’ve got to get better at.”
It didn’t take NCHS long to score on its first possession. Dakota Cremeens shook a couple tacklers near midfield and streaked into the end zone to complete a 65-yard pass from Price with 9:29 left in the first quarter. Dalton Bruso’s conversion kick gave the Ironmen a 7-0 lead.
The Maroons ran 32 plays to the Ironmen’s 21 in the first half.
It was still 7-0 at the intermission, but that quickly changed. Steven Towns broke free for a 33-yard pass from Price to start the second half. Six plays later, Alec Bozarth bulled in for a 4-yard touchdown to increase the Ironmen’s lead to 13-0.
“The opening series went real fast and kind of caught us on our heels a little bit,” said Pettus. “They did a nice job and we had a couple missed tackles.”
After West had a bad snap on a punt, NCHS took over at the Maroons’ 20. One play later, Price connected with Rahuba for a 19-yard TD strike and a 20-0 lead.
West countered with a 78-yard drive, capped by Davis’ 30-yard on a nice cutback move with 2:13 left in the third quarter. Matthew Sisk’s conversion kick cut NCHS’ lead to 20-7.
NCHS responded with a 75-yard drive. Rahuba hauled in a Price pass at the 15 and shed a couple tacklers for a 30-yard TD pass as the Ironmen took a 26-7 lead into the third quarter.
Davis’ 14-yard touchdown run drew the Maroons within 26-14 with 5:22 left to end the scoring.
“Our kids are playing hard and we got better from last week,” said Pettus. “Defensively I thought we played a lot better in the first half. We moved the ball, but you have to capitalize against a good football team.”