Apart from possibly East St. Louis, no two metro-east teams have have had a more rugged two-week kickoff to their seasons than Belleville West and O’Fallon.
Both teams were Southwestern Conference contenders a year ago, but are off to 0-2 starts in 2015 thanks in part to tough non-conference schedules.
West dropped competitive games to Normal West, ranked No. 9 in Illinois Class 6A, and Normal Community, No. 6 in 7A.
O’Fallon, meanwhile, struggled on trips to the Chicago area on consecutive weeks. The Panthers suffered losses to Hindsdale Central, No. 7 in Class 8A, and Benet Academy, which is ranked just ouside the 7A top 10 list.
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“I’m not saying the travel had an impact on the outcome of the games,” said O’Fallon coach Brandon Joggerst. “It is an unusual way for us to start the season, though.”
Neither coach likes 0-2, but both say the tough schedules are the only adequate primer for their next seven weeks of Southwestern Conference games.
“You gain good experience by playing good teams and, man, those Normal teams are good,” said Maroons’ head coach Cameron Pettus. “It’s still early, though. You hear how good East St. Louis and Edwardsville are, but I haven’t seen the other teams play or on film. You just have to go out and see how you compare on the field. It’s the only way.”
FRIDAY’S GAME: O’Fallon (0-2) at Belleville West (0-2), 7 p.m.
LAST MEETING: With new turf being laid at their own field, West was the “home team” at O’Fallon. The Maroons defeated the Panthers, 69-31.
SCOUTING THE PANTHERS
Kentrail Moran is still running like one of the area’s top backs, even as O’Fallon sorts through some injuries on its offensive line. The Illinois recruit has carried 41 times for 157 yards.
Sophomore quarterback Christian Perez has had his moments, but is still trying to find a rhythm with his offense. He has completed 14 of 39 pass attempts for 118 yards, a touchdown and 3 interceptions.
“Offensively, we just haven’t gotten into a rhythm yet, and I’m sure the quality of the defenses we’ve faced have something to do with that,” Joggerst said.
Hindsdale Central and Benet Academy each put 41 points on the scoreboard against the Panthers, but even Pettus says that’s misleading.
“They are very athletic on defense and they can make plays,” he said. “There have been some points, but I don’t think what we’ve seen is indicative of the kind of defense they have.”
AJ Paul-Torres leads the Panthers with 17 tackles. Dillon Weiss has 13 tackles and has intercepted a pass.
SCOUTING THE MAROONS
A big adjustment for the West offense comes due to the loss of three-year starter Sherand Boyd, who is not a defensive back at Northern Colorado. Sophomore Logan Betz has moved under center and completed 23 of 49 passes for 314 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
“The offense is starting to find its identity.” Pettus said. “Logan is doing a great job so far. When everybody is doing their job, it helps the quarterback and I think we saw improvement from week one to week two.”
With 375 yards rushing on 57 carries, sophomore Kriston Davis has emerged as weapon, as is senior Paris Johnson, who averages more than seven yards-per-carry. Jarrell Anderson is the Maroons’ top receiver with 128 yards on 8 catches.
Ken Dixon leads the team with 22 tackles and ball hawk Jack Lanxon, who led the area last season with seven interceptions, already has two forced turnovers this year.