BELLEVILLE In a little over four minutes, the Belleville East Lancers turned a penalty, an on-sides kick, and two timeouts into 21 unanswered points and, eventually, a 42-14 Southwestern Conference win over Alton.
Since falling to Normal High School in the season opener, the Lancers have won three in a row, averaging 47 points per game. East racked up another 342 yards of total offense Friday, even with a less-than-perfect performance that included two turnovers.
They'll take their 3-1 record next week to Edwardsville to face the defending conference champions, who remain undefeated through four weeks of play.
“There’s a lot of ways to go and you have to focus on the next one in front of you,” said East coach Kris Stephens. “We’re not thinking playoffs, we’re not talking playoffs, we’re thinking and talking about whoever we have next week. Next week, it’s a big one.”
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It was an opportunistic run late in the second quarter that made the difference for the Lancers.
A 51-yard scoring drive followed by a 15-yard personal foul against Alton, set up a kickoff at the Alton 45 yard line. Senior Matt Sotiropoulos bounced a text-book on-sides kick off the new field turf at East and into the arms of junior wide receiver Courtland Jackson, who downed the ball at the 25. Two plays later, quarterback Drew Millas scored on a three-yard run.
Within 23 seconds, the Lancers turned a slim 7-6 lead, into a 21-6 advantage with 2:29 left before the half.
But East wasn't finished.
With Alton pinned deep in its own territory and facing a 3rd-and-long, Stephens stopped the clock with a pair of timeouts, forcing the Redbirds to punt the ball back to the Lancers before the half was over.
Another quick-strike, two-play drive stretched the lead to 28-6 and sapped the momentum of an earlier touchdown from the Redbird huddle.
East running back Moses Holman, who has filled since starter Demone Witherspoon was lost to an injury in the opener, ran 20 times for 107 yards. Millas finished 14-of-31 for 191 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed 10 times for 37 yards and another score.
Lancers’ wide receiver Isaiah King had five receptions for 92 yards and two touchdowns. Anthony Dean picked up the other Lancer score on an eight-yard reception.
For Alton, Jameyon Alexander had 79 yards on 17 carries. Asa Collins had 98 yards on eight carries, including a 45-yard touchdown run.
MORE FROM STEPHENS
“"The kids executed well and really took advantage of that on-sides kick,” said East coach Kris Stephens. “That was the difference in the game just to get the momentum on our side. That was big because Alton has a real ball control offense and we’re more up-tempo. If we’re not executing we give the ball right back to them and don’t see it for five or six minutes. You can go cold in a real hurry. Taking that lead before the half with quick scores turned things.”
ALTON COACH ERIC DICKERSON
"We weren’t able to put a full game together,” said Alton coach Eric Dickerson. “The first quarter was good, the second half was mostly good and the second quarter cost us.”
The game was halted about 15 minutes when Alton senior lineman Tahj Womack had to be placed on a back brace and taken by ambulance to St. Elizabeth’s hospital. Players from both teams huddled on their sidelines in apparent prayer. Dickerson said he didn’t know Womack’s condition, but that he did have movement and feeling in all extremities.
Alton (0-4) plays host to O’Fallon (0-4); Belleville East (3-1) will be at Edwardsville (4-0). Both games kick off Friday at 7 p.m.