A 32-second, 80-yard drive turned the momentum in a game full of big-time plays and big-time playmakers at Clyde Jordan Stadium Saturday.
East St. Louis sophomore quarterback Tyler Macon threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Johnson with 14 seconds remaining in the first half to send the Flyers on their way to a wild 57-33 win over Belleville West in a battle of state-ranked class 7A state teams.
Senior Treven Swingler scored four touchdowns to lead East Side, which took sole possession of first place in the Southwestern Conference.
“We knew coming in that West was a good football team and that we needed to come out and play well. We did that today,’’ Swingler said. “I had a good day, but the credit goes to the offensive line. Those guys opened the holes for me.’’
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Playing before a large crowd that included University of Illinois coach Lovie Smith, the fourth-ranked Flyers and No. 8 Belleville West battled for more than three hours. Quarterbacks Tyler Macon of East St. Louis and Jack McCloskey of West each threw three touchdown passes and three running backs logged more than 100 yards rushing.
“I thought we executed very well on offense, in all areas,’’ Flyers coach Darren Sunkett said. “Our backfield all had over 100 yards rushing, our quarterback had three touchdown passes and the offensive line played well.
“Belleville West is a quality football team and they moved the football on us. Coach Pettus does a good job and with they have the personnel to have a good run in the playoffs.’’
No three plays were bigger than the ones which enabled the Flyers (5-1) to extend an 18-12 lead to 26-12 .
Trailing 18-0 wiith under a minute remaining in the first half, West cut the Flyers lead with pair of touchdown passes from McCloskey to Dominic Lovett.
Starting at their own 20-yard line with 44 seconds left, the Flyers got an 18-yard scramble by Macon who when hooked up with Keantez Lewis on a 42-yard pass to put the ball to the West 20-yard line..
Macon then found Johnson on a 20-yard score as East St. Louis retook a two-ouchdown lead.
“I thought we did some good things. On offense we moved the football and put some points on the scoreboard. That was good to see, said West coach Cameron Pettus. “East St. Louis has a lot of weapons and its difficult to stop them all. But we’ve got to do a better job on defense.
“This was really the first time we’ve been pushed all year. Hopefully we’ll come back a better football team.’’
East St. Louis scored on its first three possessions to take an 18-0 lead early in the second quarter as Macon scored on a 41-yard run only 2 minutes 49 seconds into the game then added a 56-yard scoring pass to Lawaun Powell six minutes later to make it 12-0.
Swingler then made it 18-0 on a 4-yard run early in the second period.
West responded with its best drive of the day. Getting a pair of long runs from DJ Johnson, the Maroons moved deep into Flyers territory. After the drive stalled inside the Flyers 15-yard line, a poor snap from center on a field goal attempt ended the threat.
But after a poor Flyers punt, McCloskey moved the Maroons into the red zone again. With 57 seconds remaining in the half, the junior quarterback floated a pass to Lovett in the right corner of the end zone to put the Maroons on the scoreboard.
That score was only the beginning of an amazing final minute of the half.
Two plays after the score, Macon fumbled while attempting a hand off. West recovered and 13 seconds after scoring for the first time, the Maroons got in the end zone again when McCloskey connected with Lovett across the middle for a 20-yard scoring play and bring West to within 18-12.