Spirit the City was the brainchild of District 201 administration as a way to unite the students of its sister high schools under the same Belleville banner.
Marching bands and football players from Belleville East and West took part in the hoopla, which started in the pre-dawn hours Friday with a combined pep rally at the city’s landmark fountain square, then reconvened 14 hours later for a rivalry game between the Lancers and the home Maroons.
But civic pride only goes so far for West’s Dominic Lovett. The sophomore wide receiver connected five times with quarterback Jack McCloskey, each reception resulting in a touchdown, in a 45-3 victory over the cross-town Lancers.
The win capped a 7-2 regular season for Belleville West, which as of Friday held slim chance of bringing a first-round playoff game home to Bob Goalby Field.
“We really wanted this win to keep the positive momentum going,” said Lovett, whose 23 touchdown receptions this season established a new career record at West. “At the same time, we wanted to get the regular season over with. We’re really looking forward to the playoffs.”
It was a long day that brought about the end of a long season for the 1-8 Lancers, who have missed out on the IHSA playoffs for the third year in a row.
Notable among East’s graduating seniors is Kienen Waller, the under-sized, three-year starting quarterback who last season earned second-team all-area honors through a vote of the region’s coaches.
Waller capped his career with 32 yards rushing to go with 58 yards in the air. His final pass was intercepted late in the second quarter to set up the fourth of Lovett’s touchdowns, a 27 yarder that made the score 38-3 less than two minutes ahead of halftime.
“I think sometimes the word ‘warrior’ is misused or overused, but it certainly applies to Kienen,” said East coach Kris Stephens. “That kid has been through so much with this program over the last three years but always came back when it might have been easier to quit. I told him and the other seniors that what their perseverance is not about the last four years, it’s about the next 40. What they have learned with stay with them.”
Stephens also loses defensive lineman Rakweon Ramsey, the Lancers’ leading tackler, as well as linemen Isaiah Flager-Hearan, Josh Suttles and Mike Muhammad, and linebackers Xavier Medina, Nick Cole.
Belleville West won its first five games of the season and became playoff eligible for the seventh year in a row with a 52-7 demolition of Granite City, Sept. 21, and clinched its spot by putting 64 points on Collinsville on Oct. 5
Maroons head coach Cameron Pettus said, despite the teams’ records, there was no guaranteed against the Lancers Friday, especially considering the day-long festivities that spanned 14 hours prior to kickoff.
“There was a great atmosphere this morning and it was as lot of fun for everybody,” Pettus said. “But it was a long day. As a coach, you worry about how kids will respond.”
McCloskey responded by finding Lovett for a 32-yard touchdown pass less than two minutes into the game. East answered with a 28 yard field goal by Alex Maxim, but never got any closer.
Lovett had scoring catches of 32, 13, 57, 27 and 36 yards. McCloskey finished the game 14 of 24 passing for 281 yards, 5 touchdowns and an interception.
The Maroons only other touchdown was on a 47-yard, highlight-reel run by senior Clarence Davis, who broke multiple tackles while tight-roping the sideline.
“I can’t wait to see it on film because I honestly can’t believe he scored,” Pettus said. “It was as good a run as I’ve seen. Watching it made me into a fan for a little while.”
Davis led the Maroons with 53 rushing yards on just four carries. Senior wide receiver Will Lanxon had four catches for 87 yards and junior kicker Logan Seibert’s six extra points established a new season record at West. The record previously had been held by his brother, Austin Seibert, a senior kicker at the University of Oklahoma.