Six weeks after a convincing regular-season win over the Carbondale Terriers, Cahokia football coach John Clay didn’t have any major changes planned when the Comanches took on their South Seven rivals on Saturday in a Class 5A second-round playoff game.
All Clay needed was the Comanches’ lockdown defense.
Senior defensive back Darian Dean returned the first of his three interceptions 87 yards for a touchdown, while quarterback Malik Shaw threw three scoring passes to Levauntez Conway as the Comanches moved into the Class 5A quarterfinals with a 33-0 win before a sparse crowd at Cahokia High School.
Taking advantage of three Terriers turnovers in the first seven minutes, Cahokia jumped out to a 19-0 lead, then used the Shaw-Conway combination and its defense to dominate the game as it earned its first quarterfinals appearance since 2008.
“It’s great to be in the quarterfinals,” clay said. “I’m just so very happy for the kids. It gets us another step closer toward playing in the state championship game.
“It’s been a long time since Cahokia has been in the quarterfinals. But I don’t think that part means a lot to these kids. I’m sure most of them don’t remember it. They’re just enjoying this moment right now.’’
The win extends the Comanches winning streak to nine games. Seeded fourth in the bottom half of the Class 5A bracket, Cahokia (10-1) will face top-seeded and undefeated (Country Club Hills) Hillcrest (11-0) in the quarterfinals. Hillcrest defeated Decatur MacArthur 40-7 on Saturday. Quarterfinals dates, times and locations will be announced Monday.
While Shaw and Conway hooked up on scoring passes of 19, 31 and 70 yards, Carbondale quarterback Jakeba Burleigh had a rough outing which started on the Terriers first possession when he was intercepted. Four plays later, Shaw connected with Conway on a 31-yard strike to give the Comanches all the points they would need.
Following the Comanches score, Carbondale marched inside the Comanches’ 20-yard line. But on a second-down play, Burleigh lofted a pass to the right where Dean stepped in front of the receiver for the interception and raced 87 yards untouched to give Cahiokia a 13-0 lead.
“I just read his (Burleigh’s) eyes. From there it was just a matter of breaking at the right time and intercepting the pass,’’ Dean said. “Our defense has made plays all year.’’
And the Comanches defense wasn’t done.
Six plays after Dean’s interception, linebacker Delarius Rogers picked off Burleigh’s attempt at a screen pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown as Cahokia took total command of the game.
With still over five minutes left in the first quarter and despite the offense running only five plays, Cahokia had a 19-0 lead.
“On defense I thought we played pretty well,” Terriers coach Bryan Lee said. “But to turn the football over on our first first three possessions and be doiwn 19-0 in the first seven minutes of the game, that’s a lot to overcome. That’s a good defense we played against, which held us to seven points in eight quarters of football this year. I don’t think they’ve given up 20 points in a game once all year.
“Still, it was great to be in the second round of the playoffs. We have a lot to look forward to with this football program.’’
Shaw and Conway connected in both the second and third quarters to conclude the Comanches scoring. But the defense was the story for the Comanches.
“We wanted to put of pressure on Burleigh, make him play fast,’’ Clay said. “Our defense did the job. It set the tone early.’’