Belleville West football coach Cameron Pettus told his team that its game against O’Fallon on Saturday was a must-win situation.
The Maroons didn’t disappoint their coach as they reeled off a 34-23 victory in the Southwestern Conference opener for both teams.
“I told those guys at halftime, ‘Hey, guys, starting out 0-2, we’ve got to really get after it,’” said Pettus, whose team’s losses were against ranked opponents Batavia and Lincoln-Way East. “It’s super-hard, obviously, if you start out in our conference 0-3. We definitely didn’t want to do that.
“It was a great game. They battled hard. It was a tough, hard-fought victory.”
Senior quarterback Logan Betz threw two touchdown passes for the Maroons, while junior tailback Kriston Davis added two rushing touchdowns. Betz was 15-for-23 for 199 yards. Davis finished with 126 yards on 24 carries.
The game was scheduled to be played Friday in O’Fallon, but was postponed by lightning and moved to West on Saturday because the Panthers’ field wasn’t available.
West improved to 1-2 overall and 1-0 in the SWC. The Panthers fell to 1-2 and 0-1.
“We were good in spurts,” O’Fallon coach Brandon Joggerst said. “But not enough to sustain some things. It was the same way on defense. We were good in spurts. But they made some big plays. They made some big catches on some fourth-down plays. Hats off to them. They made plays when they had to.”
There were many occasions when the game could have swung one direction or the other. West finally made a key defensive stop that was followed by a pivotal touchdown.
O’Fallon trimmed a 23-10 deficit to 23-17 on a 36-yard scoring pass from junior quarterback Christian Perez to junior wideout Ronald Anthony with 6:39 left in the third quarter.
The Panthers then stopped West and got the ball back at their 39-yard line. O’Fallon drove to the Maroons’ 25 before the drive stalled, and West took over.
Davis put the Maroons ahead 29-17 with a 32-yard touchdown run that was followed by a two-point conversion pass from Betz to senior Paris Johnson that made it 31-17 with 11:23 remaining in the game.
O’Fallon got a 96-yard kickoff return from senior Mason Hewitt to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Perez that made it 31-23, but senior Austin Firestone’s 30-yard field goal on the Maroons’ next possession made it a two-score game again.
“That was a big stop,” Pettus said of the O’Fallon drive that ended on the Maroons’ 25. “That No. 5 (Hewitt) is a superstar. He is a load. I can’t tell you how many times we had three, four, five bodies on him and he was still breaking tackles.”
Hewitt had 22 carries for 113 yards to lead the Panthers’ ground game.
Betz threw touchdown passes of 7 yards to junior Jacob McCloskey and of 23 yards to senior Jamar Edwards. Davis also had a 1-yard touchdown run in addition to his 32-yard score. McCloskey had six catches for 70 yards.
“Betz really did a nice job and our receivers stepped up,” Pettus said. “They made some fantastic catches. (Betz) put the ball where it needed to be. I’m just really excited about how those guys have performed.”
Firestone also had a 28-yard field goal that skimmed the crossbar.
O’Fallon’s Perez added a 22-yard touchdown pass to senior Darryl Cobb Jr. Sophomore Brooks Hackney had a 21-yard field goal to end the first half that cut West’s lead to 17-10. Perez was 14-for-26 for 226 yards through the air.
Sophomore Will Lanxon had an interception for the Maroons. Junior Lamondre Carter had a fumble recovery that set up Betz’s touchdown pass to Edwards.