Althoff claims the Holy Grail
Even through just three weeks of the high school football season, Althoff senior running back Jaylon Bester has done all he can to impress head coach Ken Turner.
"What else can you say? I mean, this doesn't surprise you anymore, does it?" said Turner, following the Crusaders’ 40-16 "Holy War" win over Mater Dei Saturday. "I'll say what I said last week and will say it again next week and the week after: He's just a tremendous running back."
In Althoff’s three victories, Bester has carried 33 times for 578 yards — an average of 17.5 yards per carry — and seven touchdowns. He's well ahead of his pace from last season, when he helped the Crusaders to a 13-1 record and the Class 4A state championship game with a team-high 1,246 yards and 18 scoring runs.
But Bester was at his career best in Breese Saturday.
The BND Player of the Week shredded the Knights for 285 yards on just nine carries, including touchdown runs of 94, 77 and 46 yards. Another 42-yard scoring run was brought back by a holding penalty.
His previous best game was his 196-yard, three-touchdown in last season's state quarterfinal win over Rochester.
Bester heaped the credit on his offensive line, which also helped Justin Strong break a 32-yard scoring run. But Bester earned some of those yards on his own — his highlight reel showcases more moves than a Michael Jackson video.
"The line did a great job up front," Bester said. "My job as a running back is to pick the right holes and make the right cuts. It just all came together this week."
Strong, quarterback Trey Mosley and three others have carried the football for Althoff, but it's not like last season when Bester shared duties with graduated 1,000-yard rusher Malik Easley.
"It's Jaylon's show now," Turner said.
Even at 5-foot-8 and 162 pounds, neither coach or player are concerned about Bester's ability to endure the more demanding role.
Bester has added 15 pounds from last year with extra calories and time in the weight room.
"I worked some with E.J. Jones (an athletic trainer) in Edwardsville the last week or so before practice started and I wore a mask when I ran to make it difficult to breath and build my endurance," Bester said. "With Malik gone, I knew it would just be me and that I had to get stronger."
Even so, speed is still the foundation of his game.
The last time he was clocked in the 40-yard dash was in practice the week before the Crusaders' week 1 win at Collinsville. He ran it in 4.5 seconds, but thinks he can take another tenth of a second off his time with more training.
Turner says speed and elusiveness is what keeps Bester safe on the football field.
"He runs bigger than he is, but he made cuts back against the grain — like he did in the Rochester game —that are just unbelievable, and that's what we saw Saturday at Mater Dei," Turner said. "That's him, that's how he runs. So I don't worry about him carrying too big a load. He's elusive enough that he's not taking a lot of hits."
Bester has committed to the University of Miami Ohio where he will play for head coach Chuck Martin.