Fighting through constant rain and playing on a chewed up field, all Belleville East needed was one big play.
As it turns out, the Lancers got three.
East came up with three plays that went for more than 40 yards and took all three to the end zone as the Lancers slipped past the Alton Redbirds 19-6 on a sloppy, muddy Friday night at Public School Stadium.
It was the Lancers’ (1-3, 1-1 Southwestern Conference) first victory of the season, and senior running back Roderick Morgan said it felt good to finally finish on the right side of the scoreboard.
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“We worked really hard to get this one,” Morgan said. “Everybody on the team wanted this one, and we worked together and made it happen.”
Morgan was the first one to make something happen offensively. Three plays after East’s defense forced Alton into a turnover on downs at the East 9-yard line, Morgan took a handoff, broke two tackles and scampered 94 yards for a touchdown. The extra point gave the Lancers a lead they’d never surrender.
“That was the longest run of my career,” Morgan said. “The coaches called the play, and I knew I could get around the corner.”
Alton got within one on Dyllon Proudie’s 3-yard run early in the second quarter, but the Redbirds (0-4, 0-2) missed the point-after kick. Freddie Waller scored on a 51-yard run with 2:50 left in the first half, then caught a 44-yard pass from Kienen Waller less than two minutes later.
By the end of the game, the playing field was little more than a big patch of mud with a few stray blades of grass, and it took its toll on both teams. Alton lost starting running back Darrell Smith after two carries, and Freddie Waller left the game four plays into the third quarter. Both appeared to suffer leg injuries, and East coach Kris Stephens didn’t know Freddie Waller’s status for next week after the game.
Key Moments: East didn’t score after halftime, but the Lancers ran more than seven minutes off the clock on their first possession of the second half, covering 43 yards in nine plays. The drive ended with an interception – which, surprisingly due to the field conditions was the only turnover of the game – but it allowed the Lancers to and squash any hopes the Redbirds had of gaining momentum with a big defensive stop after halftime.
Key Performers: Freddie Waller finished with five carries for 64 yards and two catches for 70 yards. Morgan totaled 106 yards on 11 carries. Smith carried the ball twice for 22 yards before leaving the game, and Ahmad Sanders had an interception a 43-yard punt return for Alton.
Up Next: East hosts Edwardsville at 7 p.m. Friday. Alton travels to O’Fallon at 7 p.m. Friday.