The debut of senior Paris Johnson as a running back for the Belleville West Maroons could not have turned out any better.
The senior, who spent the early part of the season as a receiver, carried the ball 14 times for 142 yards and scored two touchdowns – all in the second half – to help the Maroons rally for a 49-20 Southwestern Conference victory over the Collinsville Kahoks.
“At halftime, Coach (Cameron Pettus) said it was time to call my number and that they were going to get me the rock,” said Johnson, who scored on touchdown runs of 1 and 27 yards. “So, I just followed my blockers and made it happen.”
His first touchdown knotted the game at 14-14 a little more than 90 seconds into the second half. His second, a 27-yard run with 1:18 left in the game, capped a second half where the Maroons outscored the Kahoks 42-6.
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“I’ve been using Paris all over the place, because he is such a gifted athlete,” said Pettus, whose team improved to 3-1, 2-0 in the Southwestern Conference, “but we really felt we needed his speed this week.
“That is why we made the halftime adjustment. We needed to get out onto the perimeter more with Paris, because he is so dang-gum quick. That also opened some holes on other areas of the field for people like Logan.”
Senior quarterback Logan Betz joined Johnson in putting together a big second half, rushing for 100 of his 109 yards after the break.
He also scored on touchdown runs of 2 and 9 yards, along with making his lone pass completion of the game, combining with Jamar Edwards on a 46-yard touchdown early in the third quarter.
Betz seemed to indicate being down 14-7 at halftime was not a big concern to the Maroons.
“Coach Pettus did a great job making us stick to our game plan,” said Betz, who also scored on a 12-yard TD run in the second quarter. “He made a couple of small adjustments at halftime, but as you saw, we just came out and pounded the rock. That’s all we needed to do.”
West rushed for 431 yards in the contest, 310 of it in the second half.
Although West dominated the second half, the game may have turned on the Maroons’ biggest play of the first half.
Collinsville twice had an opportunity to go up three scores when it had the ball deep in West territory during the second quarter.
Both times it came up empty.
Following a Kahoks’ three-and-out that ended at the West 21, Maroons senior running back Jack Lanxon broke off a 70-yard run off a direct snap that moved the ball to the Collinsville 12.
Betz found the end zone on the next play, and the Maroons went into halftime down just 14-7.
“That play gave us a needed shot in the arm,” Pettus said. “We put Jack in there as a Wildcat quarterback and we did a nice job there getting loose, putting us in position where Logan was able to score on the next play.”
Kahoks coach Rick Reinhart admitted his team was burned by its missed scoring opportunities.
“We had a third and long there and dropped a pass and later we missed a field goal,” said Reinhart, whose team dropped to 0-3 and 0-1 in the SWC. “And after that we start fighting memories.
“But for us, to be honest, this is a moral victory because our kids fought from start to finish. It’s also the first time all season, we’ve really moved the ball on the ground.”
It took Johnson just six plays after the second-half kickoff to tie the game with his 1-yard scoring run.
Collinsville quickly took the lead back, when Jaaron Williams found the end zone on a 59-yard jaunt.
But Betz found the end zone twice – on runs of 2 and 9 yards – in a span of less than four minutes as the Maroons went ahead for good.
West dominated from there.
Collinsville owned the first quarter, piling up 144 yards of offense compared to just 4 for West.
The Kahoks took a 7-0 lead on a 3-yard touchdown run by Sean Bonham to complete the game’s opening drive. A 28-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Callahan to Rhett Romanik less than a minute into the second quarter extended Collinsville’s lead to 14-0.
Bonham finished the game with 120 yards rushing on 22 carries. Williams had 119 on 10.