The O’Fallon football team found itself trailing by one midway through the third quarter, with the upstart Alton Redbirds threatening to ruin the Panthers’ Homecoming game with a big upset.
Suddenly, Mason Hewitt, Christian Perez and the rest of the Panthers had had enough.
The Panthers reeled off 29 straight points to end the game, leaving O’Fallon Sports Complex with a resounding 56-28 win over Alton on Friday night.
The scoreboard showed a lopsided 28-point walloping, but the score was nowhere near indicative of the game. Alton’s Johnathan Bumpers picked off a pass from Perez and returned it 79 yards for a touchdown with 6:51 left in the third quarter to give the Redbirds (0-5, 0-3 Southwestern Conference) a 28-27 lead and all the momentum.
“It did make me mad at first,” said Hewitt, who finished with 214 yards on 31 carries and a touchdown to go along with a 92-yard kickoff return for a score in the first quarter. “But I knew this team would bounce back. We weren’t going to lose on homecoming night.”
The next three plays were all Hewitt runs, totaling 35 yards, and Perez capped the drive with a 32-yard scoring strike to Burke Watts. Richard Cosey ran in the 2-point conversion to push O’Fallon (2-3, 1-2) back in front, 35-28, and Alton didn’t score again.
“I thought we bounced back well,” O’Fallon coach Brandon Joggerst said. “We sort of took over the game from that point on, and it was good to see the resiliency from our players.”
Key Moments: Alton quarterback Taylor Price left the game in the second quarter with an apparent lower leg injury, but the junior returned for the second half and led the Redbirds down the field, tossing a 7-yard score to Ahmad Sanders to bring Alton within five. He also had a 26-yard rushing score early in the game.
In Price’s absence, running back Kiondray Samelton got Alton on the scoreboard, backing up an 83-yard run with a 3-yard TD late in the second quarter.
Key Performers: Perez finished just seven passing yards shy of 300, completing 13 of his 25 passes for 293 yards and four scores. He connected with Watts for scores of 14 and 32 yards, and hooked up with Ronald Anthony for scores of 83 and 19 yards. Cosey and Dorian Brown also scored rushing touchdowns for O’Fallon.
Up Next: O’Fallon visits Granite City and Alton hosts Collinsville. Both games are at 7 p.m. Friday.