At his current pace, Jaylon Bester will go down in Althoff football lore with the likes of Hickey Thompson, the record-breaking running back that gave legs to the Crusaders’ run at consecutive Illinois Class 3A championships in 1989 and 1990.
Bester likely won’t match Thompson’s 3,105 yards in 1990, which ranks fourth in Illinois single-season record book, but the senior has strung together single game performances that are stoking Althoff’s hope for a return trip to the 4A championship game.
“Our school history runs deep with great running backs,” said Althoff head coach Ken Tuner. “I’ve been a part of coaching Jason Ford and these guys know Hickey Thompson from little league football and coaching. To be able to mention Jaylon in a conversation about those guys is wonderful.
“I just know he does a great job for me whether he’s got the football in his hands or he’s blocking for somebody else.”
If I reach some milestones in the process of helping my team win games, that would be a great honor. But my focus right now is winning football games one week at a time.
Jaylon Bester, Althoff senior running back
Friday night, Bester rushed for 331 yards in a win over previously unbeaten and state-ranked South Seven Conference rival, Centralia. He had touchdown runs of 48, 45, 45 and 7 yards and he converted a third-and-55 yard play with a 73-yard run.
When the game ended, team statisticians had him for something short of 300 yards, but they didn’t count all the gains he should have been credited for on plays that involved penalties. Coaches arrived at the official total after watching game video.
“I was disappointed after the game when they said I didn’t make it to 300 yards because that was a goal I kind of wanted to reach before I left high school,” Bester said.
The landmark performance earned Bester BND Player of the Week honors for the second time in three weeks, a rare honor especially considering the quality of other performances in week 5 of the metro-east high school football season.
Two weeks ago, Bester trampled Mater Dei with 285 yards on the ground.
For the season, Bester has 991 yards and 13 touchdowns on just 58 carries — an incredible 17. 1 yards per attempt. That pace would land Bester just shy of 2,800 yards on the season should the 5-0 Crusaders earn a repeat trip to the state championship game.
That would rank him with Thompson in the top 10 all-time, but Bester isn’t getting ahead of himself.
“I just try to do my best and help my team get wins,” said Bester. “If I reach some milestones in the process of helping my team win games, that would be a great honor. But my focus right now is winning football games one week at a time.”
I've been a part of coaching Jason Ford and these guys know Hickey Thompson from little league football and coaching. To be able to mention Jaylon in a conversation about those guys is wonderful.
Ken Turner, Althoff head football coach
The confident, friendly, and unassuming senior shares credit for all of his yardage with the offensive line and the depth of skilled athletes around him.
Senior quarterback Trey Mosley, for example, is having a solid year in place of 2015 BND Player of the Year Jordan Augustine. He’s completed 63 percent of his 91 pass attempts for 918 yards and 11 touchdowns for a passer rating of 128.5.
Mosley gets help from wide receivers C.J. Coldon, who leads the team with 19 receptions for 397 yards, and Jordan Goodwin, who is second with 18 catches for 275 yards.
“The beauty of us is that any given Friday you can’t just focus on one person,” said Bester. “If it’s not me, somebody is going to dominate your team. We have too much talent to stop.”
It’s the same formula Althoff employed last year when it cracked Illinois’ top 15 all time in yardage and points in a season.
“We just take what a team gives us,” said Turner. “Jaylon is on a roll right now because he’s good for one, and for two we do a lot of things in the passing game that teams try to stop. If they want to stop that, we’ll hand the ball off to him. They might load up the box this week, but if they do we’ll feel comfortable going to our passing game.”
Bester and the Crusaders take command of the South Seven Conference standings Friday when they play their first home game of the season against Marion. The Wildcats are 2-3 overall, but share a 2-0 conference record with Althoff. The Crusaders have South Seven games remaining against Carbondale (1-4, 0-2) and Cahokia (3-2, 1-1).
Week 5’s Best
Jaylon Bester’s 331 yards and four touchdowns against Centralia Friday earned him BND Player of the Week honors for the second time in three weeks. It is a rare distinction, especially considering other notable performances from week 5. Here are a few:
▪ Red Bud running back Ryan Hess racked up 301 yards and four touchdowns on 20 carries in a win over Freeburg.
▪ Central's Collin Thomas rushed for 216 yards and six touchdowns on 25 carries in the Cougars' 46-35 Milk Bowl win over Mater Dei.
▪ East St. Louis quarterback Reyondous Estes completed 15-of-23 passes for 364 yards and four scoring passes as the Flyers' dismantled Belleville West 52-0 in the traditional rivalry game.
▪ Flyers' wide receiver Jeff Thomas had six catches for 205 yards and two scores in that game.
▪ Columbia's Colton Byrd ran the ball 10 times for 172 yards and a school-record six TDs in a Cahokia Conference win over Carlyle.