Trailing for the first time all season, there was no panic in the Althoff Crusaders.
Cahokia senior quarterback Wayne Grant Jr. found the end zone three times in the opening quarter, helping stake the Comanches to a surprising 21-13 lead over the state’s top-ranked Class 4A team.
But an interception by Justin Strong seemed to turn the tide.
As one play later, Althoff star running back Jaylon Bester busted loose on a 64-yard touchdown run, pulling Althoff within 21-19 following a missed two-point conversion.
That also was part of 41 consecutive points scored by the Crusaders, who rolled on for a 54-28 victory.
“Homecoming always scares me,” said Althoff coach Ken Turner, whose team improved to 8-0 and completed a perfect 5-0 run through the South Seven Conference, “and they came out fired up. We were flat. We made some adjustments, got things worked out. Played a great second half.”
Althoff senior receiver Edwyn Brown said the early deficit didn’t bother the Crusaders in the least.
Brown played a big role in the victory, with all three of his pass connections — covering 11, 10 and 13 yards, respectively — with quarterback Trey Mosley going for touchdowns.
“There was no panic. We just had to come together as a team, said Brown “We went into halftime kind of down, kind of angry at ourselves, because we were not doing what we needed to do.
“And really, we came out of halftime with the idea of demolishing them.”
Cahokia first-year coach John Clay was pleased with the early performance of his team. But too many mistakes in the final three quarters made it impossible for the Comanches to keep up.
Cahokia turned the ball over five times in the contest and were called for 80 yards in penalties.
“We started off well,” said Clay, whose team dropped to 4-4 and 2-3 in conference play, “but you cannot have the kind of mistakes we had and expect to keep up with the top-ranked team in the state. We constantly turned the ball over. We jumped offsides. That’s not going to get it done.”
Still down 21-19, Althoff lined up for a 33-yard field goal by Stone Gallaway when faced with a fourth-and-13 at the Cahokia 16.
Gallaway had previously been successful on attempts of 35 and 30 yards and would kick three field goals in the game.
But the Comanches were called for offside and Althoff coach Ken Turner decided to scrap the field goal attempt.
Mosley made the gamble pay off, finding a well-defended Brown, who made an over-the-shoulder catch, in the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown.
Brown’s TD put the Crusaders ahead for good.
“Trey told me to be ready for the ball,” said Brown. “I just had to make sure I was open.
“I have to give all of the credit to Trey. He put the ball in a perfect spot, made it easy for me to catch it.”
Turner said he had no second thoughts about for going for it on fourth down.
“After got the penalty, I decided I wanted to take a shot at my big guy in the end zone,” said Turner of the 6-foot-3 Brown. “They were playing man and the guy on him was kind of small. I figured there was a good chance he could beat him one-on-one.”
Althoff’s lead reached double digits in the opening seconds of the third quarter, when C.J. Coldon returned the kickoff 79 yards for a score.
Cahokia drove deep into Althoff territory on its ensuing possession, only to have Grant intercepted near the goal line by Stephon Belt.
The Crusaders would driver right back down the field, Brown making his second TD catch to put Althoff ahead 40-21 with 4:49 left in the third quarter.
Another Cahokia turnover, this time a fumble Althoff recovered at its own 17-yard line, led to Brown’s third TD.
That 13-yard toss that made it 47-21 with 1:23 left in the third quarter.
Bester capped Althoff’s scoring with a 10-yard TD run, which made it 54-21 with 9:07 remaining.
For the game, Bester finished with 202 yards rushing on 17 carries. He now has 1,564 rushing yards for the season.
Mosley finished the game 9 of 22 for 116 yards and four touchdowns. Coldon had the other TD catch, a 21-yard score in the first quarter that put Althoff ahead 10-7.
Grant supplied most of Cahokia’s offense, scoring on runs of 77, 8 and 2 yards in the opening quarter. He also scored the game’s final touchdown with a 63-yard run late in the fourth quarter.
Grant finished the game with 133 rushing yards, but was mostly held in check during the final three quarters as Althoff seized control.