It was the first round of Illinois Class 4A football playoffs, but for the Althoff Crusaders that's just another day at the office.
Running back Jaylon Bester got his three touchdowns, quarterback Trey Mosley made use of his full stable of wide receivers, the defense smothered with speed and athleticism and, by the start of the second half, Althoff already triggered the continuous game clock.
The Crusaders moved on to post-season round two with a dominating 53-14 win over 16-seed Carterville at Lindenwood University-Belleville Friday.
"We want to come in this first round and be very sharp," said Althoff coach Ken Turner. "We didn't want to worry so much about Carterville, but concentrate on us. Everybody did their job — Jaylon ran the ball well, Trey spread the ball around to his receivers, the defense was good, the line played well. It was a solid game all around.”
Althoff established its edge early, building a 41-0 lead by halftime. According to IHSA rules, once a team opens a lead of 40 points or more in the second half, the game clock stops only for changes of possession.
"We come every single game with the mindset that we're playing the state champs," said Strong. "That's the only way we can get back to where we want to go, which is Champaign."
The Crusaders, state runner-up in 2015 and the tournament's top seed this year, will take the next step toward Champaign next week against No. 9 Taylorville (8-2), first round winners over Marquette Friday night. The date and time is yet to be announced.
Carterville's season ended at 5-5.
"Althoff clearly has a chance to make a big run. The coaches knew that coming in and the kids knew it," said Carterville coach Dennis Drust. "We just asked our players to step their game up a level and play without regrets."
Althoff took the early lead on a pair of touchdown runs by Bester and a 33-yard pass from Mosley to Edwyn Brown.
Things then went from bad to worse for the Lions.
Six minutes into the second quarter, Althoff senior Austin Carey blocked a punt, which senior lineman Royce Payne picked up and returned 33 yards for another score.
“I actually did the wrong thing,” Carey said. “I was supposed to block a guy, but he didn’t come up so I just kept running after the punter.”
Then, on their very next possession, Carterville fumbled inside its own 20 to set up a 19-yard pass from Mosley to Jordan Goodwin to make it 35-0 with 4:12 left in the half.
On its next possession, Althoff went 51 yards on three plays to score again. C.J. Coldon caught Mosley's third touchdown pass — a 14-yard bullet — to make the score 41-0 and trigger the running game clock.
Bester scored once more early in the third quarter and junior Jeffrey Reed came off the bench to score on a one-yard run.
Mosely finished 7-of-12 for 137 yards and three touchdowns. Bester rushed nine times for 119 yards. Goodwin finished with three catches for 45 yards and Brown had two catches for 64.
Carterville quarterback Devin Miller was 4-of-13 for 128 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown pass to Luke Ford in the fourth quarter.
The Lindenwood stadium fell silent, even as the clock ticketed off the final second of Althoff’s win.
Freshman running back DeAndre Jones, brought into the game midway through the third quarter, had to be carted off the field on a stretcher with an apparent break in his right leg.
Jones returned a kick into Carterville territory and was taken down in a pile with just 18 seconds left in the game. Trainers ran immediately to him as he laid stomach down near the sideline, grasping his facemask and writhing in pain. He was taken to the hospital immediately for x-rays after gaining 26 yards on seven second-half carries.
Players from both teams gathered around on one knee before walking off the field in silence.
"He's a big player in the future of this program,” Strong said. “He's got a chance to go play big ball somewhere D-1. It's really a tragic injury because he has a chance to do big things. He’s going to have a long road ahead of him, but he’ll be back bigger and stronger and a better player.”