Freddie Waller’s 98-yard touchdown run in the opening minute of the fourth quarter Friday night proved to be the pivotal moment of a 49-35 Belleville East victory over the Collinsville Kahoks.
Why was it so big?
The Lancers had owned a 21-7 lead at halftime, only to see the momentum swing to the Kahoks early in the second half.
A pair of Chris Chi touchdown passes — a 66-yarder to Malcolm Burns and a 23-yarder to Kameron Sloan — had drawn Collinsville to within 28-21 with 7:45 left in the third quarter.
The Kahoks were on the drive again when Quantavious Alexander slowed them by intercepting Chi at the East 2-yard line.
Still, a defensive stop and the Kahoks should have remained in good shape.
Waller made sure that didn’t happen.
Taking a handoff up the middle on the first play from scrimmage, the senior busted through a pair of tacklers and then outsprinted the Collinsville secondary to the end zone.
“I didn’t feel anyone until I got to the linebacker and the safety,” said Waller. “My linemen made some great blocks, and I just ran it and did not get caught.”
The Lancers would add two more touchdowns in the next 5:30 – a 1-yard run by Dontae Lee and a 31-yard pass from backup quarterback Will Ache to DeCarlos Johnson – to put their lead at 49-28.
That was more than enough to offset a pair of late Collinsville touchdowns against East’s defensive reserves.
“Ninety-eight yards, straight up the middle, you can’t have that happen,” said Collinsville coach Rick Reinhart. “We went with the blitz, and they picked it up.
“We’re young and just not that physical up front.”
The victory is the second of the season for East (2-6, 2-5 Southwestern Conference) and snapped a four-game losing streak. The Lancers wrap up their season at home next Friday against Belleville West.
“We’ve had a lot of good starts like we had tonight,” said East coach Kris Stevens, “then we kind of let them get back into it until No. 24 made that big play. We really picked it up after that and finished strong until they got a couple against our reserves. It’s something we hope can carry over to last week.”
Waller’s long touchdown run was part of a big night for the senior, who rushed for 232 yards on 19 carries. He also had a 19-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Senior quarterback Kienen Waller had a hand in all three of East’s first half touchdowns, throwing two and running for another.
For the game, Kienen Waller completed 14 of 28 passes for 181 yards and the two touchdowns.
Chi did what he could to keep Collinsville in it until he suffered an apparent injury to his left leg in the second half. The sophomore was carted from the field and taken to the hospital by ambulance.
Chi completed 12 of 28 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns. He was intercepted twice.
Burns had four TD catches in the game for the Kahoks.
Collinsville (1-7, 1-5) closes out its season Friday at Edwardsville.