Making only the seventh start of his varsity career, Belleville West junior quarterback Jackson McCloskey continued to impress on Friday in the Maroons Southwestern Conference opener against the O’Fallon Panthers.
McCloskey competed 11 of 12 attempts for 190 yards and thee touchdowns in the first half and the Maroons never looked back in a 47-21 win over the Panthers.
Forced to mature quickly after an injury thrust him into the starting lineup four games into his sophomore season last year, McCloskey went through some growing pains despite leading West into the IHSA postseason for the sixth straight year.
For the night, the 6-foot-170 pound MCCloskey was 14-of-20 for 256 yards and four touchdowns. All four of his scoring passes went Domonic Lovett on throws of 48, 14, 28 and 38 yards. McCloskey added a 1-yard touchdown run midway in the second quarter as West (2-0, 1-0) opened a 34-0 lead.
“The difference for this year? I’m smarter,’’ McCloskey said following the win. “Tonight, O’Fallon was playing us 1-on-1 in pass coverage and we thought we could exploit it. Dominic (Lovett) really had a good night catching the football.’’
Senior running back DJ Johnson complimented the Maroons’ passing game. The senior ran for 180 yards and scored on a 46-yard touchdown run in the second half.
The Maroons defense allowed three touchdown passes by Panthers senior quarterback Christian Curtis, including an 80-yard strike to Chris Smith late in the first half.
“Am I surprised Jackson has made this much progress so early in his career? No I’m not.” said West coach Cameron Pettus. “For one thing he listens so very well and is coachable. Plus his work ethic is second to none. That must come from his dad and Grandpa. Tonight O’Fallon loaded up in the box to stop the run and we had 1-on-1 coerage on our receivers. We told them they had to throw the ball and catch the ball. We did both of those things very well.’’
Unfortunately, O’Fallon had few answers against the Maroons offense.
“We just gave up way too many big plays,’’ Panthers coach Brandon Joggerst said. “We have a real resilient group of kids here. I’m sure we’ll bounce back
O’Fallon falls to 0-1 in SWC play and 0-2 for the season.