The Belleville East football team had been close to breaking into the win column the past two weeks after losing close games to O’Fallon and Edwardsville.
On Saturday at Belleville West, the Lancers’ Kameron Sloan and Hayden Howard helped them snap a five-game losing streak.
Sloan scored off a game-changing 44-yard reverse in the third quarter and Howard recovered two key fumbles as East spoiled the Maroons’ homecoming with a 27-6 victory in the Battle Of Belleville at Bob Goalby Field.
Getting the first win of the season against West was a special feeling for Sloan and his Lancers teammates.
“It feels good because we’ve been working hard all week long in practice and we just wanted to come out here and get the dub,” Sloan said. “We got the first one and it feels good so next week, go get another one.”
West (2-4 overall, 1-2 in the Southwestern Conference) rolled down the field on the their first drive behind quarterback Jackson McCloskey’s passing and the running of tailback Jordan Bruce. The Maroons opening 10-play drive ended in a 50-yard field goal by Logan Siebert, which gave them an early 3-0 lead.
East (1-5, 1-2) got their offense untracked midway through the second quarter as Lucas Maue hit Jyaire Bowens with a 44-yard touchdown pass to make it 7-3 with 5:30 left in the first half.
Then with 25 seconds left before the break, Jeremy Schooler pounded the ball in from two yards out for another score and a 14-3 Lancers lead.
“We came in with a scheme, followed that scheme throughout the whole game and never gave up on it,” Sloan said.
West pulled back into it with 4:32 left in the third quarter as Seibert hit a 25-yard field goal to pull them within 14-6, but the Lancers defense kept them out of the end zone all day while the defense was stout in the red zone.
Howard came up big for the Lancers with a pair of drive-stopping fumbles in the first and second half to keep the Maroons offense sputtering.
“I feel like we were doing our job (defensively),” Howard said. “We were staying in our gaps, corners were guarding wide receivers, we stayed up and we came up and made tackles. We believed we were going to make big plays and win the game.”
One play after Howard’s second fumble recovery in the third quarter, Sloan perfectly executed a double reverse hand-off 44 yards to the house for a score and backbreaking 21-6 East lead with 2:43 left in the quarter.
The offensive balance and big play defense was the perfect combined effort finish to the week for an East team struggling to find the first win of the season.
“I’m happy to get it against anybody,” East coach Michael Harrison said. “It’s been a little while coming and it feels amazing. We’ve gotten better every single week and our players have really done an amazing job of buying into what we’re selling and really going and attacking every single day.”
East wrapped up the scoring in the final quarter as Anthony Cunningham’s 1-yard touchdown run made it 27-6 with 8:35 left.
West was limited in the second half offensively, forced go without McCloskey and Bruce, who both went out with leg and shoulder injuries. Neither was hurt seriously but without their top two playmakers the Maroons offense was weakened.
“We had some injuries in the game and you’re throwing younger kids in there and they are communicating and having to learn the ins and outs of things,” West coach Bryan Edgar said. “I just think they out-grinded us and kudos to them. Those kids did a great job and they’re buying in.”
Both teams resume conference action at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11, as West travels to Edwardsville and East visits Alton.