Normal High School head football coach Wes Temples waited until the final week of the preseason before naming his starting quarterback. After one game, it looks like he made the right pick.
Junior Grant Price passed for 256 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and rushed for 196 yards and another score to lead Normal to a 63-31 season-opening win at Belleville East.
“We had an believable competition all summer and we settled on Grant,” Temples said. “He’s a good ball player, a good student and a great person. He did everything he could do tonight to make us successful.”
The game spoiled the head coaching debut of East’s Kris Stephens, who assigned himself some of the blame for the loss on some “aggressive play calling.” But the Lancers scored first and, in fact, worked themselves to within four points at 35-31 midway through the third quarter.
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But three second-half turnovers derailed what had been a solid performance by East senior quarterback Drew Millas and the rest of the Lancers’ offense.
“I went for it on a fourth down at midfield and it kind of put us being on the point swing,” Stephens said. “We were battling back and forth with them. It was aggressive, but we were trying to establish something.”
Down by 11 points late in the third quarter, Millas made a cross-field throw deep in East territory that was intercepted by Normal safety Jared Pratt and returned 12 yards for a touchdown. The Ironmen scored the next two touchdowns in what had been a back-and-forth game aided, in part, by two more Lancer turnovers.
East receiver Isaiah King made the score 35-31 with 7:07 left in the third quarter with an acrobatic, juggling catch of a 28-yard pass from Millas.
Price completed 10 of 14 pass attempts. Steven Towns caught five of them including touchdowns of 81 and 59 yards. He had 214 yards receiving. Normal senior running back Alec Bozarth had 83 yards on 12 carries including three first-half touchdowns.
For East, Millas completed 15 of 30 for 188 yards and two touchdowns. King had five catches for 105 yards. Moses Holman rushed for 80 yards in place of starter Demone Witherspoon, who left the game in the first quarter holding his arm.
The Lancers’ Quantavius Alexander started the season by returning the opening kick off 100 yards for a touchdown. East kicker Matthew Sotiropoulos connected on a 32-yard field goal in the second quarter.
COACH TEMPLES SAID
“We’ve preached that there are going to be days that our offense plays well and there will be days when our defense plays well. I thought we answered the bell on both sides. In the second half, our defense made some huge stands and got turnovers that put them in bad spots.”
COACH STEPHENS SAID
“There were a 100 plays tonight on both sides of the ball where you could say one play here, one play there, one missed tackle, one missed assignment. But we’re going to go forward, watch some tape tomorrow morning and see where we have to adjust.”
Belleville East (0-1) is on the road at Normal West (1-0) Friday at 7 p.m. Normal (1-0) plays host to Belleville West (0-1), also at 7 p.m. Friday.