With three wins after four games, Belleville East was looking to assume its place at the top of the Southwestern Conference with a win against the undefeated Edwardsville Tigers Friday.
It looked like the Lancers did what they wanted, too. They ran 17 more plays on offense than Edwardsville and their play makers put up the kind of gaudy numbers they’re used to contributing.
But a persistent Edwardsville pass rush and extra-special special teams made the bigger plays. Edwardsville defeated East 45-20.
“We prepared for them like we prepare every week,” said East senior quarterback Drew Millas. “They were good and we didn’t come out like we wanted to.”
Belleville East fell behind early, but it was big plays by the Edwardsville defense and special teams that put the game out of East’s reach early.
Junior defensive end and multi-sport college recruit A.J. Epenesa picked up a high snap over the head of East back up quarterback Kienen Waller and sprinted 52 yards for a touchdown.
“I saw the ball go over his head and thought I would just get the tackle,” said Epenesa. “Whenever (the coaches) tell us it’s going to be a big pass rushing night, I just try to go out there and have fun with it.”
The Tigers stretched the lead to 17-0 on a four-yard run by Jones.
The Tigers broke the Lancers’ back with 1:30 left in the first half when Quentin Dissen blocked a Matt Sotiropoulos punt, then recovered the loose ball in the end zone to make it 24-0.
Edwardsville quarterback Riley Jones is known more as a scrambler, but showed he can be an efficient passer Friday. He completed 12 of 19 attempts for 201 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Chrys Colley had three catches for 133 yards including a 69-yard half-back option pass from Daval Torres that made the score 38-0 early in the third quarter.
Senior Kendell Davis rushed 13 times for 75 yards.
For East, Millas was 21 of 38 for 276 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Isaiah King, who had seven catches for 133 yards. Quantavius Alexander had 10 receptions for 105 yards.
EAST COACH KRIS DAVIS
“There was the fumble, the blocked kick and a blocked punt that just killed us. The conference is a grind week-in and week-out so we have to just come back next week against West and get back after it.”
EDWARDSVILLE COACH MATT MARTIN
“I told the guys before the game they’re going to have value every yard. I never expected this kind of result. We were very concerned about Millas coming in. He is a fantastic quarterback and he showed it in the second half. We needed that early lead.”
Edwardsville (5-0) travels to East St. Louis Friday at 7 p.m.; Belleville East (3-2) plays host to Belleville West (2-2).