In a game that featured offenses averaging a combined 800 yards and nearly 90 points per game, it was a big defensive play that turned the contest.
Ishaiah Williams returned an interception 67 yards for a touchdown with 8:47 left in the game and Althoff tacked on two more scores for a 37-20 win over Marion on Friday night at Wildcat Stadium.
The win keeps Althoff perfect for the season at 6-0 overall and 3-0 in South Seven play.
It also snapped an eight-game Crusaders losing streak to Marion and was their first win over the Wildcats for Althoff coach Ken Turner.
"Leading up to this week, I really didn't think of it that way," Turner said of ending the streak. "Until we got here. We've been starting out pretty good against teams and we turned the ball over three times and I'm thinking 'Oh no, not again!'"
But the Crusaders, who squandered early leads of 13-0 and 19-7, rallied from a 20-19 deficit in the final period to get the win.
"The kids showed how tough they are," Turner said. "They played tough all game and they responded in the second half against a really good football team."
Althoff jumped out quickly, scoring 13 points in the first 3:10 of the game.
Marion attempted an onside kick that was recovered by Althoff at the Marion 37. Jaylon Bester scored on an 18-yard run for a 7-0 Crusader lead.
Then, when Marion didn't cover the short kick, Althoff got the ball back on the Wildcat 28. It was Malik Easley's turn, scoring n a 14-yard run and the Crusaders were off to the races.
"That's what they do," said Marion coach Kerry Martin. "The one thing we wanted to avoid was falling behind early and we did, but we fought our way back."
Marion cut the lead to 13-7 after the Crusaders turned the ball over twice, once on an interception by Ben McLaughlin and the other on a fumble recovery by Seth Bayer. Sophomore Jaden Lacy got another big play, taking a double-handoff 33 yards for a score with just three seconds left in the first quarter.
After a 10-yard scoring pass from Jordan Augustine to C.J. Coldon, Marion bounced back to score on a 10-yard strike from Izak Baker to Bayer with just five seconds left in the half, making the score 19-14 at halftime.
The Wildcats then took the third-quarter kickoff and marched quickly down the field, taking their only lead of the game on a 1-yard run by Braden Ziegler with 9:38 left in the third quarter.
The Wildcats had three possessions with a 20-19 lead, resulting in a three-and-out and two interceptions, the last one by Williams to give Althoff a 27-20 lead.
"I have to give them a lot of credit," Martin said. "It was kind of a back-and-forth ball game and I thought they really got better defensively late in the game."
The Crusaders got a 23-yard field goal by Rory Keen and an 11-yard scoring pass from Augustine to Keenan Young late in the game to wrap up the scoring.
"This has been an unpredictable series between us," Martin said. "You felt like it was going to come down to something. I just had that feeling all night that it was going to come down to something like that."
Althoff had 364 yards in total offense, led by Augustine who was 17-for-29 for 233 yards and two touchdowns. Easley finished with 72 yards and a touchdown on the ground while Bester added 41 yards and another score.
Marion's offense collected 343 yards, most coming on the ground. Ziegler and Lacy each had 65 yards and a touchdown while Caden Hilliard added 61 yards. Baker was 13-for-26 for 168 yards and a touchdown.
Week 6 scores
Central 41, Red Bud 6
Carterville 20, Nashville 13
Carlyle 17, Wesclin 7
Triad 41, Mascoutah 7
O’Fallon 42, Granite City 12
Collinsville 34, Alton 9
Centralia 43, Cahokia 28
Mater Dei 47, Quincy N.D. 28
Highland 35, Civic Memorial 27
Principia 21, Dupo 20