Belleville West followed up an emotional rivalry win over East St. Louis with an emotional rivalry loss to Belleville East, something West coach Cameron Pettus chalks up to the typical Southwestern Conference football schedule.
“Playing in our conference, you’ve got to play great teams week in and week out,” said Pettus, whose team has another quality league opponent Friday in unbeaten Edwardsville. “The kids responded with a great week of practice.”
Turnovers were also huge in each game. West had four interceptions in the 36-26 win over East St. Louis and returned two for touchdowns. The Maroons committed four turnovers themselves in a 25-21 loss to Belleville East.
Edwardsville (6-0) had an unexpected Friday night off last weekend, taking a forfeit win over East St. Louis because of the District 189 teachers strike. How did the Tigers, who have won 24 straight conference games, handle the layoff?
“We tried to keep it as normal as possible,” Martin said. “We just didn’t play a game Friday night. We’ve had a pretty good week of practice, I don’t see any signs of not being focused or being rusty.”
Edwardsville has won four straight against West and eight of the previous 10 meetings. The Maroons won 20-14 in 2010 and 40-27 in 2008.
A West victory Friday would put the Maroons and Edwardsville tied at 4-1 atop the Southwestern Conference standings.
Belleville East would also be 4-1 if the Lancers gain a forfeit win over East St. Louis because of the strike.
▪ FRIDAY’S GAME: Edwardsville (6-0 overall, 4-0 in the SWC) at Belleville West (3-3, 3-1), 7 p.m.
▪ RANKINGS: Edwardsville is fifth in the Class 8A state rankings and first in the BND Large-School rankings; Belleville West is 17th in the Class 7A state rankings and fourth in the BND Large-School rankings.
▪ LAST MEETING: Edwardsville knocked off Belleville West 33-14 in 2014.
The Tigers have one of the top junior recruits in the nation in defensive end A.J. Epenesa, who has dozens of offers from some of the nation’s top college football programs.
Epenesa (6-foot-5, 260 pounds) has 22 tackles, three sacks and three fumble recoveries and is a major disruptive force.
“We’ve had some good players here, but A.J.’s really starting to come into a world of his own,” Martin said. “Desmond Chapple (19 tackles, three sacks) is not bad either, he’s really coming into his own, too.”
Pettus and his staff know how dangerous of a player Epenesa can be. Linebacker Cyress Ahart (32 tackles, two sacks) is another defensive force along with Jourdyn Jones (21 tackles, four interceptions).
“They’ve got two bookends that are pretty big and talented and they’re always fundamentally sound,” Pettus said. “They’ve got great players beyond those two big monsters at defensive end, too.”
Jackson Morrissey (443 yards, seven TDs) is the top running back while dual-threat quarterback Riley Jones has thrown for 539 yards and five TDs while running for 343 yards and three TDs.
Chrys Colley (seven catches, 230 yards, three TDs), Jones (eight catches, 96 yards) and Kendell Davis adds more depth at running back and receiver.
SCOUTING BELLEVILLE WEST
Senior receiver TeAntez Anthony (27 catches, 458 yards, three TDs) has been a source of instant offense all season.
Quarterback Logan Betz (73-of-139, 1,003 yards, five TDs, six interceptions) continues to show signs of improvement. Pettus said Sherond Boyd (11 carries, 23 yards), Nick Foster (18 carries, 49 yards, three TDs) and Reginald Coleman (23 carries, 79 yards, one TD) are the top options at running back, while Jarell Anderson (211 yards, two TDs) will be a game-time decision.
The West defense is anchored by linebacker Ken Dixon (45 tackles, two interceptions), Foster (26 tackles, three sacks), DeMarlo Nesbitt (46 tackles, three sacks) and safety Jack Lanxon (28 tackles, four interceptions, two fumble recoveries)