Panther running back Moran has big night in victory
Belleville East survived the loss of injured star quarterback Drew Millas early in the game, flying back from a 28-7 halftime deficit to tie it 28-28 late in the third quarter.
But the Lancers couldn’t survive 40 carries, 236 yards and two touchdowns from O’Fallon senior running back Kentrail Moran as the Panthers pounded out a 38-28 Southwestern Conference victory for their fourth straight win..
Despite an 0-4 start, the Panthers (4-4) now have a shot at qualifying for the playoffs despite being left for dead by many.
“Yeah they did — and now we’re back alive,” said Moran, a University of Illinois recruit who teamed up with running back Mason Hewitt on a 71-yard drive early in the fourth quarter capped by Moran’s 13-yard TD run that put the Panthers on top for good with eight minutes remaining. “I told my team ‘Let’s go guys, I’ve got you. I’ll put you on my back.”’
O’Fallon senior kicker and Missouri recruit Tucker McCann blasted a 43-yard field goal with 2:30 remaining and the Panthers’ defense shut things down the rest of the way against East (5-3).
I told my team: Let’s go guys, I’ve got you. I’ll put you on my back.
O’Fallon running back Kentrail Moran
“They kept their composure after a tough 0-4 start,” O’Fallon coach Brandon Joggerst said. “Everybody’s in their ear telling them all the negative things ... but the ability to stay focused and just take it one game at a time helped.”
Moran and the O’Fallon offensive line kept pounding away against a tough Belleville East defense.
“He did what we expected him to do, get the big yards,” Joggerst said.
Millas was injured at the end of a 22-yard gain on the Lancers’ first possession. He walked off the field on his own, returned briefly for one more series, and then was replaced for the rest of the night by freshman Kienen Waller.
Millas did not return and was being evaluated for a concussion.
“We pulled him for the rest of the game,” East coach Kris Stephens said. “We’ll just reevaluate it and see how it goes.”
After a punt by Missouri recruit Tucker McCann pinned East down at its own 3-yard line, a fumbled handoff exchange was recovered by O’Fallon’s Richard Cosey in the end zone for a touchdown late in the first quarter.
Forced into a tough spot for his first varsity action, Waller completed 12-of-40 passes for 136 yards. He threw a pair of touchdown passes to Isaiah King and another to Tony Dean, nearly engineering a comeback win.
Waller also lost a fumble and threw two interceptions.
“He really handled himself pretty well,” Stephens said. “He’s an athletic kid and someone we can build on, but hopefully we’re not building on him yet.”
SPOTLIGHT ON DEFENSE
An interception by East linebacker Eldrondo Aldridge set up a 25-yard TD pass from Waller to King for the Lancers’ first score.
A 33-yard TD pass from Panthers quarterback Christian Perez to Jordan Johnson preceded the first of two second-quarter interceptions by O’Fallon’s Dillon Weiss.
The pick paid off immediately as Moran scored on a 24-yard run on the next play.
The Panthers struck again before the first half ended on a 9-yard pass from Perez to Ronald Anthony.
A fired up Lancer defense grabbed the game in its hands to start the second half.
A big hit by Shemar Welch on Moran forced a fumble that Damone Witherspoon scooped up and returned 41 yards for a touchdown. Witherspoon also recovered a blocked punt in the end zone that tied it 28-28 with 18.4 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Belleville East (5-3) needs one more win to secure a berth with Collinsville remaining on the schedule. O’Fallon is scheduled to play East St. Louis, which has forfeited its last three games during a teacher strike.
“It hurts and we’ve got to use that pain as motivation to kick ourselves and make sure we’re getting the job done next week,” Stephens said. “We’ve got to get prepared for that last one because there’s no guarantees if we don’t get number six, so that’s a definitely motivating factor for us.”