High School Football

Belleville East struggles in first half against ranked Lemont

Belleville East football coach Kris Stephens talks after Lancers' loss to Lemont

Belleville East football coach Kris Stephens talks about the Lancers' 28-0 loss to Lemont on Friday at Millikin University in Decatur. The Indians scored on each of their four possessions in the first half and blanked the Lancers 28-0.
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Belleville East football coach Kris Stephens talks about the Lancers' 28-0 loss to Lemont on Friday at Millikin University in Decatur. The Indians scored on each of their four possessions in the first half and blanked the Lancers 28-0.

Lemont’s offensive balance and efficiency were too much for Belleville East on Friday.

The Indians (2-0), ranked sixth in the Class 6A state poll, scored on each of their four possessions in the first half and blanked the Lancers 28-0 at Millikin University.

Senior quarterback Spencer Nagel threw three touchdown passes, one of them to younger brother Austin, and junior Anthony Martin rushed for another score.

“Lemont is a very, very good football team. They’re in the playoffs every year,” said Lancers coach Kris Stephens, whose team slipped to 0-2. “They’re solid across the board. We came out and didn’t execute. We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times and didn’t come ready to play. That’s my fault. We weren’t ready to go.”

The Lancers had a 78-yard touchdown run by junior Freddie Waller III negated by an illegal procedure penalty on their opening possession. Still, they moved the ball to the Indians’ 32-yard line before the drive stalled.

Lemont then scored the only points it needed when Nagel hit senior Jake Kirkman with a 12-yard touchdown pass to put the Indians ahead 7-0 with 2:54 to play in the first quarter.

The fun was just beginning. Lemont added three more scores in the second quarter.

“We were clicking in the first half,” said Lemont coach Bret Kooi, who like Stephens is a graduate of Millikin. “We did some really good things offensively in the first half. The defense had a little bit of a slow start, then figured things out with (East’s) speed. They got us the ball back quickly and we definitely capitalized.”

Key moments

Already trailing 7-0, East was overwhelmed in the second quarter.

Lemont went ahead 14-0 on Martin’s 2-yard run with 9:48 to play in the half. Nagel’s 3-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Logan Christopherson, a 6-foot-6 Missouri recruit, extended the margin to 21-0 at the 4:53 mark. Both drives started in East territory.

Nagel then connected with his brother for a 5-yard TD pass that made it 28-0 with 47.9 seconds remaining.

It could have been worse for the Lancers. Lemont had two touchdowns brought back by penalties.

“It was a great experience,” Spencer Nagel said. “We didn’t click very well last week (in a 13-7 win over Richards). This week, I feel like we bonded more. I feel like our offense got going right away, and that’s what we needed.

“Our receivers are great. They catch everything, basically. It’s amazing to have them out there. I never thought (my brother) would grow up and be a receiver. I never thought I would grow up throwing the ball to him in high school football.”

The Lancers did feel good about their second-half defense. Not only did they keep the Indians off the scoreboard, they forced two turnovers. Waller III had an interception and junior Rickell Buchanan recovered a fumble.

“I’m pleased about some of the things we saw in the second half,” Stephens said. “The defense stepped up. We got a couple of turnovers and got a couple of stops. We definitely have something to build on, but we’ve got to be ready to go from the jump.

“We challenged them at halftime to come out and play with a fire that they hadn’t found yet. That part was what we build on. We’ll take it into next week and if we clean up the execution, we’ll be all right.”

Key performers

Nagel was 16-for-21 for 181 yards to lead the Indians’ offense. Kirkman had nine carries for 95 yards, while Martin had 14 carries for 68 yards.

East sophomore quarterback Kienen Waller was 9-for-20 for 72 yards and one interception. Waller rushed for 58 yards.

Stephens was impressed with Nagel.

“Nagel is good,” Stephens said. “He’s a really athletic kid and was able to get to the edge and find open guys. He really read the field well.”

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm

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